Nine’s hammer blow: We don’t need NRL


Nine Entertainment chief executive Hugh Marks has fired another salvo at the NRL, saying it's not a given the league is a part of the network's future.

Marks' comments come as delicate discussions continue with the NRL over how much it will pay to broadcast this year's rejigged competition.

While stakeholders continue to press ahead with a May 28 restart date, it remains unclear how much the game will receive from Nine and Foxtel.

"We have to be hard … we have agreed to nothing this year," Marks said during a conference hosted by investment bank Macquarie on Tuesday. "There is no agreement on value or for how long."

However, of most concern to NRL officials will be Marks' thoughts on the free- to-air broadcaster's long-term partnership with the code.

"It's not a given that NRL has to be part of our future," Marks said. "It has to just pay its way like all of our content does, and if it doesn't, well … again, we are less reliant on that as a revenue source."

It was only last week that Nine and Foxtel signed off on the NRL recommencing its restructured season later this month, but new financials were not clear.

Nine newspapers went on to report that its network is looking to deduct $28 million from the $118 million it agreed to pay the league for this season.

Marks predicted that broadcasting the game this year would run at a loss. "It's a sad statement that if the NRL proceeds that it will be a net negative to our results," he said.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks.
Nine CEO Hugh Marks.

Marks went on to claim the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a re-evaluation of owning sports rights across the broadcasting industry.

Nine and Foxtel are in the third year of a five-year deal with the NRL, thought to be worth about $1.8 billion.

With the league in a perilous financial state, some have suggested Nine are looking to take advantage by extending its contract at a reduced rate.

"COVID has changed how you need to consider sports rights and evaluation of sports rights for the future," Marks said.

"If we don't take that change now like we are in all other aspects of our business and we wait until the contract expires in two years, everyone's in for a rude shock.

"Now's the time when we need to make the changes necessary to make these sports rights more sustainable.

"The future of our businesses is in aggregated video consumption. We're a business that actually is now less reliant on live sport and the reason for a lot of sport and it's being was its volume contribution to free-to-air advertising."

Marks also confirmed Nine's interest in acquiring the NRL's digital arm.

Originally published as Nine's hammer blow: We don't need NRL

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