(adds details, quotes after media conference)
SYDNEY, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has signed off on a massive increase in its share of broadcasting rights for the Super Rugby competition and international matches after announcing a five-year agreement worth A$285 million ($206.23 million).
The figure was a 148 percent increase on revenue achieved from previous media rights arrangements, the ARU said, while acknowledging that it paled in comparison with the billion dollar deals achieved by rival Australian football codes.
“Anything with a ‘B’ in front of it is clearly tempting but we are very, very happy with our meagre pickings,” ARU chief executive Bill Pulver told reporters in Sydney.
”To achieve a 148 per cent growth in revenue from your broadcast outcome, I suspect is the largest increase of any code and it reflects, I think, the growing status that we enjoy in the Australian sporting landscape.
”And I‘m confident that that sort of trend will continue.
”So, look, it’s not for us to try and match those codes in terms of the total broadcast value.
“It’s up to us to get the right growth we need for the growth of our game and I‘m very confident that we’ve achieved that.”
Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) last month announced a new broadcast and media rights deal worth A$1.8 billion over five years, while the Australian Football League (AFL), which runs the indigenous Australian Rules code, sealed an A$2.508 billion six-year deal from 2017 in August.
Rugby league is the dominant football code in New South Wales and Queensland, while Australian Rules is the most popular sport played in winter in Victoria, South and Western Australia.
Soccer, the world’s most popular football code, is gaining in popularity but still lags behind in commercial muscle, netting just A$160 million from the current four-year deal for the Australia national team and A-League matches.
Cricket dominates summer sport in Australia and attracted a domestic television deal for 2013/14-2017/18 in June 2013 worth $590 million.
The agreement, which runs from 2016-20, is the ARU’s share of a wider broadcasting rights package still being finalised by the governing body SANZAR, which will expand to include Argentina next year.
Pulver said the overall package, which is expected to be finalised by early 2016, would be close to A$1 billion.
New Zealand Rugby said they had completed an agreement with pay provider Sky Television in New Zealand in Oct. 2014, although they did not announce any details while the overall package was still being negotiated by SANZAR.
Britain’s Sky Sports also said in October they had secured rights to broadcast southern hemisphere games in the United Kingdom.
$1 = 1.3820 Australian dollars Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ed Osmond/Nick Mulvenney