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Broadcaster’s blunt message for footy codes: Give us more for less or we walk away!

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images – AFL.com and NRL.com

As the NRL and AFL return rapidly approaches, intense negotiations are continuing as both codes seek to secure payments from broadcast partners.

Despite plenty of spin and bluster from NRL CEO, Peter V’landys the code is yet to strike a deal with its broadcast partners regarding the level of payments it will receive for the 2020 COVID shortened season.

And while Foxtel is eager to get football back on Fox Sports and Kayo and stem the tide of subscribers rapidly cancelling their subscriptions, for the free-to-air broadcasters it’s a very different scenario.

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Nine, in particular, is playing hardball in these negotiations. On Tuesday, the networks CEO, Hugh Marks told an audience at the Macquarie conference,

“It’s not a given that NRL has to be part of our future, It has to just pay its way like all of our content does, and if it doesn’t… well again, we are less reliant on that as a revenue source.”

And while the battle has been far less public, a similar scenario is being played out in the AFL, with the cash strapped Seven and Foxtel seeking a three-year extension to their existing broadcast deal. But under conditions that would see them paying less while receiving more access.

Seven and Nine were once eager to secure the big football codes, despite it always being a ‘loss-leader’. However, as rights fees have rapidly increased, ratings have declined, and advertisers have moved to digital. Once mocked as the third-placed network, 10 has proven you don’t need big sport to be successful.

In recent years 10 has successfully replaced Big Bash cricket with the dramatically cheaper I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here format. Similarly one of the first big management moves made by Marks at Nine was to walk away from a massively over-inflated cricket deal and secure Australian Open Tennis for a fraction of the price.

With our two biggest football codes under significant financial pressure, COVID-19 has provided an interesting opportunity for broadcasters. The chance to renegotiate and extend existing broadcast deals. The goal for Seven, Nine and Foxtel is to cut costs, while also shutting out potential streaming competitors such as Amazon, Dazn and Facebook for a further three years.

For Nine, one of the biggest sticking points is the NRL’s digital unit. With competition for advertising revenue intense. Broadcast rights holders are no longer willing to compete against the codes for digital eyeballs.

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The most recent cricket contract has seen Fox Sports take control of the Cricket Australia website, and now the push is on for a similar scenario in football, the move that would most likely see SMH (owned by Nine) content repackaged for the NRL.com website and app, while News Corp is eager to take ownership of AFL.com

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Kevin Perry
Kevin Perryhttps://tvblackbox.com.au/author-kevin-perry/
Senior Editor and Co-Owner of the TV Blackbox website, Kevin Perry is an experienced media commentator focused on TV Production, Consumer Tech, SVOD & Sports Broadcasting. Media enquiries please Call or Text 0428-275-111
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