As reported in B&T last month massive changes are afoot in terms of the NRL broadcasting rights with new aspirant, Network 10 – following its recent JV with Foxtel – suddenly in the picture to air live games.
The current NRL rights – that expire in 2018 – are up for grabs to the highest bidder and there is strong speculation that games could be shared amongst Nine, Ten, Foxtel and possibly even Netflix.
And, arguably, it’s hardly a surprise that the broadcasters all want a piece of the NRL action with the annual three-game interstate thuggery – the State of Origin – now the most expensive ad real estate in the country.
Media reports suggest that games could be shared amongst networks with spin-offs – such as the State of Origin, Tests and Sevens – farmed out to the highest bidder.
An article in yesterday’s Fairfax press by famed leaguie Roy Masters suggested that the newly invigorated Ten Network not only wants NRL matches but AFL games too.
But all this begs the ultimate question facing NRL brass: could NRL teams that don’t rate on telly face the chop?
There’s been speculation that teams such as the Canberra Raiders, Newcastle Knights, Cronulla Sharks and the New Zealand Warriors aren’t pulling the audiences that warrant TV bosses paying massive coin to air NRL matches. Instead, teams could be forced to shift or amalgamate to areas with a more TV-friendly supporter base. Sponsors too want their brands national, if not international, and not simply be seen in western Sydney and with a limited TV audience.
Already there is significant interest in introducing a new NRL team to areas such as western Brisbane, country Queensland, northern Queensland, Perth, Auckland, and, possibly, Adelaide. A Central Coast team – just north of Sydney – has been touted for some time; however, the fan base and facilities look, in all likelihood, an unlikely scenario with networks, thus far, showing little interest in the proposal.
To appease all the networks’ appetite for NRL club matches there is now speculation that games could shift from the traditional Friday night/Saturday night/Sunday afternoon/Monday evening fixtures to games every night of the week.
Having said that, Channel Nine – the current and traditional broadcaster of league – is likely to pay more to host games but at its prerogative. Fans should expect more games to lead into Nine’s top rating shows such as its Sunday night 6pm news bulletin and, say, a Thursday night episode of The Block.
Foxtel currently holds the rights to the Monday night one-off NRL match and that looks unlikely to change given the lucrative contracts it shares with local pubs and clubs to air the game.
However, all that said and done, prime spots will come at a premium and likely to go to the highest bidder. Foxtel – with its new agreement with Channel Ten – could possibly ‘fall on its sword’ for the greater good of the Network meaning Ten goes up against Nine with some live matches.
The other scenario facing NRL is the yet-to-be determined AFL rights. Certainly all the broadcast players in the NRL rights brouhaha are likely to be very keen on the AFL rights too; and certainly not at the expense of one another.