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Sky yet to secure NRL rights

By David Skipwith

Published: 2:55PM Tuesday February 07, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

With the NRL season just three weeks from kick-off, Sky TV is still waiting for its New Zealand broadcasting rights to be renewed.

Sky has been unable to negotiate a new deal, despite tabling an offer late last year, as the game has had to hold off on many big decisions until the long-awaited Independent Commission takes control of the game.

That will finally happen this Friday when the Commission takes over from News Ltd and the Australian Rugby League.

First on the list of tasks for head Commissioner James Grant is opening up negotiations for the new television, internet and sponsorship arrangements which expired at the end of last season.

The Sydney Morning Herald states that Sky TV in New Zealand made a reduced offer, less than the $14 million per year they have previously forked out, although the new contract is said to be worth a similar amount again if the arrangement is a mere rollover from 2011.

The thinking is two-pronged here, with one-year under the same contractual conditions allowing the Commission the time to work out a more lucrative deal for the 2013 season and also allowing uniformity between the Kiwi and Australian TV rights deals.

The game may well be looking for a new chief sponsor for next year also, as Telstra's arrangement expires this year though they will surely front the Commission to table another offer.

The AFL were the big winners in recent negotiations with Telstra, who at a price of $153 million secured the rights to broadcast games on the internet. Yet that deal was put under threat last week, with the Federal Court's ruling that competitor Optus may screen matches on mobile phones and computers, at no cost.

League officials are nervous the court's decision will devalue any new media deal for the NRL but the ruling is set to be appealed.

Rival codes are keeping a keen eye on proceedings and have been actively appealing for the Australian government to change their copyright laws.

Of course the value, or lack of, any new broadcast deal will have a flow-on effect for the NRL clubs and their salary cap, affecting how much the games players will be paid.

The Herald asserts that clubs are expecting the salary cap to rise to $5 million but that is to be determined by and when the new broadcast deal is settled.