“Other players” in the market for Super League broadcasting rights

This week RL Commercial gave an update on the progress of IMG’s re-imagining rugby league.

Obviously a big year for the sport in 2023 with IMG’s work going on behind the scenes and of course riding the crest of the wave of the 2022 Rugby League World Cup.

However, crucially, it is a big year as this is the last year in the TV deals with Sky Sports, Viaplay and Channel 4 with negotiations underway as RL Commercial confirmed.

Crucially they also confirmed that there are “other players” chasing the rights to Super League for 2024.

Who these are remains to be seen but negotiations are ongoing with Sky.

They stated: “From a broadcast perspective Sky Sports are a long term partner and still continue to be a fantastic partner for the sport. Everybody will be aware they’re in the final year of their contract, we’re in discussions as you would expect.

“There are other properties in the market at the moment, we are actively talking to Sky but helpfully the market is buoyant.

“There are other players who perhaps weren’t in the market 18 months ago so that prompts good conversations as well. That’s part of the process, I can’t see it concluding imminently, it will be a process but certainly by the middle of the year we’ll hopefully provide an update on the broadcast market.”

He confirmed that that was the case with Channel 4 as well as it was confirmed their deal was involved with Sky Sports whilst shedding light on Viaplay and BBC’s deals:

“Same goes with the Channel 4 contract, that ties in a little bit with the Sky contract at the moment. But soundings from Channel 4 are very positive in terms of continuing their relationship with Super League.

“Again we have to conclude the major domestic rights deal first. The BBC contract runs till the end of 2024 so that’s locked in, obviously they’ve been a long term partner of the sport and we hope they continue that as well. We also have Viaplay in the Championship as well, that concludes at the end of this year as well so it’s a key year clearly.”

This is set to spiral out onto commercial conversations:

“Off the back off that you can have the generation of commercial conversations and aligned to the IMG work that’s going on, the reimagination of the sport, the work that’s being done around the digital performance and digital strategy of Rugby League Commercial (RLC) but also then filtering and cascading down to the clubs.

“That’s probably month one of being real as opposed to just theory, the brand work is just theory at the moment but that will kick in ready for the 2024 season. In terms of buoyancy and prospects I think today had been a great day, everyone’s positive and needing their rugby league kick and it’s bene great to be able to do all three competitions on the same day. So from my perspective it’s positive RLC as an organisation is young, it’s six weeks old but it’s been a really good start”

They did meanwhile admit that they didn’t expect a long term deal: “I think the longer term deals at the moment are for what we’d call, ‘Gold Standard properties’, so F1, Premier League, tennis and golf are generally plus eight, nine, ten year deals. I think the reality for us will be two to three years to start with, and I think there’s an element of we are going through a year of transformation and we need to show that it’s not going to continue to just be transformation, we’re actually going to make some changes and make some changes for good.

“I think there will be an element of a broadcast contract that says, ‘Ok, we’ll go on the journey with you but at a certain point you need to show and demonstrate that you have changed, and then let’s talk about a longer term deal’. I think that’s where we will end up.”

Of course some might not question why rugby league is enduring shorter TV deals now having had a seven year deal from 2014, however this was explained away:

“I think the duration is a little bit of a red herring because if you think back in 2014 and BT had just come into the market so Sky were trying to put their priority sports on long-term deals to stop BT. That unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore, that competitive tension between those two, so I think that seven-year-deal is a unique one, because all the previous ones have been three to five and I think we’ll fall back into that.”

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Peter John Ling
Peter John Ling
1 month ago

That T V deal back in 2014 only came about because it was widely known that BT Sport were about to offer the RFL £200 Million for the exclusive rights for super League while Sky had only offered £160 Million, so some one in the RFL told sky what their(BT SPORT) offer was(when it should have been kept secret) and said to Sky you have to match them at least, which we now all know they did, so instead of being brave and going with BT , they(the RFL) decided to stick with Sky, and when the contract NEXT came up, BT and the BBC weren’t interested because of what the RFL had done, thats why Sky offered such a small amount compered to the 2014 deal(because know one else was interested), Now, seeing that games are played over three nights over the week-end, each of the nights should be… Read more »