As if the Australian Rugby Union did not have "enough problems on its hands with disgruntled five-eighth Quade Cooper, now comes a report that shows viewers are turning off the game in droves," according to Stuart Honeysett of THE AUSTRALIAN. Global sports research agency Repucom "has just finished compiling its 2012 Football Benchmarking Report, which compares figures from Australia's football codes" -- Australian Football League, National Rugby League, Super Rugby and the A-League -- "based on OzTAM ratings and AGB Nielsen audience research." While AFL and the A-League "were the big winners and the NRL remained steady, it was the alarming dip in fans watching the Super Rugby competition that should have the powerbrokers at ARU headquarters concerned." The AFL announced "its record A$1.25B ($1.3B) media rights deal last year and capitalised on a boom in subscription television broadcasts, which were up from 19.3 million viewers in '11 to 39.3 million this year -- an increase of 101%." Collingwood "was the most-watched club with 24.26 million viewers followed by Hawthorn with 22.30 million and premier Sydney with 19.83 million." The NRL "showed only a marginal increase in viewers from 113.5 million to 113.9 million, or 0.37%, this year." The other big winner was the A-League. Figures show its viewing audience "jumped from 7.5 million last year to 9.5 million in '12 -- an increase of 26.72%" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/28).
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has lined up the series' "biggest TV partner to date in NBC, encouraged team sponsors to use drivers to promote the brand Stateside and will turn to its deep-pocketed celebrity fanbase to rev up interest in the sport,” according to Marc Graser of DAILY VARIETY. Ecclestone “sees NBC doing more for the sport than even a high-profile film playing at the megaplex." Success in the U.S. would “pump considerable coin into F1's coffers and provide its sponsors with significant exposure to new fans with disposable income.” However, Ecclestone is “clear that the circuit is doing just fine without a rabid U.S. fanbase.” NBC has plans for a "marketing blitz" as the '13 F1 season begins in March (VARIETY, 11/23).
BIG EVENT: NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller said that the company “wants to treat the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, which will air on its broadcast network next year, with the same ‘big event’ approach it uses for the Kentucky Derby.” SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Tripp Mickle reported Miller at the conclusion of this year's U.S. Grand Prix was “so impressed with the event he already had decided to increase the programming window for the U.S. Grand Prix to four hours so that NBC could offer an hour of pre-race, two hours of race and an hour of post-race coverage.” Miller also met with Ecclestone about “getting more access for celebrities at the event because NBC wants to cover the lifestyle aspect of the sport the same way it does at the Derby.” Miller said that the net will “rely on the world feed that F1 provides for most of the races but will use its own broadcast team of Leigh Diffey on play-by-play and David Hobbs and Steve Matchett as race analysts” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/26 issue).