While the governing body is not anticipating Foxtel will make an 11th-hour offer, RA are aware that approach has been used by the News Corp-owned company in recent negotiations with other major sports. RA also remain conscious of the impact awarding the rights to a rival company would have on its coverage of Super Rugby, in particular.
If Nine is awarded the rights, it will mark the first time Stan broadcasts live sport on its platform. It opens up the potential for other sports to consider including the subscription streaming service in rights negotiations. It also increases competitive tension with Foxtel, which uses live sport as a way to attract subscribers. Stan currently has 2 million subscribers, a large audience base for rugby union to try and attract.
Any agreement with Nine would mark an end to a long-standing relationship between RA and Foxtel, which has broadcast rugby games in Australia for more than two decades and launched Super Rugby in 1996. The relationship was put under pressure late last year after the pay TV company offered a small sum to broadcast matches once its existing deal expired. Foxtel decided to walk away from talks and only returned to the negotiating table in September. It offered a sum similar to what it currently pays – between $35-$40 million a year – and offered to air one game a week in front of Kayo Sports’ paywall. Kayo, which is owned by Foxtel, currently has about 600,000 subscribers.
RA has struggled to grow the game due to a lack of exposure and poor recent performances by the Wallabies. It wanted more matches on a free-to-air television network to build the sport’s audience. This was previously difficult for Foxtel, because all of its programming operates behind a paywall. However, two weeks ago it announced it would shift its streaming service Kayo to a “freemium” model to boost audiences.
Industry sources familiar with RA’s discussions with media companies who requested anonymity previously said Nine had offered to pay about $30 million a year in cash and free advertising. Nine is expected to air Wallabies Tests, the Rugby Championship and one game a week of Super Rugby on its television network. All other matches are expected to sit behind a paywall on Nine’s subscription streaming service Stan.
Nine was first approached by RA in the first round of broadcast negotiations which took place earlier this year with former rugby boss Raelene Castle and consultant Shane Mattiske. The company formalised its bid on October 16 after months of discussions.
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