League jumps into streaming with World Cup

·2-min read

All men's, women's and wheelchair matches at this year's Rugby League World Cup will be shown live as the sport takes its first serious step into the streaming age.

Organisers are ploughing ahead with plans for the end-of-year tournament, taking confidence with the country's roadmap out of lockdown and sport-deprived crowds.

The tender process for Australian broadcasters closes at the end of this month, with an announcement likely in April.

Organisers have confirmed to AAP that part of any deal will be a requirement to show all 61 games live from the three competitions, in a first for the sport.

That is expected to incorporate the use of a streaming service, with the eventual rights-holder likely to use their own online platform for some matches.

Fox already use Kayo as their streaming service in Australia, while the rights could present a significant coup for Nine who currently only have rugby union on their Stan Sports platform.

"There's around 120 hours of rugby league, so if you think about a traditional broadcast with linear channel, you can't broadcast that," RLWC broadcast lead Russell Scott told AAP.

"But looking at it now with what Nine have got with Stan and Fox have with Kayo, they're set up to put some of the mass-audience games on traditional channels.

"That's while also getting really good exposure for some of the other competing nations on streaming platforms.

"It means they can target a new and more diverse audience to watch rugby league."

The move to some games being shown exclusively on streaming platforms has long been spoken about in rugby league.

Fox's Kayo has rapidly grown in prominence, while Amazon Prime last month signed a deal with Swimming Australia.

Optus Sport has the rights to the English Premier League in Australia, while Sports Flick this month shocked them to claim the European Champions League rights.

Meanwhile, World Cup organisers will also be responsible for broadcast in conjunction with a production partner, another idea previously floated at NRL level.

That will ensure the wheelchair competition is given the same footing as the running game, including proper statistical analysis, multiple cameras and commentary in the game's greatest chance for exposure.

"That will help people understand that, yes, there is an amazing back story, but what you're seeing is world-class athleticism," Scott said.