It is done. Channel 9 have, with Foxtel, secured the rights to broadcast the NRL for the next five years. What is interesting about the deal is the omissions – no Telstra involvement (in contrast to the AFL deal); no guarantee of live games during normal rounds (in contrast to the AFL deal); fans are the big losers (in contrast to the AFL deal). While Ch9 is the modern spiritual home of the game their off-handed manner in dealing with fans through their scheduling of games hasn’t made them many friends. Sticking with the ‘stacked’ Friday game approach means that at least two teams of fans will be upset at having to wait until AFTER the game is over to see their team play. What Saturday games? Who needs to acknowledge the Monday night game? It’s just not cricket. From the press release:

Nine Network Managing Director, Jeffrey Browne today announced a new deal with the ARL Commission to hold the free to air television broadcast rights for the NRL for the next five years with partner Fox Sports taking the rights for subscription television.

“We are delighted to be teaming up with Fox Sports again to bring the Australian audience the best coverage of NRL games for the next five years – Rugby League is a backbone of our business and we are delighted with this result after extensive negotiations,” Jeff said today.

The Nine Network will broadcast:
– Three weekly matches (two on Friday and one on Sunday);
– Three Thursday evening matches over the course of the year;
– A stand-alone Test and City v Country weekend;
– Wednesday night State of Origin matches;
– A night-time Grand Final (7.15pm kick-off);
– The Roosters Dragons Anzac Day matches;
– Two hours of Rugby League content each evening on digital Channel 94 plus two hours of content on Saturday and Sunday morning;
– Nine will ensure that all of its matches are telecast on either the ‘primary’ or ‘multi-channel’ station in each state;
– The Queensland Intrust Super Cup.

The Nine Network saw the State of Origin ratings higher than ever before in 2012 – a total regional and metropolitan audience for game three of 4.041 million – so with new innovations and developments in broadcasting and social networks the future of the game for the players and the fans is so exciting.

Nine Entertainment Co Ltd CEO David Gyngell said the renewal of its rugby league rights was both welcome and exciting for the network. “Rugby league is very much part of our heritage. It’s one of the many things we do best, and it is pivotal to our position as the biggest television brand in the nation.”

“I want to pay tribute to Jeff Browne and his team for their tireless work through this exhaustive rights process. The outcome he has secured is a terrific result not just for Nine, but for the great game itself and all its stakeholders,” Mr Gyngell said.