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NRL Returns, Ratings In, Social Engagement Shines

The NRL’s long awaited and long debated May 28 return last night netted 838,000 total broadcast viewers on Channel Nine, ranking as the tenth highest viewed program in Australia yesterday.

Meanwhile, a Fox League record 366,000 total broadcast viewers marked the highest simulcast audience of all time for the Fox League channel.

After the 2020 NRL premiership season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys has consistently been in the media spotlight with his efforts to resume the season as soon as possible.

The May 28 return for the NRL had been shrouded in controversary, with the NRL’s broadcast partners being locked in negotiations with the league, and player and staff pay cuts being a hot topic throughout.

The season returned last night as planned with a clash between the Brisbane Broncos and the Parramatta Eels, and despite being the focus of what seemed like the entirety of Australia over the past week, the match received less broadcast views combined across metro and regional Australia than six news broadcasts and three entertainment programs.

Topped by MasterChef Australia, The Chase Australia, and Home and Away in the ratings report, the opening match of round 3 ranked as the fourth highest viewed program on Channel Nine for May 28.

In comparison to last year’s State of Origin series, which several pundits believed had similar attention in the build-up, the season return scored considerably lower in total broadcast views.

The 2019 State of Origin series recorded 2.18 million viewers on Channel Nine across Australia’s five major cities for the opening match alone, earning it a place as the most-watched TV program of the year as of July 2019.

With regard to social interactions, the NRL saw its highest numbers since the completion of round 2, topping round 2 by over 40,000 social interactions, according to a report from Nielsen.

The return of the NRL competition saw the NRL record 370,000 social interactions and over 500,000 video views, with the Parramatta Eels ranking as the most engaged of all teams across all codes yesterday.

The Eels accounted for a total of 22 percent of the 370,000 NRL interactions over the day.

Nielsen managing director of media and sports, Monique Perry, said the NRL managed to maintain fan engagement on social media during the season’s suspension.

“Fans rejoice as footy returns, the NRL recorded its highest social interactions in a single day since the completion of round 2 with 370,000 social interactions and over 500,000 video views,” Perry said.

“The closed-door event hasn’t stopped fans from engaging with their favourite teams, athletes, and leagues on social media,” she said.