Dim view has 6pm Friday up in lights for NRL

Surely the NRL was fishing for feedback when news leaked last week of the possibility of a 6pm Friday night match next season, to be seen on Fox? And if it was a kite-flying exercise, NRL Commission chairman John Grant has received a terse answer - don't do it.

Since NRL chief executive Dave Smith abandoned his post less than a month ago, the stalemate in the somewhat confusing broadcasting rights has seemingly abated. And the departure last week of Channel Nine boss David Gyngell has also apparently helped quell any turbulent waters.

Fox has come back to the negotiating table, the five-year deal is now about to be tabled at a reported $1.8 billion, good vibes are being felt and progress is being made.

But surely the 6pm Friday timeslot cannot be the sweetener that gets the new deal over the line?

Sure, it's great for Fox. The pay TV people have a captive audience of couch potatoes who could probably think of nothing better than kicking off their weekend of footy at 6pm on a Friday.

But if it did eventuate, we'd be watching a game played in a near-empty stadium. For starters, the Queensland Government has a concern with footy fans using public transport in unison with those returning home from work. And that issue does not just affect Suncorp Stadium, but Gold Coast and Townsville commuters as well.

But not only would fans experience problems getting to a 6pm kick-off, how many workers - particularly in the cities - would be at home, relaxed and ready to flick on the TV at that time?

With the planned abandonment of Monday night matches from next season, a Thursday night game is also on the drawing board.

Ostensibly, Monday night was unpopular with clubs because of the five-day turnarounds, so I'm unsure how a Thursday night game solves that issue.

The two Friday night games kicking off at the same time, usually in different states, and screened on Channel Nine, was not ideal programming.

Apart from finishing late, the delayed match was full of ads and only fervent fans, or insomniacs, stayed up.

It seems Nine and Fox are agreed on many fronts with the new deal, even to the extent of simulcasting most games live. But the Friday night dilemma remains the snag.

Why not schedule two games to kick off at 7.30pm - as has been the case in the recent past - with one to be screened live on Nine and the other live on Fox and Nine's affiliate, Gem?

Free-to-air viewers then have a choice, and Fox can replay the other game over and over, as they usually do.

If only it was that simple.



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