Does Channel Nine know what rugby league fans want?
Only two games into Channel Nine’s five year, multi-multi-million dollar broadcast deal with the NRL, we’ve already got an answer to that eternal question – how much does it cost to buy your way onto a rugby league panel show?
Somewhere in the ballpark of $15 million a season, if the appearance of official NRL betting partner Tom Waterhouse on the post-match panel for the first episode of Friday Night Broncos in 2013 is any indication.
By all reports it was a barnstorming debut from the talent who openly confesses on his ubiquitous television commercials “I don’t know how they find the gap and get to the line.”
Accordingly, conversation quickly turned to horse racing and his famous mother Gai – or so Facebook and Twitter informed me.
I flicked over to the NBL on ONE as soon as I sensed his presence, and basked in the glory of a sporting telecast unencumbered by any mention of unders, overs or fine cotton.
Disclosure: I don’t find Tom Waterhouse to be particularly likable, and have voiced my feelings on The Roar previously.
I do, however, respect his right to advertise his product given the amount of cash he has fronted up.
What I do take issue with is a guy whose entire marketing campaign is built around not being able to play sport suddenly popping up on a rugby league panel show.
By my understanding, to quote Jerry Seinfeld when George Costanza wanted to become a commentator, “they tend to give those jobs to ex-ball players and people that are, you know, in broadcasting.”
If the stream of vitriol that saw Tom Waterhouse trending on Twitter on Friday night is any indication, I’m not alone in my objection to his presence.
And that’s before you even get into current investigations into possible match fixing, the ‘face’ of the NRL going off the grid due in part to gambling issues, and the ethical dilemma of gambling being normalised for a generation of kids who don’t know any different.
With that off my chest, I’ll pack the soapbox away and get onto some positives to come out of the first two games of the NRL season on Nine.
Whatever your feelings on Sonny Bill Williams, Nine did a great job of making his return and entrance to the playing field a ‘moment’.
With any luck, the ‘monologue cam’ they introduced before Sonny Bill Williams took the field is here to stay, if only so we Canberra Raiders fans can see footage of Blake Ferguson streaking towards the tryline overlaid with an internal monologue consisting mainly of the word ‘brah’.
Spidercam should probably be kept out of the live play mix until the camera ops have got it fully under control, but from a replay perspective it provides a real ‘money can’t buy’ experience. Some may question why its appearance is sponsored by a Liam Neeson film, to which I would respond why wouldn’t it be?
More impressive are the multi-angle, Matrix-style 360 degree morphs when the try scoring plays are broken down at halftime. What seemed superfluous in Nine’s cricket coverage is quite spectacular in a rugby league context.
What hasn’t been so spectacular is Karl Stefanovic’s introduction as a pre-match host for each broadcast. When the first person you hear from on the Broncos versus Sea Eagles coverage gets the score of their history-making first meeting in 1988 wrong, it’s not a good look.
Nor is an onscreen scoreboard that occasionally obscures play, especially when combined with advertising graphics that cover the bottom of your TV screen.
Still, it all pales in comparison to selling a seat on your post-match wrap.
Would the Raiders let me throw on the number 9 jersey if I dished out enough of my hard-earned?
You’ll find out at Penrith Park on Sunday. The odds are stacked against me though.