NRL’s new media rights deal hurts fans
One clear message has emerged out of today’s NRL rights deal: dollars outweigh fans.
The rise in the price tag, now over the $1 billion mark with New Zealand rights included, has simply continued to indulge Channel Nine’s habit of forgetting those the game should serve – the fans.
The details of the new rights deal are as follows:
Nine will broadcast:
- Three weekly matches (two on Friday and one on Sunday).
- Three Thursday evening matches over the course of the year.
- A stand-alone Test and City versus Country weekend.
- Wednesday night State of Origin matches.
- A night-time grand final (7.15pm kick-off).
- The Roosters-Dragons Anzac Day matches.
- Two hours of rugby league content each evening on digital Channel 94 plus two hours of content on Saturday and Sunday morning.
- Nine will ensure that all of its matches are telecast on either the ‘primary’ or ‘digital’ station in each state.
- The Queensland Super Cup.
Fox Sports will telecast:
- Five weekly matches across Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
- Thirteen Sunday evening matches (6.30pm) over the course of the year.
- The Storm versus Warriors Anzac Day game (other than in 2014).
- Three non-NRL matches each week played in conjunction with the Telstra Premiership game (which will be shared between Toyota Cup, NSW Cup and GIO Schoolboys Cup).
Other main points include:
- Nine and Fox Sports will provide coverage of The Four Nations Tournament.
- The first 20 rounds of the premiership will be scheduled in advance of the season.
- The final six rounds will be scheduled at Round 16.
So essentially nothing has changed despite the increased price that Channel Nine and Fox Sports have forked out for the exclusive rights.
Nine CEO David Gyngell said he was “unapologetic” about the fact that one Friday night match will remain delayed, rather than being shown on one of their digital channels.
The NRL and its broadcasters have passed up a crucial opportunity to put the fans first, and the fact is Gyngell and Channel Nine simply don’t care.
Compare this to the AFL negotiations last year, worth a similar amount, that resulted in every game being shown live in HD and a standalone AFL channel being re-booted.
Granted in Queensland most AFL games are on Fox, but there is an opportunity for people to see all nine games on the weekend live if they want to.
In their negotiations, the AFL showed that they were willing to at least move towards a more equitable solution for fans.
This new rights deal is a slap in the face to many NRL fans and Gyngell’s argument that exclusivity grants them the right to do this is absurd.
Even accepting the premise that they have the prerogative to do this, the broadcasters should want to do more, and the NRL should demand more.
Sports broadcasting is an incredibly competitive industry, particularly with the advent of live streaming and a 24-hour online news cycle, and a deliberate decision to stand still puts them on the back-foot.
It wouldn’t matter if they had paid 10 billion for these rights because there is essentially no change in what is being offered up.
The NRL was in the box seat on this one, in that the AFL had shown its cards and locked in their coverage well before and it had a chance to match it.
Those at the top of the game will happily spruik the fact that the overall financial benefit rivals that of the AFL, but fans aren’t going to take solace in that.
As long as Channel Nine chooses to delay games in spite of the criticism and backlash they have received, and in spite of the opportunity to do more, profits are irrelevant.
All I can say is, thank goodness for Fox Sports!