Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) secured record total revenues of AU$701.1 million ($459.9 million) during the 2023 financial year.

This revenue increase – up year-on-year by AU$107 million and 18% – led to an operating surplus of AU$58.2 million.

The boosted revenue also meant AU$363.7 million was distributed to NRL Premiership clubs and players in 2023.

The league has said the revenue rise was driven by the “new media rights deal and record sponsorship, wagering, and game day income.”

Last season – running from early March to early October – the NRL was covered domestically by free-to-air Nine Network and pay-TV’s Foxtel. Those tie-ups run through the 2027 campaign.

In terms of operating costs, the league’s expense-to-revenue ratio dropped to 22.2%, down from 25.5% in 2022.

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Peter V’landys, chair of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC), has said: “Our revenues have gone up significantly in the last three to four years, and it's in every area of the operation. It’s not just one area like broadcast, it's through the whole revenue stream.

“The best part of our result has been that we've actually distributed record amounts to clubs. When I first came onto the commission, we were looking at two clubs actually going broke, so I'm happy to say now that every club is in the best financial position that they've been in.”

The NRL has also disclosed the total viewership of the action last season via domestic broadcast partners, of 171.8 million – and has claimed this makes the code the country’s most-watched sport.

Overall, the league has said that 93.2 million viewers tuned into games from the 17-team Premiership during the regular season.

Andrew Abdo, chief executive of the NRL, commented: “The game’s record high revenues are proof that our business strategy is working. Importantly, there has been strong growth in all revenue streams, not just broadcast revenues. We are fortunate to have extremely loyal partners and passionate, engaged fans, as evidenced by the record attendance and viewership.

“The strong surplus allows for reinvestment back into the game, which means the commission can plan for an exciting period of growth.”

Meanwhile, the NRL’s executive general manager of corporate affairs, Misha Zelinsky, has told an Australian government committee that Australia’s current anti-siphoning laws should be amended to a “technologically-neutral” approach.

Appearing before a senate inquiry into proposed government legislation aimed at stopping major streaming services from outbidding free TV networks. Zelinsky said the plans should be changed to enable all video platforms to negotiate broadcast deals.

He said: “When the list was conceived, we lived in a very different world. Now, people take their content in all manner of ways.

“We should be technologically neutral if the intent is for people to be able to see [sport] freely; we think that’s a great outcome [but] it doesn’t necessarily need to be free-to-air television.

“If it’s only that it can be available essentially through free-to-air television that significantly limits the bidders and fewer bidders means lower competitive tension, which in the end means lower pricing."

The 2024 NRL regular season will see four clubs compete in the season-opening double-header in Las Vegas, scheduled for March 2, as the league looks to expand its audience in the US.

The Brisbane Broncos, Manly Sea Eagles, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters have been chosen by the NRL after consultation with domestic rightsholders Foxtel, the pay-TV operator, and commercial broadcaster Nine Network.