Channel Nine will broadcast four Thursday night games in final four rounds.
The National Rugby League has "reluctantly given Channel Nine four Thursday night blockbuster games in the final rounds of the premiership, angering fans and costing the game millions of dollars in gate takings," according to Phil Rothfield of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. The scheduling is projected to cost the code "up to 100,000 in crowd figures in the final four rounds from stay-at-home fans at a time when attendance figures have just recovered from a disastrous start to the year." Senior NRL officials "don't want anything to do" with 7:45pm Thursday kickoffs but are "legally obliged, under its contract with Channel Nine, to include five matches in the timeslot on the schedule every season for the next four years." The clubs "were not happy either." Canterbury CEO Raelene Castle said that the club was "disappointed with the scheduling of the Rabbitohs blockbuster in Round 25 on a Thursday night." Castle: "On a Sunday afternoon we would have got 40 to 50,000. On a Thursday night it's far more challenging and probably more like 30,000. I know we have a broadcaster that pays us a lot of money but the network would also prefer to have a product with full stadiums." Channel Nine CEO David Gyngell was "sticking to his guns" on Wednesday when asked "about the impact the scheduling had on fans and clubs." Gyngell: "The clubs have got to remember they used to get grants of A$4.5 million ($4.3M) and they're now getting A$7 million from the money we and Fox Sports are paying them. The money they get from television is more than what they might lose in crowds" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 7/3