NRL ready to spark rights bidding war Jacquelin Magnay | October 8, 2008 http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/nrl-to-spark-rights-bidding-war/2008/10/07/1223145356713.html CHANNEL Nine's stranglehold on broadcasting rugby league matches free to air is threatened by an NRL push to have its matches broadcast on several television networks and internet platforms by 2013. Rugby league officials are even considering breaking up the rights to the NRL grand final and the top-rating State of Origin series when negotiating the next round of multimillion-dollar broadcast deals. An NRL sub-committee has been looking at whether it is more financially attractive to split the rights, or to follow the trend of recent negotiations and stick to the one free-to-air network for an entire rugby league package. The league rights, currently with Channel Nine and the pay-TV operator Fox Sports, are due to expire at the end of the 2012 season. Some media buyers and an external consultancy company are understood to have advised the NRL that a separate offering of the Origin series would generate a fierce bidding war and boost the NRL coffers. The Origin series is one of the most watched sporting events year after year, with this year's deciding game drawing a five city audience of 2.145 million people. NRL chief executive David Gallop told the Herald that splitting the rights was "certainly an option, as is selling individual nights as distinct packages, a whole of these options are open to us". He said one idea was to sell the Friday night football to one broadcaster, the Saturday night to another and the Monday night to a third. "The money is a big factor, it is the factor," Gallop said. "But we also want to see our game reach as many people as possible and be well presented." The NRL has its free-to-air, pay-TV and broadband internet rights all expiring at the one time. While the sub-committee is investigating different opportunities, the negotiations with TV networks and internet providers won't commence for at least 18 months. This comes as the ratings for the NRL grand final clawed back the high-flying AFL ratings when the regional figures were released yesterday. Overall the AFL rated 3.247 million to the NRL's 3.070 million from the five capital cities and regional networks. The NRL grand final rated extremely high in the bush - one of its traditional supporter bases - with a regional audience of 996,000. The AFL's regional figures were 756,000. Of no surprise was the fact the NRL rated higher in Sydney than Melbourne and the reverse was true for the AFL. The only disappointing aspect to the twilight grand final kick-off - seemingly well received in Sydney - was the reduced audience in Melbourne, compared to last year's grand final, which also featured the Storm. This year the AFL grand final between Geelong and Hawthorn was the second-highest rating event, behind the Olympic Games opening ceremony, both televised on Channel Seven. But rugby league's Origin III came in at eight, behind some Beijing Olympic Games prime-time events, the men's Australian tennis open final and the AFL grand final presentation. The NRL grand final, at No.15, rated behind all three Origin matches.