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NRL to ditch digital arm

NRL scales back digital arm following broadcaster pressure​

By Zoe Samios

October 6, 2021 — 3.53pm

The National Rugby League has bowed to pressure from its media partners and decided to scale down its digital content arm in a move that is expected to result in several redundancies at the organisation.

The shift, led by the NRL’s recently appointed chief customer and digital officer Alexi Baker, is part of an ongoing effort to streamline operations at the NRL to save costs and better serve fans. But it will also be considered a win for the company’s two media partners - Nine Entertainment Co and News Corp Foxtel - which have long expressed frustration about the division and argue the NRL’s own website competes with their digital properties.

Staff at the NRL were informed about the change on Wednesday afternoon and about 10 redundancies are expected to take place over the next few weeks. Staff who appeared at the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were not given the opportunity to ask questions.

Under the plans the NRL will move away from creating news-focused content and work more closely with Nine (which is the owner of this masthead) and News Corp-controlled Foxtel on joint projects. The NRL website will mainly feature highlights and short-form videos that entertain fans instead of breaking news. The NRL was approached for comment but did not respond by deadline.

The NRL Digital Network officially launched in 2018 after the organisation took control of its digital assets from Telstra, an arrangement formed under the terms of its $1 billion broadcasting rights deal with Nine and Foxtel. The deal was a significant change in strategy for the NRL and involved the clubs investing money in digital rather than outsourcing it to media partners.

The network is currently made up of five parts including NRL.com, and sites and apps for the competition’s 16 teams. As of last year, the digital unit employed about 80 staff, including a product and technology arm with designers, developers and engineers who ensure the digital products work for fans. It has a media services division which handles game archives and images taken at matches, digital marketing and social media, a data and insights team, and employs about eight journalists who cover matches and interview players and coaches.

This is the first major change for NRL digital division since the arrival of Ms Baker (who previously led negotiations at Nine), who has undertaken a review of the organisation’s media arm. In late August, the NRL notified high-profile ex players and coaches such as Jamie Soward, Brett Kimmorley, Anthony Seibold and Robbie Farah that the website would no longer feature panel shows.

The restructure comes as the NRL prepares to propose the Redcliffe Dolphins as the expansion team for 2023 after agreeing to a deal with News Corp to inject at least $75 million into the sport over five years. Sources with knowledge of discussions told the Herald earlier this week that the NRL is providing the News Corp-owned Brisbane Broncos will an increase in exclusive matches, which will ultimately reduce the number of free-to-air games.

The NRL is presenting to the 16 clubs on Thursday and will provide them with details on how they plan to finance a 17th team. Any savings generated by the NRL could help with the justification of a new team.

NRL scales back digital arm following broadcaster pressure (smh.com.au)
 

LeagueXIII

First Grade
Messages
5,735
They can do it because they answer to the people that own the game....News Corp and Nine.

Remember how happy we were when the game regained its independence and rid itself of Gallop etc well that is all gone now After years of death riding the games administration because they were taking the game in a different direction they now have control again. It has taken 25 years but it is in their hands. Rugby League doesnt realise how valuable it is it is the only sport with massnd penetration for media and advertisers into the massive western sydney market, growing Brisbane markets and numerous other large cities in Australia and NZ.
Thats why they never walk away.
 
Messages
4,041
Oh dear... wasn't this our only asset and only hope of one day breaking free of reliance on broadcasters? This is very short-sighted. Steaming is clearly the future and the NRL had a chance to set themselves up to own and stream their own content. I guess there is nothing stopping them from scaling it back up in the future if needs be though
 

Chief_Chujo

First Grade
Messages
5,945
There is zero justification for this. They've killed a profitable and fastly growing asset that is the future of game delivery. Admin deserve all the 'news stooge' and worse heckles that they will get for this.

The shift, led by the NRL’s recently appointed chief customer and digital officer Alexi Baker
Worked for Nein for near a decade until May this year. What a gee up.

 

Cactus

Juniors
Messages
659
Oh dear... wasn't this our only asset and only hope of one day breaking free of reliance on broadcasters? This is very short-sighted. Steaming is clearly the future and the NRL had a chance to set themselves up to own and stream their own content. I guess there is nothing stopping them from scaling it back up in the future if needs be though
It has to do with Vlandys poor hearing & dyslexia.

He thought he heard Nine & News say "your digital arm is a steaming pile in the sh!tter"

When in reality Nine & News said 'your digital arm & streaming is way ahead of us online & on twitter"
 

LeagueXIII

First Grade
Messages
5,735
Oh dear... wasn't this our only asset and only hope of one day breaking free of reliance on broadcasters? This is very short-sighted. Steaming is clearly the future and the NRL had a chance to set themselves up to own and stream their own content. I guess there is nothing stopping them from scaling it back up in the future if needs be though
Here is an article writen by Roy Masters outlining exactly what you have said


Vlandys is a short sighted buffoon. Exactly the type of leader companies like News Corp like to take advantage of.
 

KennySterling

Juniors
Messages
950
Here is an article writen by Roy Masters outlining exactly what you have said


Vlandys is a short sighted buffoon. Exactly the type of leader companies like News Corp like to take advantage of.
That's because he'll prove to be another here-today-gone-tomorrow leader who will leave behind a trail of devastation and won't give a toss for the game.
 

Perth Red

Immortal
Messages
49,601
Haha, I'm shocked, no really I am! News ltd get what they want again. Only the NRL would scale back a money making venture that sets them up for the future.

Just a reminder why this such a monumental f**k up by Vlandys, by all accounts he isnt even selling it, just closing it down for his mates benefit!

An audit of the NRL’s controversial digital investment has confirmed the prediction of the ARLC’s inaugural chairman, John Grant, that the asset could be worth one billion dollars and, therefore, it would be foolish to sell it prematurely.
Incoming chair Peter V’landys is a renowned cost-cutter and fears he would roll back the NRL’s digital department, or even sell it to a commercial partner, gained traction at his first press conference when he said, “We’re not going into the space of our media partners".


Former ARLC chairman John Grant has urged the game to keep the NRL’s digital arm away from Channel Nine arguing that it’s a $2 billion asset and vital to the future of the code.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters (Nine owns SMH) wrote, “Grant calculates that if the NRL converted half its existing 1.6 million digital customers into $25-per-month subscribers, and had a free-to-air broadcaster pay a fair but lesser price than Nine pays now – plus monetises other available revenue streams – it could produce annual revenue of over $360m with advertising offsetting production costs.”

The successful integration of its in-house digital and sponsorship strategy has resulted in the NRL reporting a $42.8 million profit and total consolidated revenue of $500 million for the 2018 season Following a $3.7 million net loss in 2017, the rugby league’s governing body has attributed the growth to digital revenue, which increased $17 million from $6.6 million to $23.6 million

and just 18 months ago:
The head of the National Rugby League's governing body says the sport will continue to grow its digital arm, cooling speculation the organisation may roll back the department or sell it to commercial partners.
Peter V'landys, ARL Commission chairman, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the NRL remains committed to its digital division and is focused on improving its offerings to promote the game and grow its fan base.
 
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LeagueXIII

First Grade
Messages
5,735
I wonder if it is a coincidence this information has come out the same time as Benji announcing his retirement?
 

beave

Coach
Messages
14,983
one step forward, 28 backwards with this sport. Infuriating to be a fan at times, this is so short sighted it beggars belief they are doing this.

PVL is bowing down like a little bitch.
 

Perth Red

Immortal
Messages
49,601
Any coincidence this comes out same time as fox agree to increase the tv deal so vlandys can get his new brisbane club? Hmmm.
 

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