Nine launches Stan Sports with $100 million rugby deal

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 9 November 2020
Brave New World

Nine Entertainment is launching Stan Sports on its content streaming platform after taking the rights to rugby from Foxtel in a $100 million deal.

The live and on-demand premium sports package will be offered as a bundle to Stan’s customers from 2021.

The move is a key competitive move in the streaming content market dominated by Netflix and effectively ends Foxtel’s 25-year partnership with Australian rugby. 

"The launch of Stan Sports will enable Nine to adopt a total television approach to sports as it offers extensive live and on-demand coverage, available to subscribers to Stan Sports, as well as some select premium events on Nine’s FTA television channels," Nine told the ASX.

The announcement came as Nine reached an in-principle agreement with Rugby Australia for all rights to all Wallabies and Wallaroos test matches.

The deal includes premier domestic and trans-Tasman competitions (including the Trans-Tasman competition, Super W, Super Rugby Australia and Super Rugby Aotearoa (for 2021), Shute Shield and Hospital Cup), international matches featuring New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, and the New Zealand and South African domestic competitions.

The three-year deal, based around both live free-to-air and subscription coverage, is worth about $100 million in cash and contra, and includes a two year option for Nine to extend.

Stan CEO Mike Sneesby said: “The team at Stan are excited by the possibilities for our business as we embark on this expansion into live sport. We are looking forward to expanding our partnership with our colleagues at Nine and building on their knowledge and experience over decades in this space.”

Hugh Marks, Nine CEO, says the launch of Stan Sport is a bold expansion for Mike Sneesby and the team at Stan.

“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," says Marks.

“At Stan, we are focused on bringing Australians the best local, international and original programming, which has seen our audience reach significant scale.

"Today’s announcement will see us extend that offering through the launch of our live streaming capability, bringing live sport to Stan in 2021 and opening up a range of new programming opportunities. Our partnership with Rugby Australia is the perfect place to start this new business.”

Nine is also looking at further opportunities for exclusive sports rights. 

Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke says he's excited about the partnership with Nine.

"I would like to make special mention of Nine’s CEO Hugh Marks and Stan’s CEO, Mike Sneesby, for their professionalism throughout this process, as well as their shared vision for the future success of Rugby in our country," he says.

“Rugby has found its new home on Stan and the Nine Network, with broad reach on free-to-air television as well as ad-free, extensive access on the Stan platform.

“The fantasy has become a reality for the Australian Rugby community. This is a landmark deal that includes everything in the showbag, and it gives more Australians more access to more Rugby than ever before. Australian Rugby is transforming with an exciting future ahead, and this innovative partnership enables us to fast-track that growth from the grassroots up as well as showcase and promote the game like never before.

“We’re particularly pleased for Super Rugby to be live on free-to-air for the first time in its history. We’re also thrilled to partner with streaming service Stan, which now boast more than two million Australian subscribers and are growing at a rapid rate. We’ve recognised that the broadcast landscape has changed, and we’re changing with it.

“Nine and Stan have also made a commitment to our women’s game, both at a domestic and international level. Rugby Australia is passionate about the growth of the women’s game in Australia and we look forward to working closely with them to showcase our competitions and talented players as well as encouraging more women and girls to pick up a Rugby ball,” Clarke said.

He also thanked  FOX Sports and Foxtel as well as its CEO Patrick Delany.

"We have enjoyed great highs over our 25-year partnership, and we would not be in the position we are today without their support," he says. 

Foxtel's Delany: “We have enjoyed a 25-year relationship with Rugby during which we have supported Rugby Australia during challenging phases as well as famous victories and great success.

“On the field performances and off the field challenges have seen a decline in Rugby’s popularity with fans over the past five years. In addition, the competitions that were offered for rights sales have changed markedly. While the Wallabies have always been non-exclusive to Fox Sports with every game on Free TV as well, the new Super Rugby competition is very different with fewer games overall and fewer games involving Australian teams. While we would have preferred to retain Rugby, we said earlier this year that we would maintain discipline in relation to sports rights – and we have.

“Rugby is now in a very different era. As Rugby Australia looks toward a renewal phase for the sport, we wish them well.

“Foxtel continues to be the go-to destination for fans of the most popular Australian and international sports, and the best production and commentary teams. Together with our commitment to women’s and under-represented sports, we remain the home of sport in Australia.”



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