NRL misses the chance to expand free national coverage
Dave Taylor is tackled by Gareth Ellis during the Round 21 (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay)
The NRL should be commended for hitting the treasured $1 billion mark with its new rights deal, but the agreement is largely a case of same-old same-old.
Nine keeps its three games a week and Fox Sports keeps its five games a week. It appears that Nine will keep running with two games on a Friday night, one on delay, and one on Sunday at 4pm.
It’s a win for Fox Sports viewers, and there are other positives like the fixed NRL season scheduling and the chance of more Thursday night games. These are good calls.
There also some deals around IPTV, mobile devices and digital rights to be announced, so it’s a wait-and-see there. And a stand-alone Test and City-Country weekend is a good move.
But there are still some grey areas around what Nine plans to do with its NRL coverage outside NSW and Queensland.
What will league fans in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia get on free-to-air? Will they continue to get shafted by Nine, with games being shown at midnight on Fridays or at other un-godly hours?
The NRL needs the game to grow, particularly in non-league areas like SA, WA and VIC. The growth of the Storm does depend to a degree on what Storm games are shown in Victoria at what times.
There are no NRL teams in Perth or Adelaide, at the moment, but that is not to say there are no NRL fans in those cities.
Figures for the grand final and State of Origin, not to mention the 20,000 who turned up in Perth to see Manly beat the Warriors recently, demonstrates that league is alive and well there. And if they want the game to expand, and for the value of the rights to remain high, and sponsors to remain interested, then they to get league on FTA screens in those states.
At this point an agreement on that doesn’t seem to be reached, which is a shame. This is a missed opportunity.
Though, as everyone knows, you can’t have everything. With no David Gallop at the helm, the NRL Commission should be applauded for doing a decent job and ensuring that the game remains financially strong. And Nine may still come to the party and ensure the NRL is on in prime-time outside two of three of Australia’s biggest states.
Still, if you were an NRL viewer in Perth or Melbourne right now, without the money or inclination to get Foxtel, I don’t think you’d be jumping for joy just yet.
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.