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Broadcasters Squabble With Sports Bodies Over Commitments Made Before COVID-19

Despite the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC), Nine and Foxtel agreeing on the NRL season commencing on 28th May, there are still a number of unresolved issues surrounding the 2020 campaign, such as how much it will cost broadcasters and how long the season will run for.

In its ASX statement made in late March, Nine said that it would save $130 million, assuming that the NRL season would be cancelled. Now that it has been decided that season is going ahead, it will be interesting to see how much Nine aims to “save”.

According to the Financial Review, both Nine and Foxtel want to ensure that the revised NRL season remains a financially viable product, given the difficult economic climate, which will likely mean the original broadcast agreement will be cut by millions.

While the season will likely be shorter, the ARLC is pushing for the State of Origin, which usually gains substantial viewer numbers, to be played in a standard three-game format, and for the NRL Grand Final to be played in Sydney.

These negotiations are being made by the interim CEO Andrew Abdo, who took over the role after Todd Greenberg stepped down from the role last week.

In March Foxtel’s Kayo was offering AFL and NRL ticketed members access to its sport streaming service for $5 for two months. This may be how fans view the game in 2020, as it is still unclear how many games will be played to empty stadiums – something which will rely on the government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Yesterday, the ARLC pledged to support the government’s COVID-19 tracing app, the COVIDSafe app. “The Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) will always explore anything that may enhance the health and safety of players, their families and the wider community,” RLPA Chief Executive Clint Newton said.

Meanwhile, The Australian reported that Seven was now looking at “all of our options” in terms of cricket and the Olympics, with network executives “poring over the fine print of contracts with cash-strapped Cricket Australia and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).”

Seven West Media is reportedly trying to slash the $350 million it had budgeted for sports content in 2020.

The Tokyo Olympics officially delayed until 2021 and Cricket Australia’s 2020-21 Big Bash series likely to be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seven will reportedly not be making most of the $100 million payment that was due to the IOC in June and July.

The future schedule of Cricket Australia is more unclear, though it is highly likely that games will be played to empty stadiums, and international tournaments may be reduced to domestic games.

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