How Channel 9 spoilt NRL’s relaunch party
The NRL's bid to relaunch the 2020 season with a blockbuster "five-night TV blitz" has been spectacularly sunk by free-to-air broadcaster Channel 9.
Speaking on The Daily Telegraph NRL Podcast, Sports Editor-at-large Phil Rothfield revealed the NRL had planned on relaunching the season with five consecutive nights of football from Thursday May 28, reaching a crescendo with a Parramatta Eels-Wests Tigers blockbuster at Bankwest Stadium on the Monday night.
But, according to Rothfield, Channel 9 vetoed the idea due to "TV fatigue", arguing the saturation of football on the first week of the NRL's return would impact the network's following Thursday night game.
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The NRL is due to release rounds three and four of the competition on Friday - which is expected to include a blockbuster match between Latrell Mitchell's South Sydney Rabbitohs and his former team the Sydney Roosters - with the rest of the 20-round season to be announced at a later date.
"One thing that does disappoint me when I spoke to (acting NRL CEO) Andrew Abdo a few weeks ago, he told me they were going to do a five-night TV blitz and have the (original) Easter Monday game - Parramatta and the Wests Tigers - on the Monday night," Rothfield told The Daily Telegraph NRL Podcast.
"Unfortunately, the broadcasters, Channel 9, don't want that to happen. Even though it's not a Channel 9 game on a Monday night, it would be a Fox (game).
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They have abandoned that and they are going to play the usual timeslots starting Thursday, finishing on Sunday evening.
"That'll be the case when the game resumes."
When questioned on Channel 9's motives, Rothfield said the move was driven by a fear that it would dilute fans' interest in games.
"They call it TV fatigue," Rothfield said.
"And they have a line of thought that if you're on your lounge five nights in a row, will you be ready to be back on your lounge the following Thursday night for the Channel 9 game.
"They say they've done focus groups and various studies with viewers and that's the case."
The Daily Telegraph rugby league writer Michael Carayannis bemoaned the missed opportunity to bring back the controversial Monday night slot.
"I'm actually one of those rare people who loved Monday night footy, it was my favourite night of the week to watch footy," Carayannis said.
"I don't know what your social lives are like on a Monday night but they were my favourite night of the night to watch footy. I was excited that they were going to bring it back, even in the short-term."
Carayannis also revealed that along with Bankwest Stadium and Leichhardt Oval
"I think we could see them using Kogarah Oval used as well because of the proximity to the airport to allow teams to drop in and drop out on those charter flights as well," Carayannis said.
While the NRL looked at potentially playing the Eels-Tigers fixture in round three, it showed the revamped draw would be different from the original fixture list, given Parramatta and Wests weren't due to face each other until round five.
There are many complexities involved with producing a new draw. Canterbury, for example, played Parramatta in round one and were due for a return fixture in round six. They also had games against Newcastle scheduled for rounds 20 and 25, but were due to play Penrith for the only time this season in round 23.
"They've got to ensure teams who played in the first two rounds don't double up," Rothfield said.
"The integrity suffers in this new draw, particularly as it comes back to 20 rounds.
"I can confirm though that the Roosters and Rabbitohs will be a part of round one."
Originally published as How Channel 9 spoilt NRL's relaunch party