NRL deal suits networks not viewers
By Ian McCullough
18:54 AEST Tue Aug 21 2012

It was all smiles and back slapping at Rugby League Central in Sydney on Tuesday following the announcement of the long-awaited new broadcast deal.

ARLC chairman John Grant, whose legacy would be judged on this contract, basked in the glory of reaching the much-talked about billion dollar mark after persuading the Nine Network and Fox Sports to fork out for the richest television deal in the sport's history.

But aside from the huge cheque, which more than doubled the previous deal signed in 2005, little will change for TV viewers, as the networks ensured they got exactly what they wanted for their money.

Delayed Sunday afternoon matches - despised by many fans - are here to stay on Nine, as is the ratings juggernaut that is Wednesday night State Of Origin - despite calls from players and coaches for stand-alone weekends to give them time to recover to play for their clubs.

Evening grand finals also return after two years of early evening kick-offs for the code's showpiece game.

Monday night football - such a ratings winner for Fox and such a pain for clubs who fail to attract the numbers through the turnstiles for the 7pm kick-offs - also stay.

Coaches who complain about their players having to back-up from Monday to Friday can now look forward to them potentially doing it in four days with three games to be shown on Thursday nights from next season.

And don't expect to be able to choose what game you want to watch live on Friday night in NSW and Queensland - with Nine supremo David Gyngell baulking at the idea of showing the two simultaneously on the network's digital channel.

"Why would you have two games against each other?," Gyngell said.

"In Queensland they want to watch Queensland teams and in Sydney they want to watch Sydney teams.

"If you put two games up against each other you start shrinking your audience.

"I sit here unapologetically. When you pay this sort of money to have the games you have to put programs into slots that you can commercialise.

"We're broadcasters, not narrowcasters. Majority wins with us, niche doesn't."

Gyngell applied the same principle to Sundays where his network can cram in more adverts than in a live game.

"Television is free on Channel Nine, so every time you pay a billion dollars you need to show some ads," he said.

While the NRL's deal is slightly less than the $1.25 billion secured by the AFL from the Seven Network and Foxtel, Gyngell insists league is better off than its rival code with their new deal.

"Pound-for-pound they have struck a better deal than the AFL no doubt about it," Gyngell said.

"Unlike AFL, when you put teams in the competition like they have done recently there is a goal scored every 30 seconds.

"You get an ad for 30 seconds in play for 30 seconds. In football, which is much more level you can get the ads away so you can't commercialise these things."

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