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Opinion

Crisitunity strikes for both the NRL and Nine

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Editor
27th April, 2020
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In its 1990s heyday, The Simpsons was aired in Australia on Ten, so one may give Channel Nine a bit of leeway for not being familiar with the term ‘crisitunity’.

Lisa says to Homer, “Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for crisis as they do for opportunity?”

Homer responds, “Yes, crisitunity!”

While the world is circling a financial depression the likes of which we have never seen, COVID-19 has actually been a boon for certain industries.

There’s always money to be made – you just gotta figure out the angle.

Pubs, cafes and live sporting venues are doing it tough at the moment, but it’s a golden age for the face-mask industry.

And while there is understandable debate as to the fairness and merit of the NRL kicking off in a month’s time – because why are the rest of us queuing 1.5 metres apart just to get into Bunnings if overpaid 20-year-olds can spray their blood and sweat over each other in a high-impact sport? – this is an opportunity of the highest order.

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Word is that the NRL is desperate to continue the 2020 season so it can get back on the airwaves and bank them sweet, sweet broadcast dollars, which at the moment are not being paid.

But broadcaster Nine is said to be unhappy with the prospect of footy getting up and running again, because times are tough and if the product is not served up, they don’t have to pay for it.

The reported savings for the network are said to be worth eight figures if the general public don’t watch another game of footy until 2021. And yeah, we’re all battening down the hatches at the moment, because money’s tight.

Phil Gould

Phil Gould wants footy back. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Except for those goddamn face-mask millionaires, who are lighting up Cubans with four-ply toilet paper.

But here’s the thing about people who are making money in times of COVID-19: their dollars spend the same.

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Just because the usual advertising partners aren’t ready to pay up doesn’t mean no one is ready to spruik their wares. There are plenty of fish, you just gotta head to a new spot to catch them.

And it’s the way the NRL should be approaching their negotiations with the broadcasters.

The terms of the current deal – a 25-round regular season followed by a finals series that finishes on the first weekend of October(ish) – are not going to be upheld in 2020. So it needs to be re-negotiated.

Fair enough.

But the NRL are failing to see the ‘tunity’ in this situation if they’re willing to walk away with less money.

If they get off the ground on May 28, they will be the only live sport on TV. And yeah, there will be no crowds and yeah, there were reports that Round 2 didn’t do much in the way of ratings, but when you’re the only show in town, people will tune in.

We’ve all finished Tiger King and remember that most of the time spent on Netflix or Stan is actually just scrolling through hundreds of titles you don’t care to watch. Streaming services may offer the chance to watch what you want when you want, but the content they’ve got isn’t actually what you want.

You want sport – and it’s been six weeks since we saw it live.

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A game of footy will rate its absolute arse off. And the NRL should back itself that will be the case when it goes to its broadcast partners.

When Peter V’landys (did you know he’s everyone’s best friend – like, everyone. Buzz and Gus love him) goes to Nine and Fox Sports, he should tell them that he’s going to deliver ratings like the networks have not seen in years.

And as a means of confidence, the finances should be tied to it.

If the numbers are better than this time last year – or as an average of the last three or four years – then the broadcaster should pay more.

On the flipside, if no one is tuning in, then the broadcaster pays less.

They’ll need to put both a floor and a ceiling on payments, but for this one, bizarre year, how about the NRL backs itself?

Todd Greenberg and Peter V’landys speak to the media.

One of the men who probably doesn’t like Pete V’landys. (Matt King/Getty Images)

Rugby league will likely be the only live sport on TV in a nation that is gasping for something to watch that has legitimate stakes. It’ll get huge numbers.

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And just because your usual suspects aren’t ready to spend up on advertising doesn’t mean the networks can’t make money – face-mask conglomerates (which are now a thing) and teleconferencing companies are injecting huge funds into their marketing departments.

Nine can get their pound of flesh and maybe we can all have a break from KFC ripping off a joke from Futurama.

We’re in the midst of a crisis but that means there’s huge opportunity. The NRL needs to see it, seize it and then sell it to their broadcast partners.