Premier Sports, the international pay-television operator, has today secured rights across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia to the 2022 season of Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL).

The deal, starting with the NRL’s opening round of fixtures on March 10, gives Premier Sports Asia rights to three live matches and a “comprehensive highlights program” from each round of the 16-team competition.

Premier Sports replaces Fox Sports Asia, the broadcaster that shut down permanently in October last year, as the NRL’s rights partner across Southeast Asia.

As well as regular-season action, the network will cover the NRL Finals series, the State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons, and one game per round from the women’s competition. 

The deal extends across 22 countries in the region.

Ryle Nugent, Premier Sports Asia’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to bring Rugby League’s premium annual competition to our customers in the region … This is the first small step in broadening our content offering beyond our suite of premium rugby union properties and we are excited that step is partnering with the NRL.”

Andrew Abdo, chief executive at the NRL, added: “Rugby League was the most-watched sport in Australia last year and we’re excited to be partnering with Premier Sports to take our game into households across Southeast Asia.”

Before the NRL starts in mid-March, Premier Sports will cover the NRL All Stars game from Sydney, on February 12.

The Asian countries in which Premier Sports is available as a streaming service include India, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan.

This deal adds a rugby league element to what is already a bulging rugby union portfolio for Premier Sports Asia, including Europe’s Six Nations (through a deal extended last week), and the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

At the same time as the broadcaster extended its Six Nations deal across Southeast Asia, it also expanded its coverage of that competition across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Countries across MENA in which Premier Sports operates include Iraq, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Morocco.

The NRL, meanwhile, extended its domestic arrangement with Nine Network, the Australian free-to-air commercial broadcaster, in late December, in a renewal running until 2027.

The five-year extension was reported by Australian media as being worth AU$575 million ($409.15 million) until 2027 in total and was struck after months of wrangling between the two bodies.

The extension runs from 2023-27 after the current deal between the two parties expires.

The current deal between the NRL and Nine was struck last year (in response to the coronavirus pandemic) and runs out at the end of the 2022 season.