In the wake of Rugby Australia's landmark broadcast deal with Stan Sport, Central West Rugby Union announced a watershed moment of its own on Tuesday by revealing a region-wide streaming deal with Cluch for 2021.
The announcement was actually delayed after a late hurdle to overcome, however Central West has now signed off on a deal with Cluch to broadcast virtually every Blowes Clothing Cup game throughout the 2021 season.
Initially the deal was designed to broadcast all three top grade games via Cluch's various digital channels every Saturday afternoon with all six clubs involved, however it changed after Orange City elected not to be involved.
Orange Emus, Bathurst Bulldogs, Dubbo Kangaroos, Cowra and Forbes have all committed to the broadcast deal with Cluch, while the Lions will individually stream their games. Cluch will still stream games involving Orange City as well, but only when the Lions are playing on the road.
We know we have a product that people want to watch.Central West CEO Matt Tink
"It's really positive, the more coverage the better. It's something we put out to the clubs so we know that we have a product people want to watch," Central West chief executive officer Matt Tink said.
"It will create more opportunities going forward although there obviously is a slight concern it might impact crowds. But, we all know there's nothing quite like being at the ground of a Saturday so we're confident it won't affect that.
"With COVID-19 restrictions relaxed this year we're really hoping those crowd numbers return to normal and we've made moves to align the draws through seniors and juniors to try and help that.
"At times, some grounds will be pumping from 8am all the way through until 6pm.
"Then consider the fact Cowra is back in the top competition and we're kicking the season off with twilight games in Bathurst this weekend too, there's some really exciting things happening and this streaming deal adds to all of it."
Live streaming games is not entirely new to the Central West, Emus pioneered the concept in 2016 and have been live streaming all their home games each season since.
A number of other clubs, including the Lions, have followed suit recently as it transformed into another avenue to garner additional sponsorship.
However this year's agreement with Cluch signals the first almost-holistic broadcast deal in the region, and won't just be limited to live streams of games.
On top of the streams, which will be of a professional standard with all the bells and whistles, Cluch will also make on-demand replays available through their website along with highlight reels which will be pushed via social media.
With a specific, Central West channel to be created to house all over Cluch's content, the streaming service will also make the footage available to Central West for judicial and coaching purposes.
All the Blowes Clothing Cup's 2021 finals will be broadcast via Cluch as well.
"It will take the pressure off some of those clubs who were already pushing their own streams out to their audiences, so it's certainly convenient for them and they'll still get the opportunity to share Cluch's streams through their own channels," Tink said.
"Because of the on-demand replays it may even affect the way coaches approach games because there will be more opportunity for analysis, which could create an even closer competition than we had last year, and it was pretty close in 2020."
The 2021 Blowes Clothing Cup season kicks off on Saturday afternoon, Orange City host Dubbo Kangaroos while Emus travel to Bathurst to face the Bulldogs.
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