HomeAustralia and New ZealandNRL’s Las Vegas venture a ratings winner at home

NRL’s Las Vegas venture a ratings winner at home

NRL’s Las Vegas venture a ratings winner at home

The 40,000-strong crowd at Allegiant Stadium, and the warm reception from American sports fans and pundits to two high-quality matches at the end of a huge build-up in Las Vegas indicates the NRL’s bold venture into the US market will pay off.

But the historic season-opening double-header has also proved a ratings winner at home, with Fox Sports in Australia recording its highest-ever viewership for an NRL fixture.

The first encounter on Sunday afternoon (AEDT), which saw Manly upset South Sydney 36-24 in an 11-try thriller, attracted a mammoth viewership of 838,000 on Fox League and its streaming service Kayo Sports.

The Sea Eagles-Rabbitohs match was not broadcast free-to-air in Australia.

Meanwhile, Fox League and Kayo achieved another significant victory by drawing in an audience of 786,000 for the second clash, Sydney Roosters’ gripping 20-10 defeat of Brisbane Broncos – edging out the 784,000 sets of eyes on Channel Nine’s free-to-air coverage.

“We all live in hope that a wonderful concept and great effort by many will be rewarded but there’s no better feeling than when the reality arrives in record numbers,” beamed Steve Crawley, Fox Sports executive director.

“What a ripper. What a result.

“The best-ever Fox League NRL match numbers and unbelievably delivered from the other side of the world. Plus best ever Matty Johns Show ratings. And this is just the beginning.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the NRL coverage-wise, however. A college basketball game going into overtime delayed the Manly-Souths game from appearing on Fox Sports one in the US until midway through the first half.

Meanwhile, rugby league’s stunning Las Vegas debut has prompted NSW Sports Minister Steve Kamper to float some ambitious – albeit dubious – plans for the game’s expansion and a renovation to one of the state’s marquee venues.

Kamper, highly impressed by the roof at the state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium, said he will push for similar covered dome for Allianz Stadium in Sydney’s Moore Park area, which reopened after a major renovation in 2022.

Also reported by CODESports, Kamper has added a twist to the NRL’s impending announcement of an 18th club and likely expansion to a 20-team competition in coming years.

Kamper urged the NRL to consider a proposal whereby a new franchise would play up to five games in Las Vegas each season. The travel logistics would make such a plan difficult to pull off, however – all four clubs who featured last weekend have a fortnight off before their next game.

Papua New Guinea, with backing from the Australian government, is the hot favourite to be granted the next NRL license, though bids for teams situated in Perth, New Zealand’s South Island, Brisbane and a Pacific-based side are also in the expansion mix.

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