Optus to secure Rugby Australia broadcast rights on cut-price deal
Optus are set to snare the Rugby Australia broadcast rights. Picture: Getty Images
Optus are set to snare the Rugby Australia broadcast rights. Picture: Getty Images

8:19AM MARCH 6, 2020450
Optus is favoured to become the new home of rugby, but the final deal could be disastrous for the code if the telco low-balls Rugby Australia as expected.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that three weeks after putting their broadcast package to the open market, RA has not had a single offer.

The lack of formal interest has forced them to extend their period for offers for another week.

Initially, all contract questions were to cease by next Wednesday, after which prospective buyers would have to table offers. Late on Thursday, it was confirmed this would be pushed back another week.

Current broadcast partners Fox Sports have not signed RA’s nondisclosure agreements and will not, leaving Optus as the lone digital option, despite Qatari network BeIN Sports and streaming service DAZN floating interest.

It can also be revealed that Optus has begun talks with production companies, who they will need to film and package Super Rugby, club rugby and women’s rugby games, given they do not have the capabilities to do this in-house.

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It’s estimated that these production costs will be around $10 million a year, and Optus will fold this into their offer to RA.

Knowing Fox Sports is no longer in the mix, having already had a $40 million-a-year offer rejected by RA late last year, insiders expect Optus to come in with a dramatically lower figure given the lack of options.

This would leave RA chief Raelene Castle in a major pickle.

Castle has already promised the states a larger percentage of the broadcast deal, however if the only offer received is much lower than expected, franchises will find it tougher to compete with foreign rivals.

Already, some inside club land are expressing frustration at the prolonged negotiation process because the salary cap for 2021 is unknown, meaning the make-up of their rosters is unclear at a time overseas clubs are targeting their stars.

All of the nominations for the RA chairman role and vacant board spots will be announced on Monday.

It’s now inevitable that the new chairman and board members will play an integral role in the outcome of the broadcast discussions, given they’ll be appointed at the annual general meeting on March 30, just a fortnight after any offers will be fielded.

The only interested free-to-air network for rugby rights, 10, is expected to offer $5 million a year for Wallabies Tests and one live Super Rugby match on Saturday nights.

The rest of the code’s broadcast money will need to come from a pay-TV or streaming network, but the underwhelming response since RA went to market has heightened fears the game is facing major losses.

The Daily Telegraph