The NRL often gets asked why some teams seem to get more night games while others get more day games, Monday night games, etc. Here is how game scheduling is determined.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning up front that TV rights are an important part of the game’s revenue. It’s important also that our fans can access games on TV and that blockbuster games are not just confined to subscription TV.
That said, we aim to balance the needs of our supporters watching on TV with those attending games – each is important to the game. The investment we’ve made with the clubs in terms of membership underlines our commitment to fans at the game, however television is also important in that it reaches millions of fans each week, more than who can actually attend. There is of course no doubt that the revenue from broadcasting agreements is also vital to the survival of our clubs.
Match scheduling is determined by the NRL and its broadcast partners, Channel Nine and Fox Sports, and takes into account club requests for specific match dates and times as well as venue availability.
The NRL allows the networks an order of selections where they’re able to nominate games for their slots on a priority system and base their decisions on the form of the teams playing each other in any particular round, as well as the audience interest in a particular game.
The standard timeslot allocation and order of selection for Channel Nine and FOX Sports is as follows:
Friday, 7.30pm - Channel 9 - Game 1
Friday, 7.30pm - Channel 9 - Game 2
Monday, 7.30pm - Fox Sports - Game 1
Saturday, 7.30pm - Fox Sports - Game 2
Sunday, 3.00pm - Channel 9 - Game 3
Saturday, 5.30pm - Fox Sports - Game 3
Sunday, 2.30pm - Fox Sports - Game 4
Saturday, 7.30pm - Fox Sports - Game 5
Years ago selection of matches for TV was done on a week to week basis which made it difficult for fans to plan ahead. We have lengthened this time with each television agreement and fans now are given up to 11 weeks advanced notice of match times. The schedule for the first five rounds of this season was released in December 2010.
From Round 1 to Round 6, two further rounds are released each week meaning that by Round 6, matches are scheduled 11 weeks in advance. This period reduces as one extra round is released every alternate week after Round 7. The final two rounds of the competition are scheduled four weeks in advance.
In the next TV rights agreement, NRL chief executive David Gallop has indicated that his preference is for full season scheduling. This option will be strongly considered when discussions begin on our next television rights negotiations.
A commitment has already been made that these negotiations will formally commence after the game’s Independent Commission is established.