5 best ways to watch Rugby League in Australia and overseas
For rusted-on fans, Rugby League is the greatest sport of all and it's set for a blockbuster 2019 NRL season. Here is how you make sure you never miss a tackle.
It's never quiet in the Rugby League world. Despite being the off-season, the summer has been rich with news about the NRL and Rugby League in general. It's not all been great news, but it's been engrossing none-the-less.
With so many coaching changes, player movements, retirements and disruptions, the form guide is out the window. Anyone could win, and you can be right there for kick-off each and every game to see how the drama and the soap opera that is NRL footy unfolds.
We've previously detailed the lengthy, action filled NRL 2019 fixtures schedule. From mid-March to the end of September, there's a lot of footy to get in. So let's dive into the best ways to watch Rugby League in Australia and overseas.
Who holds the Rugby League broadcast rights in Australia?
Broadcast rights are such a complicated web of dead ends and frustrations it can be difficult for fans to understand what is going on. We've done our best to untangle that web for every sport in Australia, including NRL Rugby League. Here are the nuts and bolts of the current TV Rugby League broadcasting rights in Australia.
Channel 9 retains the rights to show three games from each round (Thursday, Friday, Sunday) live through terrestrial TV (so not the 9Now streaming app). They will also get an additional Saturday night game during the last five rounds of the season. Channel 9 also gets to air the State of Origin series live and all the NRL finals live, including the Grand Final.
Foxtel is the other broadcast partner. They have the rights to show every game of every round live through its cable TV and streaming services. Foxtel can also show all the NRL finals games except the Grand Final live. The Grand Final and the State of Origin series are only available on replay.
Where to watch and stream NRL in 2019
Not available during last season, this new service is absolutely the best choice for any NRL fan dedicated to watching rugby league in season 2019. The no-contract streaming service includes the Fox League channel (as well as the other seven Fox Sports channels, three beIN Sports channels and two ESPN channels), and it operates through PC, Mac, iOS, Android, ChromeCast, Apple TV, Telstra TV and Android TV platforms.
It showcases every game, live and on demand, all the supplementary entertainment shows (NRL 360, Fletch & Hindy, The Professor, NRL Life, etc), historical games and more. Fox League also airs matches from the English Super League live.
Best of all are the incredible, revolutionary sports-specific viewing features on Kayo. This includes splitscreen, picture-in-picture, hide scores, highlight moments and more. These have to be experienced to be believed, and luckily there is an easy to start and cancel 14-day free trial available.
The Fox League channel and all its programming is also available in full via Foxtel IQ. If you're looking for the premium experience, then Foxtel IQ has one huge advantage over the other options on this list and that is 4K resolution. While not all games will be broadcast in 4K, Foxtel has confirmed that select games from each round will get this premium viewing experience. Make no mistake, any sport in 4K, on a 4K TV of course, is a thing of beauty. It doesn't come cheap or quick though.
Foxtel IQ is the traditional set-top box experience, which means it's not instantly available upon purchase and incurs a contract. A technician needs to install the box, the cabling and potentially a satellite dish. Such installation is costly and destructive. The service is also not sport-specific, and to access the sports channels you need to have already bought the basic channel package. As a result, the monthly cost blows out to $68 per month.
It's worth noting that each Foxtel IQ subscription comes with the Foxtel Go app, meaning that as well as getting the traditional TV experience, you also get the ability to stream the channels you subscribe to as well. However, none of the sports-specific viewing features of Kayo Sports are available through Foxtel Go.
The third best way to access the Fox League channel and all its league programming is through Foxtel Now. Before Kayo Sports, Foxtel Now was the streaming-specific service for Foxtel's suite of services. It does have an optional $99 set-top box option, which is a streaming system (as in, no invasive installation process), but for the most part this is about watching Rugby League through the Foxtel Now app.
Much like Foxtel IQ, it suffers from a need to also own the base package of channels before you can access any sport. This inflates the cost to $54 per month, meaning this option is only really useful for Rugby League fans who want more than just sport. Foxtel Now has none of the sports viewing features of Kayo either.
Get to know Kayo with our guides
The big benefit of watching your Rugby League through Channel 9 is that it is free. However, you'll receive a limited experience as a result. Only three games are shown each round up until the last five rounds. At this point an extra game joins the fun, bringing the total to four. Rugby League is only shown through the free-to-air TV channels too, not through the 9Now streaming app.
The cancellation of the Footy Show on Thursday nights also takes a chunk out of the non-game NRL content available on Channel 9. Fans are more-or-less restricted to the Sunday Footy Show now. Channel 9 is the only place to watch the State of Origin series and the NRL Grand Final live, and to hear the legendary commentary of Ray Warren, Peter Sterling and Paul Vautin.
If you go overseas during the Rugby League season, you will not be able to watch games through Fox League or through Channel 9. They only have the rights to broadcast the NRL here on Australian turf. If you want to watch the NRL while travelling, the solution is the Watch NRL service.
Watch NRL can be purchased for one week ($19), one month ($33) or one year ($189). This allows you to join up for small holidays, or for longer moves overseas, as required. Every match is available live and on demand through the service, and it works in browsers, on iOS and Android, and on TVs via ChromeCast or Apple TV.