Monday Buzz: Channel 9 will pay for ‘disgraceful’ ploy
It was as predictable as the Easter bunny arriving that Sydney woke on Sunday to a Gus Gould rant defending his employers, the Nine network.
"Nine's attack was right on the money and the game needed to hear it," the Nine newspaper columnist said in defence of his Nine television station under the banner of Independent Always.
This from a man who annually wasted millions of dollars in his previous job as general manager of Penrith over a period in which the Panthers lost more money than any other club in the game.
But back to Channel 9.
The whole catchcry of coronavirus, on its own TV network, is that "we're in this together".
Then to use the global health epidemic as a business practice to try to cripple a sporting organisation is just disgraceful.
Channel 9 will not get away with it.
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This is a time when all sporting codes and businesses are bleeding.
The AFL is needing a $500 million loan to survive but its major broadcast partner Channel 7 has been fully supportive.
Many of Nine's problems with rugby league have been self-inflicted anyway.
Its poor coverage and negativity in recent years has led to a huge ratings decline.
Its State of Origin broadcasts have lost millions of viewers.
At the same time, Fox Sports ratings and Kayo subscriptions have increased.
It shows that the product is fine but the way in which it is broadcast is the problem.
Not that anyone from the NRL tells Channel 9 how to do its job.
We have said all along that this is a tactic by Nine boss Hugh Marks to try to get more for less.
Next to Gus's offerings was another column explaining how Nine now wants exclusive content - its own games and no more simulcasts with Fox Sports.
This would cost a fortune to buy the rights from the pay TV network, which pays the majority of the TV broadcast deal.
Yet Nine is still demanding a reduced contract.
This threatens the survival of struggling Sydney clubs which have already lost their poker machine income. This threatens the grassroots funding of the game.
Less money to the NRL means less money to the states.
This is a time for the NRL to play hard ball, not for Peter V'landys to apologise.
For too long this network has screwed over the NRL with its selfish scheduling demands.
In its statement last week, Nine complained of being left out of discussions for future scheduling.
No mention of the fact Gould was offered a position on the Project Apollo innovation committee.
(There is mail Marks ordered him not to take up the offer.)
Also no mention of the fact NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg was spotted at Nine headquarters walking into a meeting with Marks to discuss the game's various challenges.
This column is not about defending the NRL because there is no denying the code has been poorly mismanaged over a long period of time.
It's about holding Channel 9 to account. It cannot be allowed to treat the game, the fans, the players or the clubs in this manner.
If Nine can't support the code in these difficult times, it should walk away.
Let Channel 7 or Channel 10 come on board. The bosses of both networks have reached out to NRL powerbrokers in recent days to express their interest. Stay tuned.
Originally published as Monday Buzz: Channel 9 will pay for 'disgraceful' ploy