Last week, the NRL announced that Todd Greenberg would be the new CEO of the National Rugby League. During the press conference and in between extolling the virtues of the CEO’s that came before and speaking of his love of the game, there was a key moment where Greenberg spoke of the focus on digital, in particular the ability of fans to be able to engage ‘live’ as being of “Particular importance.” Sadly no journalists chose to follow him up on this comment however it will be interesting to see how he attempts to use digital platforms to increase engagement. Both the NRL and AFL have excellent (paid) live streaming capability and various clubs have used social media to great effect in increasing fan’s involvement within the clubs. The Queensland Rugby League and Fremantle Dockers are particular standouts.

However at a national level, the governing bodies have been a little ‘hands off,’ choosing to focus more on television coverage over digital engagement – potentially a wise move short term but one which will soon mean that a catch up will be required as sports such as soccer and rugby union continue to eat away at a highly contested market share.

An interesting challenge will be pay TV such as Foxtel that has restrictive covenants over coverage and controls the games viewers can watch. Due to profitability issues Foxtel is now on the chopping block as Telstra prepares to unload it and it will be up to the AFL and NRL to take the digital ball by the horns and empower fan to not only watch their own teams but get involved in the competition as a whole. Young fans coming through are key and generally don’t care what game they’re watching as long as it’s their sport. And they want to watch it on their portable devices, show their friends at school the best plays and be able to set their favourite player as their wallpaper.

Todd Greenberg is saying the right things, and will hopefully work with the clubs to ensure that fans have a complete digital experience.

We interviewed senior members of Brisbane’s business community and got their thoughts on the future of digital. Check it out next week.