NRL new digital strategy a win for Telstra, says Rebekah Horne

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 1 June 2018

NRL chief digital officer Rebekah Horne says Telstra could be using the NRL's refreshed digital platform and content offering as a way to generate more customers.

Currently, Telstra is one of the main sponsors of the NRL, with naming rights to the premiership competition. The telco also hosts the stream to every live game from each round, on the NRL app, which is available to current and non-Telstra subscribers.

Speaking to AdNews, Horne says NRL's recently relauched app and desktop experience will provide Telstra with a new and better opportunity to target both dedicated and casual Rugby League fans, as the organisation continues to grow its offering.

"There is a real opportunity for us to work together. For example, whether it was from a commercial point of view or again from a customer acquisition point of view, Telstra has looked at its sports franchises or its sports sponsorships as a kind of retention for existing," Horne says.

She says the future is about converting customers to a subscription model, stating that the digital pass offering from Telstra could act as a gateway for new consumers.

As of 28 May 2018, the NRL has reported 24.4 million live streams, via its digital platforms, across the last 87 games.

NRL GM commercial and strategy Todd Hewitt says these numbers reflect a growing opportunity for Telstra to capitlase on its NRL digital pass offering to current members.

He says the NRL is trying to work more creatively to drive benefit for the sponsorship and ensuring that people draw links between the two brands

"Say you're a non-Telstra customer and you're out at dinner Saturday night and you tune into the West Tigers game, you see someone scored but can't continue to watch the rest of the game because you don't have the full subscription."

"All of a sudden, you can say, 'Okay, I'm a non-Telstra customer and I can see a benefit in the fact that I'd love to be able to tune in while I'm at dinner on a Saturday night and watch the actual full game', he says.

Hewitt added that acquisition component becomes more important for Telstra and “the content is a way of differentiating them from others in the market.”

Since December 2017 the NRL digital network has now launched 57 new products, which includes panel shows, coverage of the women's league and weekly team list announcements, all produce in-house.

An internal content team has also been built out and includes ex-Fairfax media sports journalists.

Most recently, Telstra and Football Federation Australia (FFA) entered a five-year digital rights and sponsorship agreement, similar to the one currently in place with the NRL.

The telco announced it had secured the live mobile rights for football until 2023. The deal between was a result of a sub-license agreement between Telstra and Fox Sports, and does not include the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which is licensed to rival Optus Sport.

Under the streaming rights deal, Telstra will create and launch the new “My Football Live App” with live matches available via the Telstra Live Pass for existing Telstra mobile customers.

The streaming itself is similar to what the telco does with its NRL and AFL streaming.

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