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David Letterman says he’s acquired Australian rugby team for TV show

Team says they're unaware of the purchase, which apparently involved fellow comedian Billy Crystal.

Team says they're unaware of the purchase, which apparently involved fellow comedian Billy Crystal.

Former late-night talk show host David Letterman says he has partnered with fellow comedian Billy Crystal to acquire an Australian rugby team with the goal of launching a television docuseries.

Letterman made the apparent revelation in a YouTube video published on Thursday, in which he claimed to have purchased the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a professional rugby team that participates in the National Rugby League (NRL). Team officials told a reporter with the Telegraph newspaper they have no knowledge of the apparent transaction.

Letterman said he was inspired by fellow comedians Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who purchased the Wrexham Association Football Club nearly four years ago. The club was promoted to the English Football League last April.

Reynolds and McElhenney brought Wrexham to an international stage through the television docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham,” which aired for two seasons on Disney-owned cable channel FX and is available to stream on Hulu.

Like Reynolds and McElhenney, Letterman said he and Crystal have plans to launch a similar television documentary focused on the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which will be produced and distributed by his Worldwide Pants production company.

When asked if Letterman was worried that Reynolds and McElhenney might sue for “ripping off” their ideas, Letterman shrugged off the notion, joking that “they’re playing soccer, we’re playing a real sport: rugby.”

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Letterman said the forthcoming docuseries focused on the Rabbitohs would land on a streaming platform in the future, which he called “Worldwide Pants Plus.” No such streaming service exists today, but Letterman has been publishing clips from “Late Show” to his eponymous YouTube channel.

The purchase of the South Sydney Rabbitohs is at least the third time Letterman has invested in professional sports. In 1989, Letterman offered up $76 million to acquire the Seattle Mariners baseball team, sharing ownership with radio broadcaster Jeff Smulyan and businessman Michael Browning. Several years later, he became the co-owner of the racing team Rahal Letterman Lanigan; the team won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story erroneously said the South Sydney Rabbitohs were a member club of the National Rugby Team.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).