Broadcast rights stoush could leave game and Fox bruised and bloodied

In television they shoot the wounded. It applies as much to a presenter who doesn't engage with the viewers as it does with a sport that doesn't rate.

When the Rugby Australia broadcast negotiations finally are settled there could be some casualties within the hierarchy of the sport and incumbent broadcaster Fox Sports.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.Credit:AAP

RA chief executive Raelene Castle has a posse of death riders willing her to fail and she won't survive unless she receives the significant uplift in TV monies she has promised Australia's four Super Rugby franchises, as well as the other SANZAAR nations who have already committed to the next five-year deal.

RA is unyielding on having one Super Rugby match a week in prime time on free-to-air television to "grow the game".

The match would be on Saturday nights, probably on Network Ten, and involve one of the Australian franchises – the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Rebels. Each Super Rugby franchise has seven home games a year. That's 28 matches per season, but with crossovers there could be only one game played in Australia some weekends. The Rebels versus the Stormers on FTA on a Saturday night is scarcely the saviour the sport seeks.

Foxtel chief Patrick Delany. Credit:Getty

While Fox Sports chief executive Patrick Delany may personally want to retain rugby, the pressure to reduce costs, including sports media rights, may come from New York.

Rupert Murdoch is entitled to claim only Harry Potter has had a more magical ride than rugby, following his investment of $US555m in SANZAR in 1996.

Furthermore, Delany could argue RA should have accepted his offer last October to roll over the existing deal. It would have meant the same money for one less team (with Western Force culled) and less content (SANZAAR will lose its Japanese team). Significantly, SANZAAR rights are paid in US dollars, which, with exchange rate movement means RA would have received about a 25 per cent increase.

But Fox has demonstrated some petulance at RA's lack of gratitude, just as Castle is recalcitrant over selling a game to FTA in prime time.

If RA signs with Optus for less money, the price tags both Delany and Castle set could end as toe tags on their careers.

Source: Read Full Article