Nine drops the rugby ball again
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I’m getting to the point where I don’t understand Channel Nine’s raison d’être (that’s French for ‘reason for existence’, in case any of Nine’s execs are reading).
I certainly can’t understand why it chose to spend money on getting the rights to broadcast the Rugby Championship, as they seem to be lurching from one PR disaster to another.
This weekend saw Argentina play its first Championship match in Australia, and the Gold Coast host its first ever Rugby Test.
With the Wallabies failing to convince in previous games, and the Pumas impressing in their first three, I was looking forward to seeing two potentially evenly matched teams, albeit with differing styles of play, go head-to-head.
Now, I’m one of those types who can’t afford Foxtel, but am usually quite happy to settle down with my laptop and a live feed when there is a big game in the offing.
This night, though, I’d already promised my young son that we’d watch the evening’s episode of Doctor Who together instead; this was a given, it was called ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’.
My boy couldn’t have been more excited about this if they’d introduced Jedi Knights and Lego into the plot too.
So I resigned myself to missing a live feed, avoiding the pub, and turning a blind eye to sports bulletins and online news feeds so as to not see the final score.
It was to be Channel Nine’s delayed telecast for me.
Being in Melbourne, this meant having to wait until both Charlotte’s Web and Nicolas Cage’s 14-year-old film City of Angels had finished first.
We’re clearly an eclectic lot, us Melburnians; where else would an unnecessary remake of a Wim Wenders movie be considered a bigger ratings draw than an international match? Nowhere, that’s where.
Unperturbed I found myself settled in my favourite armchair, drink in hand, waiting for the Rugby coverage to start at midnight. And what did I get: The opening credits, ‘Nine’s Wide World of Sports!’ and straight to the whistle and kick-off.
No preamble, no build-up, no player details, and probably most offensively, no national anthems. We weren’t even told which teams were playing.
If someone with no knowledge of the sport had tuned in, maybe after enjoying Cage’s portrayal as a fallen angel so much they decided to stick with Nine, the only clue to what they were watching would have come from the bold ‘Rugby Championship’ lettering on the pitch.
The game went on. Despite my grievances, and being unable to look up team selections online for fear of seeing the score, I found myself enjoying the match as Argentina proved more than a match for the Wallabies.
Naturally, there were ad breaks at inappropriate times, this I expected. Nine have bills to pay, and it seems to be the norm for Rugby coverage on a commercial network. And so, as half-time came Nine cut to another ad break – again, this was expected.
However, after only a few ads for Tom Waterhouse and other assorted services and products Nine returned to the match, and straight to a brief chat with Robbie Deans. A really brief chat, less than 30 seconds I would have thought. Then the game re-started. Again, no analysis, no review, and no highlights of the first half.
If that crowd of Cage fans were still watching they’d be thinking that Rugby players are a hardy bunch, only needing two or three minutes downtime before they’re at it again.
The final indignation came as Nine’s own commentary was cut off after the end of the game in order to show a interview with country singer Adam Brand (no, I’ve no idea who he is either). Obviously this was a higher priority to Nine’s execs than the final wrap-up of this historic match.
All in all, I felt cheated once again by Nine, they clearly have no interest in showing any rugby into Melbourne at a reasonable hour, and the lack of respect shown to the sport, their own commentators, and the two participating nations is astounding, even more so when we consider that one of those nations is Australia.
It all seemed as though this match was an inconvenience, and they’d rather be broadcasting anything else: a Cage film and an interview with a musician. Either of these could have been bumped in order to show this match nearer to kick-off time, or to have included anthems and pre-match analysis, and not rush the coverage to get it off their network as soon as humanly possible.
With Nine alienating the rugby-loving part of their audience again, and driving away any potential new rugby fans in Melbourne, I wonder how long will the ARU will stand for it?
I was watching in Melbourne, remember, where Australia’s newest Super Rugby team reside. With the ARU turning a blind eye to Nine’s mishandling of their sport, in what should be a growing market, they could potentially undo a fair amount of the work that the Rebels have done to promote the sport.
And with Melbourne having a large, and quite visible Argentinian population, as anyone who has ever attended the Johnston St Fiesta in Fitzroy can attest to, what damage has been done to the Rebels’ chances of gaining extra fans from the South American community?
I’d be interested to hear how Nine broadcast the match elsewhere in Australia from other Roarers. Was it live in your state? On Gem? Or was the delay and heavy editing at the expense of a Cage film (one that didn’t even have him as part of a crime-fighting father and daughter duo!), and an interview with a musician the norm throughout the land?
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