Aussies look to start a TV rights bidding war
July 14, 2014
Bill Pulver aims to start a bidding war to uplift the ARU's revenue © Getty Images
Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bull Pulver told Financial Review Sunday that he is hoping he can produce a bidding war between several free-to-air networks for Australian rugby's next broadcast deal.
Currently on a $25 million dollar annual deal with Fox Sports Australia and Network 10 that expires in 2015, Pulver said that he is "confident" rugby union could achieve a significant uplift and that he has begun negotiations with several interested parties.
Pulver has previously said rugby rights in Australia should be worth as much as Football Federation Australia's $40-million annual cash and contra deal with Fox Sports and SBS, but industry sources have cast doubts on rugby achieving a big uplift in revenue.
"I'm confident there is going to be a fair bit of demand for our product because it is a great sport for TV," Pulver said. "Broadcast revenue growth should be the single biggest contributor to the growth in revenue in income for Australian rugby. We have a relatively modest percentage of our revenue coming from broadcast rights compared with AFL, rugby league and soccer. So that's something we are hoping to correct through these current negotiations."
Currently working with Network 10, Pulver said the ARU wants at least some free-to-air presence for the Super Rugby competition, however it is understood several free-to-air networks are concerned about the ability to attract viewers to Super Rugby due to the match schedule seeing matches played in New Zealand and South Africa.
"There is likely to be continued interest from Ten in some form of relationship. And there are other free-to-air networks that are interested."
Further concerns have arisen with the new Super Rugby structure reducing higher-rating local derby matches against each other and with more matches overseas.
Pulver also said Australia's Super Rugby franchises are attractive to private investors with the ARU in talks with several parties interested in investing in the Melbourne Rebels and others circling the Waratahs.
"When you look at sport around the world, private equity has made a lot of money out of sporting teams, so it can work."
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