NRL TV Deal Is Mixed Bag For HD And Digital

NRL TV Deal Is Mixed Bag For HD And Digital

Channel Nine and FOX Sports have finalised a deal for National Rugby League (NRL) rights over the next five years. Forget the game: we want to talk about the tech. Does the deal properly take advantage of HD transmission, online streaming and the multi-channel environment? Sort of.

Picture by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

TV Tonight has a handy breakdown of the broadcast arrangements, which cover 2013-2017. Nine will continue to broadcast three matches a week, as well as the grand final and State of Origin matches. In league-loving states (NSW and Queensland), those broadcasts will be on the main Nine station. Elsewhere, the matches will be shown on a secondary digital channel (GEM is currently used by Nine for that purpose).

That’s a definite improvement on how Nine used to approach it, with viewers outside NSW and Queensland given a delayed transmission hours after the match was live. Nine will also broadcast two hours of league-related content a day on Channel 94, which is currently used largely for advertorials. However, since its rights cover two Friday night games, not all matches will be live. Viewers will see the match for their state of residence live, with the alternative broadcast on delay, meaning most games involving a Queensland team will be delayed for NSW viewers.

The arrangement also means no HD broadcasting for free-to-air viewers in 2013. That should change once digital switchover is completed and channels have the option of using some of their spectrum for HD simulcasts, but that won’t be until 2014 at the earliest.

If you want HD, Foxtel remains the go-to player. It will stream five matches a week in HD and without advertisements, and allow viewers to watch them on-demand afterwards. Subscribers will also be able to view the matches live via streaming on tablets and other devices. No word yet on mobile rights, an area where Telstra has historically been very active.

Sport remains one of the most dependable sources of viewers for TV, and our desire to see matches live means that it remains less vulnerable to piracy and delayed viewing. That said, I suspect when the next round of negotiations begins in 2017, there will be far more emphasis on the online arrangements.

Nine, FOX Sports confirm new NRL rights deal [TV Tonight]


  • So, people in “League-loving” states get SD broadcasts on 9, but in the non-league states they will get their league on Gem, which last time I checked was a HD channel? How does that make sense?

    I want League in HD!

      • The NRL matches that currently air on GEM in Melbourne are native HD.

        Nine are extremely disingenuous when they say things like HD in 2014, they have always had the option to keep up the previous simulcast arrangement, it’s a choice they make to not simulcast in HD in favour of showing other content on GEM to boost total audience figures.

        There’s also no reason to think Nine would follow through with HD in 2014, the only thing that changes are the numerical limits on channels, but there’s still the bandwidth limitation – something already strained since adding the Datacast channel Extra – the football on GEM already is a blocky mess once anything moves.

        • the total viewing figures argument is a bit odd. im not a league fan but if theres nothing else on id watch it if it was HD. but im not going to watch a shitty 1950 4:3 movie on a 1080i broadcast

    • It’s do do with anti-siphoning laws IIRC. Until the cutover is complete, the games that are required to be shown on FTA TV must be shown on the main/original channel, as the bunch of extra channels aren’t counted as FTA yet

  • Fox Sports said they’ll be releasing an app to watch games on your iPad or did I mishear that during the announcement?

    On the deal it’s basically the same as last time but they’ve doubled the price…
    Positives for RL fans is that now there’s a fixed schedule (up to R20) and both C9 and Fox have given up their first and last rights for any future deals, massive concession from them but we won’t see any benefit from it until the next rights are negotiated.

  • I’ll be interested in seeing what the deal with Fox and IPTV is.
    Disappointed there isn’t a dedicated League Channel for Foxtel in this announcement, it may have given me a reason to get Foxtel on my Xbox.
    The idea of announcing 20 weeks of the schedule is all well and good, but I can see this turning into 20 Friday night games for Brisbane, as 9 has in the past defended this as popular, and high on revenue, whereas teams like my Sharks get slotted anywhere, and get a lot of Monday night games.

    • There’s all kinds of issues having a dedicated NRL channel. It all goes back to the 2001 TV rights. C7 offered more than double what Fox Sports did and have a dedicated NRL channel. The News Ltd NRL went with the News Ltd Fox Sports offer using the argument “We did some research and the majority of NRL fans are strongly opposed to a dedicated Rugby league channel” – they presented that argument in court when C7 sued them. Obvious crap, yes. But very hard to prove. Now allowing an NRL channel could work against them.

