Castle expects broadcast revenue growth in 2021

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle is confident the next broadcast deal due in 2021 will deliver higher revenue than the current agreement.

SANZAAR is three seasons into a five-year deal that handed Australia $285 million for the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby competitions.

Though those three seasons have been plagued with criticism that led to the reduction of Super Rugby to 15 teams, Castle expect

World Rugby's proposed World League, which would pit the top Test nations against each other annually, could be critical to that boost.

Australia negotiates its rights as part of a SANZAAR bloc, with New Zealand, Argentina and New Zealand all taking a portion, making any new competition a potentially valuable addition.

"I think the interesting thing is what package do you take to the broadcasters," Castle said.

"You can't look at Super Rugby in isolation.

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper watches on in the NRC. Photo :Getty Images"There is our domestic competition, there's Super Rugby, there's our international product and then there's potential of the World League you talked about.

"There's no doubt a strategic conversation from World Rugby to see if we can maximise our broadcast rights across the world.

"So, I think it's about what can we do going and having conversations about the rugby package that we can deliver, so on the package I do think we can grow our broadcast revenues."

Super Rugby's form beyond 2021 is still taking shape but Castle said the picture would be clear by the middle of 2019. 

"We'll continue to evolve those discussions," she said.

"The reality is we don't have to make any firm, finalising decisions until mid-next year.

"We want to make sure that when we make the decision we're very comfortable with it.

"There's no need to rush, we want to take our time and that's what we're doing."

Castle all but ruled out the addition of a Pacific Island team to Super Rugby in the coming seasons, with financial sustainability the biggest hurdle for countries like Fiji.

Currently, the Drua team in the NRC is jointly funded by World Rugby and the Fiji Rugby Union and a Super Rugby campaign would be costlier still.

"We have had some discussions around Fiji and where they fit in - Pacific Islands, Fiji," he said.

"It's an interesting balance with Super Rugby - is that the place to try and trial new products and bring it into the environment?

"We know the financial sustainability of teams has been a real challenge for every nation within the Super Rugby competition and financial sustainability is a really important part of that mix.

"So for us, we see the success of the Drua as an opportunity to continue to grow and evolve. Will we see a Fijian team or Pacific Island team in the short-term in Super Rugby? Possibly not in the very short-term but we'll continue to have conversations."

The 2019 Super Rugby season kicks off on February 16, 2019.