Off the Wall

My professional work requires me to watch carefully changes in public opinion on public policy issues.

I also keep a watch on the opinion of rugby league and other sports fans on a range of issues.

The fan response to yesterday's announcement of the new television rights deal, and its highlighting of the fact that the influence of Channel Nine is today stronger than ever, is unquestionably the most overwhelming, and pronounced, I have come across.

And I include in that public attitudes to boat people, to the carbon tax, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and so on.

This is not a scientific assessment because I just don't have time to tally up the hundreds of online comments on the websites of News Limited and Fairfax newspapers.

And the mood is just as negative, and just as vitriolic, in New South Wales as it is in Queensland.

And the mood is negative despite the fact that both News and Fairfax have wholly embraced the new deal.

The anger of fans falls into two categories.

There is widespread anger at the fact just one game will be shown live on free to air for five more years on Nine.

And there is related anger at the fact the same clapped out commentary team will be in place in 2013 and beyond.

The second category of anger relates to the nature of the deal - back to a night grand final, no change to state of origin timings, two games on Friday night and so on.

The general view on the quantum of the new deal - cash total of $925 million - is that it is lower to middle range outcome.

We might be harsh in judging the amount (myself included) given the quite parlous state of the television industry and advertising today.

One has to ask if we had got our deal in place at the same time as the AFL would we have done better. I think so.

But the overwhelming vitriol from online readers is directed at Channel Nine.

Nine needs to understand that fans seems to absolutely loathe its coverage.

And after they have read David Gyngell's arrogant comments in today's media they will surely be more than just loathing!

I found his comments to be extraordinary.

He essentially told Brisbane fans to expect Friday night Broncos game even more next year - and maybe just about every home game being on Friday night.

And he made it clear that we will have to put up with a night time grand final because that is where he makes the most out of advertising.

And he confirmed that Nine will still dictate scheduling.

So what really has changed? Nothing!

And that in essence is what has turned fans so overwhelmingly against the new deal - and against Nine.

As I wrote frequently Nine was always in the box seat to secure the deal because of its partnership with Fox...and its right of "first and last call" under the existing agreement.

What Nine needs to do is have a good hard look at its standing among fans.

And if it does it will surely see the need to lift its game!

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