NRL lands prime-time American TV deal for Las Vegas double-header
The National Rugby League’s historic double-header in Las Vegas is set to captivate a prime-time American audience, marking one of the most significant broadcasting achievements in the league’s 115-year history.
Under the negotiations led by ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys, a TV deal has been finalised, ensuring that the 2024 NRL premiership kick-off matches – featuring Manly Sea Eagles versus South Sydney Rabbitohs and Brisbane Broncos versus Sydney Roosters – will be broadcast live in the United States.
NRL superstars, including Rabbitohs spearhead Latrell Mitchell, Roosters skipper James Tedesco, Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans and Broncos prodigy Reece Walsh, will be beamed live to more than 90 million American viewers. This move aligns with V’landys’ and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo’s vision to tap into the potentially lucrative American sports market, estimated to be worth over $200 million in broadcast and gaming revenue for the NRL.
The landmark deal, endorsed by News Corp chairman and rabid Broncos fan Lachlan Murdoch, positions the NRL matches at the 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium on Saturday, March 2, to be aired on Fox Sports 1. With a reach of over 90 million American homes and a presence in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Fox Sports 1 provides the NRL with an extensive population storefront of 137 million.
“It’s a pretty big deal for our fans – it’s very exciting for the sport,” Abdo said.
“We’ve previously had NRL games shown on Fox Sports in America – but this will be the first time we’ve had games shown live in prime time on Fox Sports 1.
“To get a game of NRL in prime time in America with our partnership with Fox Sports, getting that promotion in America is huge for us.
“It gives us exposure and reach for the game to sports-loving Americans.
“We are confident that when they see our product, the NRL is something they will have an interest in following.”
In a major coup for the NRL, the code’s history-making Las Vegas debut will be screened live and in prime time on TV in America. The landmark deal will see the double header broadcast into millions of homes. https://t.co/VZ3A1cHvFd #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/LgQ7bFmble
— 7NEWS Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) November 26, 2023
Under the live broadcast feed, the Souths-Manly game will kick off at 6.30pm Pacific time, followed by the Broncos-Roosters clash at 8.30 pm. These prime-time slots cater to the western region of America, including major markets like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. With California, the largest state in the (39 million), in the same time zone, the NRL aims to capture the attention of sports-loving Americans.
While the NRL will remain a comparative minnow to American sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA and MLB, even a modest market share in the US promises a lucrative new audience in a country with a population of 330 million.
The NRL’s foray into Vegas is strategically timed, as it coincides with the conclusion of the NFL season and precedes the start of the 2024 Major League Baseball campaign. This provides the NRL with a unique opportunity to offer fresh content to American sports fans during a broadcasting window when they are receptive to new material.
In Australia, Channel 9 will broadcast the Broncos-Roosters clash free-to-air on Sunday, March 3, at 3.30pm (AEDT), while Fox League holds exclusive rights to the Rabbitohs-Sea Eagles season opener at 1:30 pm (AEDT). Fox League will also provide a live broadcast feed to their American counterpart on Fox Sports 1, further expanding the NRL’s global reach.
The NRL has unveiled its pitch to Americans in a bid to get locals hooked on Rugby League before the season opens in Vegas. The 30 second ad, which is airing in the US, displays the toughness and the skill of our game. @Danny_Weidler #9News pic.twitter.com/tZNPRqQGVn
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) November 15, 2023
Souths chief executive Blake Solly hailed the prime-time American TV deal as a groundbreaking moment for the NRL, emphasising the league’s commitment to presenting the game to a new audience on a significant platform like Fox Sports.
“I applaud Peter V’landys and Andrew Abdo for getting a deal like this over the line,” Solly said.
“Fox is a huge American network with a dedicated sports following.
“One of the reasons we (South Sydney) wanted to go to Vegas was to be able to present the game to a new audience.
“To know we will be shown on live TV to millions of American sports fans is a wonderful result.”