NRL set for Telstra deal worth $90m

In a deal that will will end months of negotiations, Telstra is set to sign a six-year sponsorship agreement with the NRL reportedly worth $90 million.

The Australian reports that the deal is expected to be announced within days and will see Telstra keep the naming rights to the NRL for the next six years, as well as securing exclusive rights to show vision from games on the internet and mobile phones.

Telstra will also spend $60m for online and mobile rights to the Australian Football League in a five-year deal starting this year, and an additional $20 million for similar rights to the V8 Supercars in a six-year deal beginning this year.

Telstra had held the naming and new media rights with the NRL for the previous five seasons, a deal which expired at the end of last year.

Negotiations were hampered when the rights over new device technology, including mobile broadcast methods yet to be made commercially available in Australia, became a major stumbling block between the ARL, Telstra, News Limited and PBL Media (owner of Nine Network).

Its understood lawyers for News Limited had advised that TV broadcasters owned the right to images used on the internet and new mobile phone technology, and could not be sold by the NRL as part of a sponsorship deal.

"We should be making an announcement with the NRL within hours, or days at the worst, as was always going to be the case," group managing director of Telstra BigPond internet division Justin Milne told The Australian last night.

Negotiations reportedly hinged on new technologies, in particular: 1. Next generation mobile-TV technologies including DVB-H - a more compact version of traditional television broadcast. 2. Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (MBMS), a broadcast technology that uses existing mobile phone spectrum.

Thus far, the NRL has made no official announcement with suggestions that the agreement is yet to be finalised.

Its understood the NRL have also had detailed discussions with a number of other prospective sponsors, including Telstra's mobile phone rival Vodafone.

However, reports indicate that an agreement has between Telstra and the NRL has been reached.

The new Telstra deal means that Channel Nine and Foxtel cannot show more than 30 seconds of game footage on their websites.

But its understood Telstra will offer its BigPond customers free access to archives of AFL and NRL games that can be downloaded from the internet.