Will Broadcasting Rights Negotiations Affect The Media’s Opinions About The NRL?

Who makes up your mind about whether the NRL is doing a good job of running the game? You’re probably a stubborn person that right now is thinking “I do League Freak! No one else is going to make my decisions for me!”.

Think about it though, where do you get your information from to come to the decision you make about the NRL’s competence to run a sporting competition/entertainment company? Do you actively research everything the NRL does behind the scenes? Do you study their business model and compare it to other businesses of a similar size, with similar pressures, and rate their outcomes against one another? Do you have some inside information? Do you just guess?

For the vast majority of people, they are guided by the mainstream media.

If enough people in the media are saying the NRL is doing a terrible job at running things, most people will believe them. It doesn’t matter where that message comes from, it doesn’t even matter if there is a possible motive behind it. If enough people in the media push an agenda, it gains traction with the general public, and from there, an opinion can become gospel that is very, very difficult to disprove.

The easiest example to bring up of this phenomenon is when you see NRL clubs who are up in arms about the supposed lack of funding they receive from the NRL. According to many NRL clubs, the NRL just doesn’t give them enough money. This leave clubs in a poor financial situation, and they just can not continue along this path unless something is done urgently.

Of course, it has nothing to do with the manner in which these clubs are run. The people running clubs into the ground financially can’t be at fault! Sure, a very large portion of clubs across the league have been caught systematically undermining the salary cap rules that needed to be put in place so that they didn’t spend beyond their means, but thats beside the point! Yes, the NRL itself has had to step in and completely take over a number of clubs while at the same time providing loans and administrative assistance to others…but that isn’t the clubs fault. Right? Right?

Still, if enough of these poorly run NRL clubs cry about not getting enough money from the NRL…that is what people start to believe. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not.

As the broadcasting rights for the NRL descend into a standoff between the NRL and Pay TV subscription service Foxtel, I can’t help but think we will see a campaign run against the NRL in an effort to pressure its administration.

Foxtel, which is a company partly owned by Telstra and News Corp, find themselves in a bit of a tough situation right now when it comes to the NRL broadcasting rights.

Channel 9 secured the Free Top Air TV rights as well as the digital streaming rights. Both of these moves have undermined Foxtel’s position as a pay television service. Both of these moves are a direct attack on their business model.

Make no mistake, Foxtel NEEDS Rugby League. Without Rugby League Foxtel loses its highest rating programs, it loses its number one selling point to a handful of the biggest media markets in Australia, and it allows the possibility that a rival service can use the sport to establish a foothold and further undermine Foxtel’s business over the long term.

By making a deal with Channel 9 well ahead of the deadline to wrap up the broadcasting rights, the NRL has put Foxtel in a really bad position. The NRL administration knows the situation, and they are in no rush to run in and sign a deal with a broadcaster that desperately needs their content. They are willing to let Foxtel sweat a little, and for the pressure to build. Foxtel simply can not afford to lose Rugby League. Its HAS to carry Rugby League. It is now just a matter of the NRL getting the right amount of money out of Foxtel and on the right terms.

Now, if I ran a business and I was put in the situation Foxtel is in right now, I would be furious! The NRL made an aggressive move and now all the pressure is on Foxtel to make a deal.

Ask yourself this…if you ran a business that is so big that it can legitimately be called an industry in its own right, and you were being forced to make a deal by an outside interest that you really didn’t want to make, but needed to make, would everyone around you be able to pick up on the pressure that you were now under to get the deal done?

Lets change tack a little bit…

If your boss was pissed off about a business deal that they were being forced into, and this deal was so big that you knew it would have an affect on everyone at the company you worked at, would your boss need to come up to you and say anything for you to feel the pressure? After all, this deal needs to go through or a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. Could you possibly divorce yourself from that situation? Could you possibly look at both sides of the deal with any level of impartiality? Wouldn’t you just want to see the deal done with the least impact possible on the company you work for?

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but, journalists are people too. They have no soul, but they are people…

So the NRL had made a very big, very bold move. 5 years ago News Corp owned 50% of the NRL. They held the Pay TV broadcasting rights and Telstra, a part owner of Foxtel, owned the digital streaming rights to NRL games. They held both at a bargain basement price! They even held the right to match any new offer the NRL received from another broadcaster and retain the broadcasting rights automatically until Willie Mason is closing in on being 50 years old.

Now, all of these companies are being held over a barrel by that same NRL they once had so much control over. That same NRL they made so much money out of.

Is it a stretch to suggest that the people working for these companies may allow the pressure to affect the way they report on these broadcasting rights negotiations? If your boss had so much riding on these negotiations, and was in such a tough situation, and you have to write about these negotiations, could you honestly do it impartially? I don’t know if you could!

I’m lucky in that I own this site and everything that goes along with it. I don’t have anyone to answer to. I don’t have a boss. I don’t have advertisers that are concerned about my future capacity to get them eyeballs on their adverts. I don’t have any of these pressures. I can write about anything I like, and there is no pressure to about that is going to influence my opinion on any matter within Rugby League.

So the next time you read an article about the broadcasting rights, think about who is writing it. Think about what pressures they have. Think about who pays their salary. Think about who their boss ultimately is.

I’m not saying you should dismiss anyone’s opinion on the NRL’s capacity to run the sport, or to negotiate a billion dollar broadcasting rights deal. All I’m saying is, consider whose opinions you take on board as your own. Look at the entire situation and decide for yourself about who is getting the job done, and who isn’t.

Everyone loves to pick up a bargain, and everyone hates to find that the price for anything they need has gone up. That is true for you, it is true for me, and its true for men in suits who just earned more money while you were reading this than most people make in an entire year.

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