NRL’s TV negotiations get ratings boost

The NRL’s hopes of landing a record new TV rights deal received a boost with ratings showing strong growth in the first half of the 2015 season.

On Thursday club powerbrokers were told at the NRL chief executives meeting that television viewership was up this year on the back of a spike in the popularity of Sunday afternoon football.

The NRL pointed to figures from OzTAM – Australia’s official television audience measurement data company – that showed following 13 rounds of free to air metropolitan TV that audiences were up five per cent on the same period last year.

That included a 10 per cent bump in Sydney and 17 per cent jump in Melbourne.

However they had dropped two per cent in the rugby league heartland of Brisbane, despite the Broncos’ strong performances in the first 13 rounds to lead the competition.

Most of that growth has been on the back of the increase in viewership for free-to-air Sunday afternoon broadcasts, due to Channel 9’s decision to show its game live instead of on delay.

The timeslot is up 17 per cent in metro areas compared to the same period last year, including in Sydney (+21 per cent), Brisbane (+9 per cent) and Melbourne (+24 per cent).

However Nine’s marquee live Friday night telecast has experienced a drop in ratings, down 0.4 per cent overall, including a 5 per cent plunge in Brisbane. Ratings are up 4 per cent in Sydney however.

Last month the NRL ramped up negotiations on its next TV rights deal, due to begin in 2018.

Speculation has put the deal’s worth at between $1.5 and $2 billion.

The NRL has engaged Credit Suisse chief executive John Knox to handle its rights process while Nine has hired heavy hitter Jeffrey Browne.

Current broadcasters Nine and Fox Sports along with Seven and Ten are in the running for the rights.

The NRL is also considering selling off the rights to State of Origin separately to the NRL season in an attempt to drive up its price.

The NRL has opened negotiations a year early in the hope of getting the jump on the AFL.

At the NRL chief executives meeting, clubs were given a run down on possible changes to the interchange system, as well as plans to limit breaks in play and reduce concussions.

The whole of game review being undertaken by head of game strategy and development Shane Richardson, which will look into a draft, junior structures and the scrapping of the National Youth Competition, was also discussed.

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