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Optus reportedly eyeing off Rugby AU's new broadcast offering

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11th August, 2020
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Fox Sports subscribers may have to watch Super Rugby and Wallabies matches elsewhere in 2021 and beyond if a new report on the sport’s broadcast future is accurate.

The Daily Telegraph is reporting Optus and Channel Ten are favoured to secure the rights to televise top-tier rugby in the next broadcast deal, after Rugby Australia yesterday revealed a comprehensive offering for 2021-25 to take to market featuring a number of new competitions.

With the governing body deciding to accept bids for the entire whole-of-game package or just specific parts of it, it’s not known exactly how much rugby Optus would take. The Telegraph story reports Fox Sports, who have televised Super Rugby since the competition was founded, are set to submit a bid for club rugby. That would include Shute Shield and Premier Club Rugby, and possibly the National Club Championship revealed by RA yesterday.

Optus have a significant subscriber base for their extensive football offering, which currently includes the English Premier League and Champions League and is expected to extend to the A-League in the coming seasons, but snaring rugby rights would be their first foray into another sport.

However, with the telco’s ability to leverage their mobile and internet customers coupled with live Super Rugby being broadcast on free-to-air television for the first time, the potential move could bode well for rugby’s exposure after years of paywalled coverage.

With a September 4 deadline set on broadcast submissions, there’s still ample time for negotiations and nothing is close to certain at this stage.

Optus were, of course, reportedly on the verge of securing the broadcast rights for 2021-25 earlier in the year before the coronavirus pandemic ended negotiations, however the organisation later denied those claims. They also gave nothing away in today’s report, a spokesperson telling the Telegraph, “We don’t comment on rights, either current or future.”

Rugby AU still have to finalise what exact form Super Rugby will take next year. While interim CEO Rob Clarke claims New Zealand broadcaster Sky have a preference for a trans-Tasman format, and that they wouldn’t insist on a 50-50 revenue split should such a competition come to fruition, there’s still some distance between RA and New Zealand Rugby’s models for 2021 and beyond.