13th July 2018, 13:31 | ncl
The Kingstone Press National Conference League is back on TV this Saturday when undefeated Hunslet Parkside travel to Champions Thatto Heath in the Premier Division match of the day.
The game kicks off at 3.05pm and will be broadcast live on Freeview 95, Sky 422,FreeSat 252, TalkTalk 95 and BT Vision 95 and signals a return to televised action after a two week break from the TV screens.
NCL games have been broadcast over the past three months or so, and in every regard, they have provided tremendous entertainment and been a credit to the competition and the clubs themselves, whilst each host club has declared excellent attendances and a considerable boost to bar sales.
Leigh Miners Rangers, Wigan St Pats and Ince rose Bridge have all featured on the TV so far, and all have had excellent crowds and hugely positive response from viewers.
The game is certainly generating an audience, but the one area that it would appear they need to have a bigger impact is attracting viewers who are credited as BARB Black Box holders, where BARB stands for the Broadcast Audience Research Board.
To this end, BARB boxes are left with viewers who represent a specific demographic determined by the Advertisement Industry. Each box is deemed to be the equivalent of circa 5,000 viewers, from which advertisers then ascertain how many people watch certain programs and therefore how viable placing an advertisement within them would be.
So far, the NCL Matches have registered just twice on the BARB scale to push themselves within the advertising viability range, and ideally, they need to do that at least every other week in order that FreeSport can attract advertisers to help them meet their broadcast costs for the NCL matches.
Of course, the inconsistent kick off times do not help attract a regular audience, and there has been a particularly gripping Football World Cup and Super League games to contend with, but as new kids on the block, the NCL have to take the slots that are available, and if other sports can bring in revenue at the time slot that NCL would prefer, it is a no-brainer for FreeSport to move the NCL games and take the revenue.
To this end, every club has been fantastic in their understanding with regard to the changing kick off times, and the matches have been tremendous viewing too.
But taking this a step forward, FreeSport are now looking at the tables and suggesting that they would wish to televise the top games of each weekend and move away from the proposed schedule that was initially identified before a game had been televised. This was always a possibility and of course it is understandable that as the season has progressed, FreeSport would wish to televise the top games in the top two divisions where the battle for honours is starting to hot up.
In this way the NCL are hoping that by providing the best games possible that they will start to break into the BARB ratings more often, secure advertising revenue and therefore ensure a second year of televised games.
Alex Simmons of RugbyAM has confirmed the broadcasts will continue this season: - “Rugby AM are fully committed to the NCL and we are working hard to reduce the costs for the broadcaster.
“The future is certainly not dark by any stretch but we have to work with the broadcaster to figure out how to get more fans tuning in.”
There is little doubt that televising the NCL is having a marvellously positive effect on the League, the clubs and the game overall. But there is a need to get that message out to people who may not be in the traditional heartlands.
Hunslet Parkside with a 100 per cent record in 15 outings against last year’s NCL Champions, Thatto Heath promises to be a cracker, as does second placed Egremont Rangers at home to third placed Wath Brow Hornets on July 28th, and after that it will be the fixtures that offer the closest contest on current form that will be on show.
Let’s hope that this new addition to our limited number of Televised game outlets is able to overcome its teething difficulties and is here to stay for the long run.