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Nine, Fox Sports Pay $1 Billion to Broadcast Rugby League Games

Nine Entertainment Co., the Australian media company owned by private equity group CVC Asia Pacific, retained broadcast rights to rugby league matches in the country alongside pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports.

Nine and Fox Sports will pay A$1.02 billion ($1.07 billion) to broadcast games over five years, the Australian Rugby League Commission said today. That compares to the A$1.25 billion that Seven West Media Ltd., Foxtel and Telstra Corp. paid for rights to Australian Football League matches in April 2011.

The ARL Commission, which runs rugby league in Australia, said in a statement it signed the agreement following “several days of intense negotiations with representatives of all commercial television networks.” The deal is worth A$925 million in cash, with the balance to be made up in advertising packages worth A$100 million, Commission chairman John Grant said.

“It’s been a difficult, complex and at times stressful process,” Grant said at a televised news conference in Sydney. “For our game it is the greatest deal ever done.”

Rugby league is Australia’s most-watched winter sport, attracting a cumulative audience of 128 million in 2011, according to market researcher Oztam Pty. which compiles Australian TV ratings.

Channel Nine will retain State of Origin inter-state games and continue to broadcast three free-to-air National Rugby League matches each weekend, the commission said. Fox Sports will show five games across Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while both broadcasters will show Four Nations tournament matches.

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