Sky New Zealand and the National Rugby League are locked in negotiations over the broadcast rights to NRL and Toyota Cup matches on the eve of the first-grade season starting in Sydney tomorrow night.
As of 8pm last night, representatives of the two parties were unable to agree on the conditions and cost to broadcast NRL matches and all Warriors under-20s games in New Zealand after meeting throughout the day.
The situation is a repeat of last year's wrangle to settle a television deal, with Sky NZ and the NRL agreeing only two days before the start of the season.
Last season's one-year deal was put in place to bring Sky NZ in line with the NRL's multi-year A$1.025 billion (NZ$1.265b) free-to-air and pay TV rights agreement with Channel Nine and Fox Sports in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald has previously reported that Sky NZ paid $14 million for last year's broadcast rights. The new Sky NZ deal will likely be a multi-year deal, yet the rights will undoubtedly cost more this season.
The massive increase in Australian agreed rights, combined with an increased Kiwi presence in teams across the Tasman and the addition of former All Black Sonny Bill Williams to the Roosters playing squad are seen as strong factors for this.
A Sky NZ spokesperson said yesterday that it was their "hope and ambition" to have the rights finalised before the season started, but conceded there was the possiblity that it may not occur.
It is understood that even if the parties do not reach an agreement before tomorrow night's Rabbitohs v Roosters clash to kick off the NRL season, Sky NZ may still be able to broadcast games in a short-term deal before they are.
The Warriors open their season against the Eels in Sydney on Saturday night.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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