When the NRL recently signed off on a TV deal worth $1.8 billion over five years, one of the sticking points to come out of it was the newly allotted Friday 6pm game.
The Friday 6pm game will be aired on pay TV channel Fox Sports from 2017. The new timeslot will replace Monday night football.
Of course at the time of the announcement of the TV deal, many NRL fans felt that the new Friday timeslot will be a farce. At that time of the week, many people are still coming home from work – or still there.
And for that obvious conundrum, many would say, who is going to watch a live NRL game in attendance at 6pm on a Friday?
Certainly that timeslot works for Warriors home matches, with New Zealand two hours ahead of Australia. That timeslot may have been perfect if the NRL had two or three teams based in NZ. But unfortunately, the NRL only has one team from NZ. This means NRL teams from Australia have to host the less desirable timeslot.
And to make things worse, in the first month of the season, NSW is still in daylight savings hours, therefore Queensland is one hour behind.
So in a nutshell, in the first month of the NRL season, a game will be televised in Queensland from 5pm. Now that is even more ludicrous.
In all likelihood, Queensland may not be hosting a match in March, but TV ratings for a 5pm could be a disaster.
Again, at 5pm people in Queensland are either at work, or commuting from work.
There’s a strong chance that many NRL fans in Queensland will miss the entire 5pm game in early stages of the NRL season.
Surely that’s not a win for the fans. It seems like the early Friday game is cooked up by men in suits without consulting the NRL fan.
Who is to blame? Fox or the NRL. In my opinion, both deserve rotten eggs and tomatoes coming their way.
Yes we know the usual rhetoric. The broadcasters pay the bills, but surely there is another alternative.
This Friday 6pm does face many challenges. Come 2017, when it is introduced, TV ratings will show its true indication. And that’s what it comes down to really – TV ratings, not crowds.
If it is not a success, then most likely there will be a change. In the current cycle, Channel Nine were forced to go live after taking a big hit in TV ratings with the delayed Sunday 4pm coverage.
There are three possible compromises. For the first month have a Sunday 6pm match, then the rest of the season, Friday 6pm. Alternately, for the first half of the season, a Sunday 6pm match then the second half, a switch to Friday 6pm.
The final option would be to hold a Sunday game at 6pm for the entire season.
Why wasn’t a Sunday 6pm game ever considered?
A Sunday 6pm game does make more sense as Sunday is part of the weekend. When a Perth team comes in, that timeslot would fit perfectly and also take advantage of various public holiday Mondays. It is certainly more logical then the so-called Friday ‘pub game’
But when it comes down to negotiating a $1.8 billion TV deal, sometimes logic is nowhere to be found.