Foxtel 'offers freemium incentive' in bid to win Rugby Australia rights
Foxtel, the Australian pay-television operator, has offered to make some games from Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere’s top rugby union clubs competition, available for free on subscription service Kayo Sports as part of its pitch to win the battle for Rugby Australia rights, it has been reported.
The move is part of the pay-television operator’s ‘freemium’ drive, under which events from some sports including V8 Supercars will be available for free on the platform, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany previously described the shift towards free-to-air as an initiative to reach a greater number of viewers and attract more advertising revenue.
Foxtel is looking to retain RA rights for a further five years after the governing body expressed a wish for greater free-to-air exposure for its sport amid flagging viewership figures.
Foxtel submitted its bid earlier this month, worth between A$35 million and A$40 million per season.
RA’s previous five-year rights deal, for 2015 to 2020, with Foxtel and commercial broadcaster Ten Network was worth a total of A$285 million ($201 million).
Under the deal, Foxtel paid between A$30 million and A$40 million per year for the rights to broadcast the Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship for national teams, other Australian test matches and domestic games.
Foxtel’s main rival is free-to-air broadcaster Nine Network, which has been in advanced talks with RA to secure full broadcast rights to the code in a deal worth about A$30 million per year in cash and free advertising.
Under its proposed deal, Nine would broadcast Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship and other Australia test matches and domestic games on its free-to-air channel and subscription streaming service Stan.
However, Foxtel’s higher bid and updated ‘freemium’ offer presents a significant challenge.
Another commercial broadcaster Ten Network submitted a bid last month to renew its free-to-air rights deal with RA to show matches of the national team, albeit at a lower price than its previous deal.
Ten was paying around A$3.5 million per year to broadcast Australia test matches. International tests played in Australia and New Zealand and all matches of the Rugby World Cup that involve Australia must be broadcast free-to-air under Australian anti-siphoning laws.