Date: May 12 2012
ARL Commission chief executive David Gallop said that after meeting executives from the Seven and Ten networks yesterday he was ''very optimistic about achieving a great result'' with the next TV rights deal.
Gallop would not say whether the total earned from the deal needed to be at least $1 billion to be regarded as a great result, but he was upbeat about the negotiations being in full swing and looking forward to further discussions with interested parties.
The rights holders, the Nine network and Fox Sports, made their bids on Monday, at the end of their exclusive three-month negotiating period with the commission. Now the process has been thrown open, and it could be several months before new deals are in place.
''It was great to move to the phase where we could formally talk to Seven and Ten today,'' Gallop said. ''It's fair to say both networks are enthusiastic about how the game is performing, on and off the field. Clearly, this is an encouraging sign from our point of view. We have each agreed to outline the details of our positions more fully in coming weeks, and further meetings will follow that process.''
Gallop, the league's director of strategy and special projects, Shane Mattiske, and league lawyer Tony O'Reilly first met with Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch, chief executive James Warburton and chief operating officer Jon Marquard. That was followed by the commission trio meeting with Seven's chief executive, Tim Worner, and commercial director Bruce McWilliam.
The networks were keeping things very close to their chests after the meeting. Official offers were not made yesterday, but obviously money - at least in ball-park figure terms - would have been discussed. Gallop, when asked how serious Seven and Ten were when it came to money, was not forthcoming either.
''It's early days and obviously too early to discuss specific financial details,'' Gallop said. ''And, obviously, there is a confidentiality element involved when it comes to any offers we receive.''
There has been enormous speculation about whether the league would hit the magical $1 billion mark - and perhaps even go beyond - with the new rights deal, which would start next year and is planned to run for five years. Industry experts the Herald spoke to yesterday said the end figure would be heavily influenced by how serious Seven and Ten were about bidding, and how much of the league cake they were after.
''They [Seven and Ten] are talking as if they will go in hard, but you never know until it is time to put the money on the table,'' one expert said. ''But things are in motion now, so we're going to find out soon. We have to see how it pans out.''
There have been suggestions that because Nine and Fox Sports entered separate bids on Monday there may have been a change in their thinking, after they had previously joined forces in the bidding process. That has led to speculation that other partnerships could be formed between any two of the interested parties.
But an expert said the only reason Nine and Fox Sports entered separate bids was contractual, so as to protect their rights to first and last bids, and that any further offers from them are expected to be joint bids.
Gallop was keeping things tight about yesterday's meetings, but he did say ''nothing was ruled out'' at this stage by either Seven or Ten in terms of which parts of the league coverage they may be interested in securing.
Asked when he thought the rights deal would be completed, Gallop said: ''It's going to take some time, with no deadlines. I expect the new deals will be in place before the end of the season, but I'm not going to try to predict an exact time.
''We can talk to everyone now. We haven't any further meetings with Nine and Fox Sports scheduled at the moment, but I expect we will be talking to them again soon.''
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