Off the Wall

On Friday night we are going to see yet more evidence of why Channel Nine's monopoly over free to air coverage of the game AND the selection of matches and their timing must be broken.

The Nine PR machine was out and about at the weekend claiming that, despite the Royal Wedding, Nine would be "looking after the fans" on Friday night.

What complete nonsense, nonsense that is made even worse when you look at what Seven is doing for its AFL fans in the AFL states!

I am a royalist, and proud of it, but I can watch the Royal Wedding on Two, Seven, Ten, Sky Australia, Sky UK, Fox USA, BBC and so on.

But if I want to watch the Broncos v Bulldogs game live - as we expect to be able to do with the match of the night each Friday night - then I will have to go to Suncorp Stadium.

Nine is NOT showing either Friday night match live - the Broncos v Bulldogs game, designated as the "live' game in both states, will be replayed at 8.30 ... about 50 minutes after it actually begins.

On the other hand, Seven will be showing its AFL match of the night live, from 7.30PM. It will be switching its Royal Wedding coverage to its HD channel.

How much longer are the NRL, fans, clubs, and advertisers, going to put up with Nine treating the game the way it does?

There must be two key components of the next NRL television rights agreement.

Firstly, it must be shared between two networks. Nine's control of every sector - premiership, origin and tests - is unhealthy. It allows Nine to treat fans, and the game, how it wants to. It has a monopoly over Friday night live games, origin, and tests.

Now it seems certain Seven will get the AFL free to air rights on its own, the NRL is well placed to break up the package, and ensure that Ten gets some of the rights as well as Nine.

When the AFL deal is announced in the coming days it will be interesting to see if Andrew Demetriou delivers on his commitment to control match scheduling, while still getting close to $1 billion for the free to air/pay rights.

The clubs must insist that the NRL decide scheduling, not Nine or anyone else.

And it must end the monopoly by one channel.

Friday night will once again prove why both are absolutely essential.