Real reason NRL and Channel 9 won't appease Warriors fans with earlier kick-off

NRL fans in New Zealand will have to stay up until midnight to see if the Warriors progress to the grand final.

Channel 9 commentators Danica Mason and Paul Gallen, pictured here alongside Warriors players in the NRL.
Channel 9 would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the Broncos-Warriors NRL game was scheduled earlier. Image: AAP/Getty


Want to know why Channel 9 won’t move kick-off time for Saturday night's preliminary final forward – even by 20 minutes - so thousands of Warriors fans won’t fall asleep before full-time? It's down to Joel Caine.

And Paul Gallen, Cameron Smith, Phil Gould, Billy Slater and Paul Vautin. Not directly, of course, but their roles in Nine's coverage allows little wriggle room when it comes to match-day scheduling.

'PATHETIC': NRL forced into 'embarrassing' move for preliminary final

HUGE: Reece Walsh and Ezra Mam in $5 million development at Broncos

Nine agreed to a 4pm start for last Saturday's Warriors-Knights semi-final but never entertained moving the Broncos-Warriors prelim final from 7.50pm (AEST) despite pleas from the Kiwi club and its supporters. It means, with the two-hour time difference factored in, league fans in New Zealand will have to stay up to almost midnight to see if their team reaches its first grand final since 2011.

Warriors CEO Cameron George warned "nearly every kid in New Zealand will be asleep" by kick-off. Not that a few dozy kids will overly worry Nine executives.

TV ratings in New Zealand don’t impact their bottom line but figures in Australia most certainly do. And the Broncos are prime time box office, guaranteed to pull in a huge audience.

Even calls to bring the game forward by 20-50 minutes fell on deaf ears. The host broadcaster does much of its business pre-game, when the likes of Caine can legally spruik Sportsbet's multis, first try-scorers and head-to-head markets without breaking strict regulations governing advertising.

James Bracey, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater, pictured here on Channel 9.
James Bracey, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater in commentary for Channel 9. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) states: "No gambling advertising or promotion of odds is permitted from 5 minutes before the published scheduled start of play, until 5 minutes after play, including during breaks." The longer Gus, Fatty and Gal gibber about the game ahead, the more opportunity Nine has to plug Sportsbet and its other broadcast partners.

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
Discover more of our NRL Finals coverage. (Click here for our full coverage of the NRL Finals.)

Channel 9 would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars

It's why Nine won't hear of bringing Saturday's kick-off forward or look at an earlier timeslot for the grand final on Sunday week, currently set for 7.30pm (AEST). Coming out of the 6pm news, any reduction in time before kick-off would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"That lead-in to a game is a massive part of it. It's essentially where you make your money because you have to separate betting from live play," an industry insider told Yahoo Sport Australia. "Pre-game content allows a network to smash out a huge amount of commercial time before kick-off.

"It's where they get the long (ad) breaks away as you can't do that in-game. Basically, everything they can't do in-play they need to do out-of-play - and that includes NRL deliverables to their sponsors as well. That is why you have as long as possible lead-in to a game."

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.