Dave Smith has resigned as CEO of the NRL and if rumours are to be believed, John Grant is next.
There seemed to be a lot of criticism from club owners towards Smith and his running of the game, to the extent where the banging of drums about yet another breakaway League was being contemplated.
Smith baulked at Fox Sports and News Ltd attempts to secure Pay TV broadcasting rights (after having signed a FTA deal with Channel Nine) and was seen in many circles as incompetent for doing so. This ultimately led to Smith’s demise as the games CEO but now it has been revealed that Optus is returning to Pay TV and in a big way. They have secured Big Bash rights and now the EPL from next season. Two telling blows for Fox Sports and now they have no choice but to up the ante when it comes to how much they are willing to pay to secure the Pay TV rights for NRL matches, otherwise there will be a lot of vacant air time or programming no one wants to see in the winter months. The SBS test screen would have a better chance of higher viewer numbers.
Could it be Smith knew what was coming and in the games best interests, was holding off to see what Optus would offer to ensure the game got the best financial deal possible? This is all speculation of course but on the surface it makes sense.
Could the new CEO use the leverage the game has to not only get the best deal possible, but also secure a channel solely devoted to the NRL, just like the AFL has and promote the game in a manner befitting its ratings and in turn, the advertising revenue it will no doubt generate?
Plenty of questions but the game deserves the best deal possible and should never be given away at a bargain basement price.
Competition is good for business, and Optus returning to the Pay TV market should make News Ltd pay fair market value for an asset that has improved their bottom line enormously over the years, all the while providing largely negative coverage of the game when compared to similar stories that happen in the AFL.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see the NRL compete on a level playing field just once instead of rowing with barely an oar in the water?
Did Fox Sports take the Pay TV landscape and the NRL for granted? Let’s not forget the emergence of streaming TV services like Presto, Netflix and Stan? This is not 1995 and 20 years on, a far more sophisticated market has emerged and if Fox treasures their viewer numbers, then the NRL is set to cash in in a big way.
Maybe Dave Smith knew how best to deal with the clubs and potential suitors and his stance to put the game first is what cost him his job?
Food for thought…