Off the Wall

The ratings from the first weekend on which the NRL went head to head with the AFL are at the very least extremely encouraging for the greatest game of all.

It is early days, but we seem to be more than holding our own against the AFL... and on free to air television as well as pay.

The Friday night NRL match live on Nine drew an aggregate audience of almost 1.2 million. The replay match at 9.30 was watched by a very respectable 656,000. The comparable AFL match live on Seven in the southern states was watched by 955,000.

The AFL's  Fox Sports live coverage of all games worked very well for the AFL last weekend, with the main night game attracting a viewing audience of 259,000.

But the big winner on pay continues to be Monday night rugby league.

The biggest audience for any pay channel last week was the Monday night match between the Tigers and the Raiders - 314,000.

The main AFL match on Fox on Saturday was watched by 259,000, a very respectable result. The AFL is clearly going to benefit from its wall-to-wall coverage on pay - it will be a challenge for NRL on Fox, but I believe we will command a handy advantage throughout the season.

The other news on the TV rights front is that Nine and Fox are Fox are bidding together for the rights. They enjoy a privileged position - as Nine has first and last rights to negotiate under the existing agreement.

It is highly likely that Nine and Fox will do what Seven and Fox did for the AFL rights - agree that Fox pays more but gets the right to show all games live - with two or three games a week being simulcast on Fox and Nine.

That will lift the value of the rights as it did with the AFL. But getting maximum value will require a separate deal for State of Origin and Tests.

And that is another story for another day!