The man charged with estimating the value of the NRL’s new television rights deal believes rugby league could potentially match or outstrip the AFL’s record-breaking contract.
Colin Smith, a senior adviser with LEK Consultancy, told a meeting of the NRL CEOs on Thursday that their game could earn just as much or more than the $1.2bn deal recently negotiated by the AFL over five years.
Smith says the NRL is in a stronger position than the AFL due to its broader appeal as a television sport.
Under the existing arrangement, which expires at the end of 2012, the NRL has reaped just $500m over six years.
Club bosses have been told there are three different proposals on the table for the next broadcasting deal – the first at $1bn, the second $1.2bn and the third $1.4bn.
“Foxtel’s pay television for NRL is up 20 percent. And then you look at State of Origin, (where there were) just under 11 million viewers,” Smith said.
“It just demonstrates the NRL fan loves rugby league and loves it on television, which is very promising going forward for the media rights negotiations.”
”We actually haven’t come up with a dollar figure at this stage because we are waiting for the new independent commission to be formed.”
”When that happens we will have a discussion with the commission and give them some views of value.”
Asked if the NRL was ahead of the AFL, Smith replied: ”In television audience, it is.”
“You’ve got three great products – the NRL home and away and finals, State of Origin and then internationals.”
”That is what’s so terrific about this game.”
”This is a fantastic television sport. It is the leader.”
NRL boss David Gallop would not be drawn on a target figure when asked what the new rights deal should be worth, but clearly expects it to challenge the AFL model.
“I know you’d love to me to tell you a number but I’m not going to,” he said.
“We’re certainly conscious of the result the AFL got and we’re conscious of how our game’s going so you can draw your own inferences from that.”
Gold Coast CEO Michael Searle believes the NRL deserves to cash in on its next deal.
“Every week our numbers are phenomenal,” Searle said.
“It’s a difficult environment but one thing that not too many people would disagree with is that rugby league’s in a really strong position, back to probably the growth curve that we had back in 1995.”
Under the new deal, it is expected host broadcasters will be permitted to run short advertisements during breaks in play to maximise revenue return.