Network 10 has fired a shot across the bow of the Nine Network by confirming it is ready to compete for rugby league rights when the ARL Commission heads to the market, possibly as early as next year.
Ahead of a meeting with club bosses next week, where discussion over the game’s footprint and broadcasting rights are set to take centre stage, 10 chief executive Paul Anderson indicated his network was primed and ready to grab a slice of the rugby league pie.
“Major sports remain a part of our long term strategy — we have been a significant player in the past and there is no reason why this will change as attractive future rights become available,” Anderson said.
“Network 10 is part of a global media company that has a significant sporting legacy with franchises that are a very important part of their network.”
It is understood representatives from Network 10 have already made contact with some clubs as they look to carry out due diligence on a potential bid for the broadcasting rights.
The network is owned by CBS Studios International, which runs global businesses worth more than $20 billion and has a longstanding interest in the NFL in the US.
Money will not be an issue, although The Weekend Australian was told Network 10 officials would likely require the imprimatur of their American bosses given the outlay required to snatch rugby league from the Nine Network. Revelations that Network 10 is eyeing rugby league will be manna from heaven for the ARL Commission and the NRL, as they contemplate entering negotiations over broadcasting rights as early as next year.
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The existing deal with the Nine Network and Foxtel runs until the end of 2022, but there is a school of thought within the commission and NRL that the game would be best served by heading to market early, thereby heading off the AFL and ensuring they have some stability for their clubs going forward.
Their best hope of extracting another big deal for the game is by creating some competitive tension in the market. Network 10 were previously involved in bidding for the NRL rights when they were under the control of former chairman Lachlan Murdoch and ex-chief executive James Warburton.
That plan failed to come to fruition but Warburton is now the chief executive of Seven West Media, the other network likely to challenge for rugby league rights.
Warburton was unavailable for comment on Friday.
The NRL could yet look to show games on more than one commercial network to maximising income, a scenario that has been contemplated in the past.
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