Nine's 'contemporary' NRL strategy for 2019

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 14 March 2019

Nine has revealed a push for a more "contemporary" broadcast strategy in 2019, with the network launching two new post-game shows and promoting a younger commentary team.

Matt Granger, Nine director of sales - sport, told AdNews that key partners in the strategy were McDonald's and Victoria Bitter. Both have taken integration deals with the Thursday and Friday night shows, respectively.

The 2019 season will kick-off on Nine tonight when the Melbourne Storm take on the Brisbane Broncos at AAMI Stadium in Melbourne.

The new slate of post-game programming follows a decision by the network last year to axe its long-running sports program The Footy Show after 25 years on air.

Granger says the network is looking to appeal to younger viewers, bringing on recent retirees from the game and national representative players Billy Slater, Jonathon Thurston and Sam Thaiday to take on new commentary roles.

"By having Billy, Jonathon and Sam on the team, we are very much aligned with the positioning the NRL wants to take in 2019, engaging with new fans and building a strong viewership," Granger says.

"We of course still have our current commentary team on board as well, to ensure that our current fans and fanatics are still watching, but this allows us now to connect with viewers across all platforms and demos." 

Last week, the NRL launched its new season campaign, created by R/GA, which followed a review of the league's position in market, compared to not only other sports but other entertainment platforms such as Netflix and Stan. 

The review found the game was "under-indexed" within the younger fan base, particularly the 14-17 demographic.

Nine is investing in its broadcast video on demand (BVOD) strategy as part of this, backing the growth of live streaming in 2019.

Each client investing in Nine's NRL packages automatically had a BVOD advertising component included, he says.

"We had a really good, strong, incumbent return of our partners. We saw a lot of them actually grow their investment of NRL more broadly across digital, as well as broadcast,t and a couple of new partners have joined from new categories," Granger says.

"We're looking for another really strong year, particularly with the pillars around State of Origin and the Finals and what we do with those. It's more about the quality of the content and the way we're engaging with audiences as well as what we're delivering for our clients in that engagement area."

The NRL has just had a difficult off-season with multiple players tied up in serious legal matters.

NRL head of marketing and brand Peter Jarmain previously told AdNews that the brand will continue to focus on pushing its positive stories, as the league dealt with the off-field issues.

Granger says the off-field dramas haven't affected Nine's broadcast strategy either, with the network focus on the content and "heart of the game". 

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