Wallabies, Super Rugby TV deal: Channel 9 secures rugby rights
Wallabies, Super Rugby TV deal: Channel 9 secures rugby rights

Budget broadcast: Rugby reveals cut-price TV deal

Rugby union will move away from Fox Sports for the first time since it turned professional in 1996, with Nine Network securing broadcast rights for the code from 2021.

Under the new deal worth $30 million a year, Nine will create Stan Sport and show most Super Rugby games on the streaming service, in a move to rival Foxtel's Kayo.

Wallabies games, and other Rugby Championship Tests, plus one game of Super Rugby will be shown live on Nine's free-to-air network, while the remaining Super games, as well as Shute Shield, will be shown behind a paywall on Stan Sport.

The deal will be announced at Rugby Australia's Sydney headquarters today.

 

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It's unclear what other sports Stan can secure for its new service, with NRL, AFL and cricket having signed multi-year deals already with rival networks.

Fox Sports has the rights to the A-League for one more season, so football is a potential target from 2022.

News Corporation, owner of Fox Sports, has held the rugby rights for 25 years, with the creation of Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations tournament between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa igniting professionalism that allowed rugby to compete with league as the dominant football code here in the early years.

But a lack of success by the Wallabies - they last won a World Cup in 1999, and the Bledisloe Cup in 2002 - and convoluted Super Rugby tournament saw ratings shrink dramatically over the past decade.

 

Fox Sports made a pitch for rugby last month, however it's understood Nine's offer - which is part cash, part contra - had a bigger cash component.

That is vital for Rugby Australia's future, given the dire financial predicament the game is in, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in mass job losses and wage cuts for players.

Nine takes the free-to-air rights from Network Ten.

Nine, who also broadcast the NRL, will now assemble a commentary team for the 15-man code.

Fox Sports have used Greg Clark as their primary caller, while former Wallabies Phil Kearns, Tim Horan, George Gregan and Rod Kafer have been regular panellists.

 

The relationship between RA and Fox Sports soured last year when former rugby boss Raelene Castle knocked back a $25 million-a-year deal and took the game to the open market.

The coronavirus then forced the cancellation of games and while businesses scrambled, all broadcasters ceased talks.

That pressure eventually forced Castle to resign, and former RA chief financial officer Rob Clarke was appointed as interim chief executive.

Clarke has orchestrated the recent negotiations between Nine and Fox Sports.

The new $30 million deal is significantly short of the existing $57 million-a-year deal rugby has, but reflects the changing economic landscape for all sports.

Fox Sports said recently they would be scaling back their investment into non-marquee sports, of which rugby is one.

Stan Sports now needs an influx of rugby fans to become new subscribers in order to monetise their investment into the sport, and digital production costs to broadcast all games.

Originally published as Budget broadcast: Rugby reveals cut-price TV deal


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