  • …That should change once digital switchover is completed and channels have the option of using some of their spectrum for HD simulcasts, but that won’t be until 2014 at the earliest….

    Is there a source that confirms this? Currently, I’m not aware of any legislation that prohibit’s any of broadcasters simulcasting their primary channel in HD along the current SD variant. My understanding is that they choose not to, because they’d rather have unique content on each channel to increase advertising revenue.

    With no shortage of SD receivers in use, it can be pretty much guaranteed that broadcasters won’t be allowed to broadcast their primary channel in HD only – so I really don’t see any change taking place any time soon.

    • As I understand it come 2014 each of the broadcasters are allowed to have as many HD and/or SD channels as they like, limited only by their bandwidth allocation.

      They are free to make their main channel HD then if they wish (unlike now when their main channel has to be SD) or to keep it as SD. They could leave their main channel as SD and use their HD channel as a simulcast of it, or use their HD channel as a separate channel as most do now; they could even drop all SD channels and transmit just two HD channels instead (maybe one 1080i and one 720p for example). They could even go all SD, replace their current HD channel with two additional SD channels, if they thought that would be more profitable.

      I suspect we’ll end up with more SD channels, both because the Howard government allowed SD-only STBs and DTVs to be sold and so we’re stuck with them now, but also because most people value more choice of programming over less choice, even if it means lesser picture quality. If there’s nothing on you want to watch it doesn’t matter how much of it is in HD.

  • Pardon me if I was only meant to talk about how this affects me but this deal is great news for Rugby League and without the first/last rights clauses it should make for a much brighter future down the track. As far as HD/SD goes, I really couldn’t care less, as long as the standard of Nine’s coverage stays at the same high level it’s been for years.

    The stupid things sheeple get themselves fixated on beggar belief. HD is no guarantee of quality – as someone noted above, HD just gets compressed to buggery anyway and a minimally compressed SD broadcast will often look better. Foxtel’s HD is a perfect example – it looks bloody awful most of the time and their coverage isn’t as good as Nine’s anyway.

    • Lol, Get a clue mate. There is no way in hell an FTA SD broadcast can look as good as HD broadcast on a decent size TV. FTA HD has at least 3x the bandwith of SD.
      Fox Sports HD has some of the sharpest coverage i have seen in broadcast because its 1080i mpeg4 as apposed to mpeg2 on FTA.

  • What I want to know is WHY wont they allow Live NRL games on Foxtel via XBOX360?
    They show st00pid AFL…. NRL is the only thing holding them back.

    Can someone please explain that to me? Its Foxtel, its all just data over a network. Hell its even coming in over the same pipes (Cable Internet).

  • Since the AFL released their $1.25b TV deal late last year & told us what to expect & how it was going to run & that the NRL was to release their tv deal around the same time next year, I started to get very excited. I am a massive NRL fan & have waited for this day for as long as I have learnt that the NRL were looking for a TV deal, one like the AFL. Now whilst I don’t like AFL I think the way they have done their TV deal was very good. Firstly with pay TV all the games are LIVE (I emphasise the live part for a reason) so if you subscribe to Foxtel you get to watch every AFL game live no matter what which I think is perfect. Now as for the Free-to-air part of the deal The fact that channel 7 show 4/9 AFL matches a week & all 4 live (at least here in Sydney) is also comendable. The only gripe I have with that is depending on where you live you are stuck watching the teams in your area every week. But at least you are getting 2 matches with any teams playing LIVE every week.

    Now I look at the NRL TV deal, first of all its only worth $1.025b over 5 years, & secondly the matches that both channel 9 & Fox Sports show is no different. Also why arent channel 9 made to broadcast all matches LIVE. They simply didn’t want to fork out the money to get more matches or say keep the 3 but over different day like Mondays or Saturday night. The coverage by channel 9 of the NRL is a discrase & this deal just proves that they are too stubborn or just not really comitted to showing NRL games LIVE Like channel 7 for the AFL.They use the excuse to show games delayed so they can pump the ads. Very dissapointing!!! :S

  • channel 10 they would of been a better trust i heard they picked nine coz if they didnt fox would if pulled out i say who cares ten would of done more broadcast they would use all three of their channels just think about it time to move on and try something new

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