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IMG Media, a division of IMG Worldwide, the sports, fashion and media company, has signed a new five year agreement with the National Rugby League (NRL) to sell and promote the Australian league for all media platforms on a worldwide basis excluding Australia and New Zealand.

The new contract, which also includes gaming rights and access to the NRL archive, will see an expansion of the digital offering to make the NRL more accessible to fans around the world. This will include the development of an online NRL digital channel which will be available on a free-to-view basis in territories where there is no coverage available and a mobile app amongst other enhanced media to engage with NRL fans around the world.

IMG Media, which has represented the NRL since 2010, will help grow exposure of Australia’s top tier of professional rugby league featuring 16 teams – 15 from Australia and one from New Zealand. Every match will be distributed live in HD, while there will also be a 30-minute highlights show and match clips and archive.

Chris Guinness, SVP, Head of Asia Pacific, IMG Media, said: “We are very excited about extending our relationship with the NRL over the next five years.  The relationship has evolved from traditional International TV distribution to a complete 360 degree involvement covering all aspects of the NRL’s International media assets and we look forward to working closely with the NRL in this new exciting era.

The National Rugby League, which grew from Sydney’s club competition, has been running continuously since 1908. The NRL formed in the aftermath of the 1990s’ Super League war as a joint partnership between the sport’s already-existing national governing body, the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and media giant News Corporation-controlled Super League, after both organisations ran premierships parallel to each other in 1997. This partnership was dissolved in February 2012, with control of the NRL going to the independently-formed Australian Rugby League Commission.

NRL matches are played from autumn until spring. The season culminates in the premiership-deciding game, the NRL Grand Final, traditionally one of Sydney’s most popular sporting events and one of the largest attended rugby club championship events in the world. In addition, the NRL champions also play in the World Club Challenge, a pre-season match against the champions of the European Super League competition.