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UPDATED: Foxtel Walks Away From Rugby Union, Stan Set To Launch Sports Streaming

Foxtel and News Corp have walked away from Rugby Union due to poor ratings, and advertisers who don’t see the value of being associated with losers who cannot win on the paddock.

We can now confirm that Nine has signed a three-year $100 million deal with Rugby Australia, for the rights to Super Rugby and Wallabies Test matches after Foxtel walked away from the poor rating code. The big question is how much is cash and what is the breakdown of the games they are buying with insiders telling ChannelNews that the package is “limited” due to there being less games in 2021 and 2022 that previously shown by Foxtel.

The mix of cash and free advertising deals includes a two-year extension option for Nine, which will broadcast the sport across Nine and subscription video on demand service Stan.

“The launch of Stan Sport is a bold expansion for Mike Sneesby and the team at Stan, to sit alongside our hugely successful Stan entertainment offering,” Nine chief executive Hugh Marks said.

“We will bring all our collective expertise from decades of experience in live sport broadcasting to deliver the best possible outcomes for viewers, rights holders, and the growth ambitions of the sports we partner with.”

Despite a Bledisloe Cup win on Saturday night the Australian Rugby Union coverage on Foxtel has been in steady decline, now the Nine Network is set to have a crack at trying to make a go of the code with a combination of free to air and streaming service Stan which at this stage is not set up for sports coverage similar to Foxtel’s Kayo which has witnessed a surge in demand this year.

ChannelNews understands that Foxtel is currently focusing on costs with poor rating shows with the organisation prepared to walk away from poor rating sports such as Rugby Union.

Last week the exclusive Nine coverage of the State Of Origin NRL game between NSW and Queensland was a ratings “shocker”.

In the first game of the 2020 State of Origin series Nine had to contend with the lowest metro audience since 2001, delivering 1.598m and 2.378m nationally.

The match, which saw the Queensland Maroon’s win for a 1-0 lead in the series.

Recently Foxtel saw its total paying subscribers increase by 7% to 3.287 million as of September 30 with CEO Patrick Delany recently moving to restructure the business due to changing viewing habits and the need for financial stability.

There are currently 298,000 paying Foxtel Now subscribers and the brand’s sport subscription service Kayo has 644,000 paying users.

According to the latest News Corp report, Sports-focused Kayo staged a recovery, after a coronavirus-impacted fourth quarter, up 77% on last year.

News Corp says its decline was partially offset by cost savings across the businesses and lower sports rights and production costs at Foxtel related to COVID-19.

The Sydney Morning Herald which is owned by Nine claims that Stan is already working on developing the technology required to broadcast live sport.

It is also trying to secure a range of other broadcast deals to attract more subscribers and reduce its reliance on rugby.

Stan currently charges between $10 and $19 for television shows and films, but it is unclear whether it will cost more for sports content.

At this stage it’s unclear how Foxtel will spend the money it will save from walking away from Rugby Union.

The relationship between Foxtel and RA soured late last year when it offered a small sum to broadcast matches from 2021 onwards due in part to the poor ratings.

Foxtel said in 2019 it would cut its spending on “non-marquee sporting content as the business was restructured.

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