Sky says it will seek shareholder approval to enter a deal worth more than $235m with Sanzaar for five-year rights to All Blacks, Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup games from 2021.
The approval, which will be sought at the pay-TV broadcaster's annual meeting on October 17, does not mean Sky has sealed a deal.
Rather, it's laying more groundwork for a king-hit bid well above that mark - and fulfilling a legal requirement, given Sky's diminished status on the stockmarket.
"This is the first time we've taken such a step, and it's due to our current market cap relative to the potential size of the deal," a Sky spokeswoman told the Herald.
"At our current value, we need to seek shareholder approval for any deal worth over $235m - and, on that basis, even the existing deal would need approval if we were entering into it today."
The minimum $235m price tag represents more than a quarter of Sky TV's $839m revenue for the 2018 financial year.
Sky's various woes have seen it lose around 80 per cent of its market valuation over the past five years. Its shares were trading yesterday at $1.13, close to their all-time low, giving it a market cap of under $500m.
Sky would not comment on the status of its negotiations, citing commercial confidentiality.
Earlier this month, the Herald reported that Sky had put a $400m offer on the table for the next five-year Sanzaar contract, representing a $10m per year increase on its current contract.
At the time, the Herald understood that was not enough for NZ Rugby to take the possibility of split rights off the table (that is, Sky getting broadcast rights and Spark streaming/online rights).
But after Spark's various Rugby World Cup wobbles, Sky might be loath to go higher, and Sanzaar and NZ Rugby more cautious about striking out in a new direction for season-long events.
Sky shareholders will also be asked to vote on the acquisition of global streaming player RugbyPass in a deal worth up to $60m.
New Sky TV chief executive Martin Stewart has recently taken a number of steps to bolster his company's war chest amid negotiations with Sanzaar and other top sporting bodies - including cancelling the company's dividend, taking out a new $200m credit line and initiating a restructure that could impact 250 jobs.
At the AGM, shareholders will also be asked to approve new chairman Philip Bowman - an ex Sky UK director, now resident in Auckland, who replaced the long-serving Peter Macourt earlier this year, plus new director Joan Withers and Stewart, who took former CEO John Fellet's place on the board.