NRL close to UK TV deal

A deal is close to bring the NRL back to UK TV, after a distribution deal for the worldwide rights was announced.

Fans have missed the opening two rounds of the NRL after no UK broadcaster picked up a deal to show the NRL, which was previously taken up by the now defunct channel, Setanta.

It was hoped that ESPN, effectively Setanta’s replacement channel on Freeview, would pick up the coverage, but fans have been left frustrated by the lack of action from Down Under, prompting a “GetNRLonUKTV” campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

However, IMG Sports Media has announced a three-year distribution deal with the Australian Rugby League for worldwide television rights in all territories outside Australia and New Zealand.

But Michael Mellor, from IMG, said: “The acquisition of the NRL allows us to take this action packed premier rugby league to a whole new global audience.

“We are very close to finalizing a deal in the UK, thus allowing NRL’s many fans there to continue to enjoy live coverage of the sport.”

IMG distributed the 2008 World Cup to 119 countries and 154 million homes.

NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley said: “Our partnership with IMG Sports Media provides the NRL with the opportunity to increase our international coverage by tapping into IMG’s vast network of contacts around the world. Professional Rugby League is a great spectacle and I am sure it is going to be a very attractive offering to international broadcasters and genuine sports fans.”

NRL in the UK was previously televised on SKY Sports, before Setanta won the rights for the 2009 season. They entered administration and ceased operations in the UK in June 2009. Last season’s play-offs and Grand Final were televised by ESPN.

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