Exclusive: RL Commercial director reveals key details that saw Sky win Super League rights & responds to financial shortfall questions

Aaron Bower
Brian Carney Sky Sports Super League Alamy

Sky Sports' rugby league presenter Brian Carney

RL Commercial managing director Rhodri Jones insists he believes the details of Sky Sports‘ new three-year television deal with Super League can lead the sport to a ‘similar point’ to where it currently is financially: but admits there is ‘a lot of hard work’ to get to that point.

RL Commercial confirmed on Tuesday that Sky Sports were the preferred bidder for the next broadcast deal for Super League, with the broadcaster agreeing a three-year deal that will run through to the end of the 2026 season.

Sky saw off competition from other broadcasters, including DAZN and TNT Sports.

Jones admitted Sky’s long-standing relationship with the sport – the new deal will take the game through to 30 years on Sky Sports – counted in the negotiations, but stressed that certain details within Sky’s offer gave it extra weighting.

That included the promise from the broadcaster to produce every game, meaning not only video referees at every match from next season, but the prospect of more games being streamed on platforms like Our League.

Jones told Love Rugby League: “Ultimately, when we compared the offers on the table, the Sky one stood out and as such, that was our recommendation to clubs.

“It provides us with security, it provides us with that familiar coverage we’re used to and there’s now an added benefit of every game produced and every game having a video referee, so the sport is now governed on a level playing field.”

A sum lower than the existing one, in the region of £20m per season

When asked about the financial value of the deal, Jones did not give specific numbers away: however, it is understood to be an initial sum lower than the existing one, in the region of £20million per season. But Jones stressed: “I think, with retained rights we’ve secured through our initial negotiations with Sky, we’d be hoping we’ll end up at a similar point to where we’re at currently.”

Jones did appear to admit that the game will have to use other opportunities and platforms to make up a shortfall from Sky’s new offer though, admitting: “There’s a lot of hard work to get to that point. We’ve managed to retain a few useful opportunities and rights through the discussions with Sky and their offer and we’ve demonstrated to clubs how we’re going to fill that delta.”


The continuation of free-to-air coverage

Sky’s offer also includes the option for the game to retain its free-to-air allowance, meaning more Super League on terrestrial television in 2024.

RL Commercial and Sky will now go into a 30-day exclusivity negotiating period, where the finer details of the deal – including central distribution for clubs – will be worked out.

Jones also insisted the offers from other broadcasters – something which hasn’t happened in recent renewal periods – helped drive the price of Super League up, and that the rival broadcasters were serious.

“We had multiple offers on the table in the end,” he admitted.

“There was genuine interest and actually, a genuine desire to take the sport on in some instances, but ultimately, we came back to Sky’s offer because we felt it was the best.”

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