NRL preparing to get back in the black as TV talks ramp up

The NRL is budgeting for a profit next year and has told clubs it is expecting the Seven, Nine and Ten networks to all be involved in the battle for league’s free-to-air rights in the next broadcast cycle.

The Australian Rugby League Commission officially unveiled its financial report on Friday, posting an operating deficit of $24.7m after recording a $29m surplus 12 months earlier. This year’s deficit would have been just $3.7 million had State of Origin takings been included in the year-ending period to October 2020, a remarkable result given the financial fallout from the pandemic.

The NRL managed to run its competition at a fraction of the cost in 2020.Credit:Getty

The NRL’s deal with Fox, which provides 66 per cent of broadcast revenue, doesn’t lapse until 2027. The agreement with Nine, publishers of this masthead, ends in 2022.

The clubs were told the NRL would balance the potential extra revenue it could generate through subscription services with the need to reach as many viewers as possible on free-to-air channels in concluding the next deal.

V’landys and Abdo also told the clubs that a decision on expansion was expected to be delivered by June or July. A business case would need to be made for a 17th team to be introduced and the incumbent franchises were assured they would not be adversely affected if that were to occur.

The NRL’s financial result was achieved despite revenue reducing by more than $130 million, or 25 per cent, last year. V’landys, who was re-elected chairman of the ARLC, said the result was better than anticipated.

“We increased net payments for clubs by 300 per cent to ensure they all stayed viable and have funds for the future,” he said.

“This is in stark contrast to other sports which either reduced funding to their clubs or maintained the same level of funding in their clubs’ time of need given the disastrous impact of COVID-19 on their other sources of revenue.

“The game faced financial catastrophe when we were forced to suspend the season in March. I’m pleased to report that because we were able to resume the season so quickly and re-negotiate new deals with our partners, the game finished the financial year in much stronger shape than first predicted.

“We’ve recorded a modest deficit and had State of Origin been played in the 2020 financial year we would have been close to breaking even.

“What I’m most pleased about is that these results were achieved while ensuring the financial security of all stakeholders. The Commission made it a priority to make sure all clubs were provided with additional funding to ensure they survived the pandemic.”

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