An 11th hour deal to provide live coverage of the Australian V8 Supercar series has raised hopes of a similar late deal being secured by Sky Television around this year's National Rugby League season.
Sky and V8 Supercars announced a new five-year broadcasting deal on Wednesday, just days ahead of the opening round of the series, the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide this weekend.
The NRL and Sky remain at loggerheads over a league deal for the next five years.
The NRL club season kicks off next Friday night.
There was a similar impasse a year ago when the NRL wanted Sky to roll over an existing deal for a further year so renewal lined up with new broadcasting arrangements to be hammered out in the Australian market.
Those Aussie deals are now completed and rose significantly, creating an expectation of similar increases in the New Zealand market.
The NRL is believed to want $A20m ($NZ25m) per season for the next five years. Sky is believed to currently pay $NZ14m per season.
Both parties have expressed confidence that a deal will be completed before the season kicks off and that coverage will not be in jeopardy.
Industry sources say the late conclusion of the V8s-Sky deal shows "these sorts of things always go down to the wire".
TVNZ, TV3 and Maori TV were all shy to comment on whether they would have any interest in NRL rights should Sky not be able to reach a deal.
Realistically, the free-to-air networks cannot write out a cheque big enough for the NRL and can no longer match Sky's deeper pockets.
However, the NRL could take a strategic position of seeking a smaller rights fee for a larger audience via free-to-air.
"The NRL has made enough money out of the new Australian deals to be able to take that stance if they want to," said the industry source.
"But the reality is they both need each other.
"A deal will be done. The season coverage won't be in jeopardy."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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