The rugby league television rights are coming and you can almost see the sweat running from Nine boss David Gyngell’s brow. For so long Channel Nine has treated the National Rugby League like a second rate citizen and now it may come back to bite them. Nine have had the rights since the early 1990’s and they know the stranglehold they have had on rugby league may be coming to an end.
The Seven and Ten networks have made it abundantly clear that they want a piece of the ratings giant that is rugby league. Why wouldn’t they?
“We want them bad” a Seven network spokesman said.
“Everyone knows how much David Leckie (Seven boss) loves rugby league.”
With rival stations breathing down their neck, Nine have made the first play. If not an obvious one which the NRL and David Gallop will see right through.
On the Sunday just gone, the Penrith Panthers versus Melbourne Storm game was beamed live into Victoria.
If Nine was serious, a live game would have been going into Victoria on Friday nights for years. This may not seem like a significant thing for the time being, but it may be a tool used in negotiations in the coming months. I’m sure Gallop would love a guarantee of prime time slots in states like Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. If Nine wont give the NRL these time slots, another station will.
“Hell will freeze over before Channel 9 loses rugby league” a Nine source said early last year.
“…the only way we’ll lose rugby league is if we don’t want it and that won’t be the case.”
You can smell the arrogance. You can see it.
Since the arrival of live Friday night football, not a single game has started at the scheduled 7.30pm kick off time. Its more like 7.45pm.
After which, the delayed 9.30pm game begins and it seems all can be forgiven.
Until they start going to commercials from around the twentieth minute. Then the pain really begins. Many people I know refuse to watch the second game and prefer to watch it the following day on Fox Sports where there are absolutely no commercial breaks.
Another atrocity in the Nine broadcast of Friday night football is the amount of games that the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast Titans receive. Yes the game is going into homes all over Queensland but surely there is a duty of care for the other clubs which don’t get the same air time. As if those two clubs don’t use their Friday night appearances as a marketing tool with sponsors. A lot of people watch Friday night football remember.
Then there is the Anzac Day Test match between Australia and New Zealand. Well not really. Its what is on after it at 9.30pm. I bet most people forget that the annual City versus Country game is on the very same night as the Test match. City v Country should stand on its own on a different night, yet its an after thought to Nine.
Now comes a scheduling dilemma for Nine executives with the Royal Wedding set to be a ratings bonanza. A perfect chance for them to romance footy fans with their “loyalty”.
Nine boss Jeff Browne gave these resounding comments:
“Rugby league will definitely be on our main channel and the wedding will be on GEM, our HD channel, We don’t want to deny loyal viewers their footy – rugby league is our key franchise. We’ll start with the wedding coverage but then go to the footy.”
“I haven’t finalised the schedule yet, my main priority is that the people who want to watch the footy can watch it. It might cost us some ratings, but I’m not going to abandon rugby league. It’s about the fans and the loyalty they’ve shown us every Friday night. You can’t smack them in the eye because another big event is on.”
“This has got nothing to do with the next TV deal. We already have a very good relationship with the NRL and we’re keen to improve it even further to help them develop the game and assist us to broadcast it to a maximum audience.”