Canberra have learned the hard way that success doesn’t always pay, their free-to-air television games slashed from eight to three in the revised NRL draw.
Riding high after reaching last year’s grand final, the Raiders were given their most free-to-air exposure in a decade in the original 2020 draw.
However, the revised schedule has forced a rethink, with the loss of six rounds and broadcasters having slightly more influence given the lack of crowds and competition stoppage.
It means Canberra aren’t guaranteed a game on Nine after round 10, with the possibility of playing no home games on TV at their own GIO Stadium.
Canberra have long been frustrated by a lack of free-to-air time as they fall out of the five-city ratings market, but had been relieved to finally be rewarded last November.
Raiders boss Don Furner claimed at the time that the extra exposure would earn future financial rewards with increased sponsorship value on jerseys.
It comes after the club was handed the toughest travel itinerary in the NRL on the competition’s restart, asked to play their home games in Campbelltown.
The south-west Sydney ground is 230km north of their normal base, with the club weighing up whether they are better off flying to “home matches”.
Manly and the Warriors are among the other big losers when it comes to TV exposure in the draw.
After moving across the Tasman to ensure the commencement of the campaign, the Warriors will appear on Nine just once in the regular season.
And even then those who have jumped on the Warriors’ bandwagon will have to wait until round 17 when the play Parramatta to see them on free-to-air TV.
The Sea Eagles also suffered a reduced free-to-air television schedule, with their games dropping from 11 to six.
In comparison, the likes of Brisbane and Parramatta have 15 and 13 free-to-air games each.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo claimed this year’s discrepancies were also a result of the desire to schedule blockbusters to relaunch the season.
“It’s really complex because it’s made up on a number of factors,” Abdo said.
“This year is really different because we wanted to focus on giving fans blockbusters at the start of the year and we have been able to achieve that.”
Brisbane’s free-to-air games are all on the high-rating Thursday and Friday nights, with the club not scheduled for a day game in the regular season.
South Sydney have 12 free-to-air games and the Roosters 11.
All figures are based only on the Thursday, Friday and Sunday afternoon fixtures.
It is possible Nine could regain its Saturday night simulcast of the 7.30pm game in the final six rounds when a new TV deal is signed.
If that is the case, the Roosters would pick up an additional three free-to-air games.
One of those would be against Canberra, taking the Raiders’ tally to four.
Meanwhile, the NRL has introduced a Sunday night prime time slot for the first nine rounds to replace the 2pm game.
Each NRL club’s free-to-air TV count
Melbourne, South Sydney: 12
Sydney Roosters: 11
North Queensland, Penrith: 8
St George Illawarra: 7
Manly, Wests Tigers: 6
Canberra, Cronulla: 3
Gold Coast, Warriors: 1
* Excludes yet-to-be-confirmed Channel Nine Saturday night simulcast in final six rounds.