Rugby Australia has reportedly received a bid from Nine Entertainment Co for rugby broadcasting rights which would see Super Rugby matches shown live on free-to-air television for the first time next year.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Nine’s bid for Super Rugby and Wallabies Tests is worth $30 million per year, and would lead to all Australian internationals and one Super Rugby match per week shown on Channel Nine, and the remaining domestic matches shown on streaming platform Stan. Even though Stan is a subscription service, it is far cheaper than the current cost of watching rugby through Foxtel or Kayo Sports.
The offer is reported to include a mix of cash and free advertising on Nine’s platforms, and if successful would be the first time Super Rugby is shown live on free-to-air TV in Australia in the competition’s 25-year-history.
Current broadcaster Foxtel, whose deal with Rugby AU expires at the end of the year, had threatened to break away from their two-decade-long partnership with the sport, but recently submitted a bid believed to be quite similar to the $30-40 million they pay now for rugby’s rights. Despite Nine offering less money than Foxtel, the free-to-air opportunity of reaching larger audiences of rugby fans could prove tempting for the governing body.
The report in the Herald did not specify how many years Nine’s bid covered, simply stating that any such deal would be “short-term” – at least initially.
Rugby AU have been seeking more free-to-air coverage for the sport for some time now, with former CEO Raelene Castle pushing for such a move at the end of her tenure. The governing body had reportedly been close to sealing a new broadcast arrangement for 2021 onwards at the start of the year, only for the COVID-19 to scupper negotiations.
Optus Sport were rumoured to be heavily interested in acquiring rugby to add to their current football offering, but are not believed to have made a bid for the rights since they went back on the market in recent months.