HomeAustralia and New ZealandNRL’s Vegas venture faces reality check with modest American TV ratings

NRL’s Vegas venture faces reality check with modest American TV ratings

NRL’s Vegas venture faces reality check with modest American TV ratings

The rapturous reception to the NRL’s ambitious venture into the American market via their season-opening double-header has been tempered somewhat as TV ratings revealed a relatively modest US audience tuning in, with numbers dwindling as last weekend’s historic matches progressed.

According to data from United States cable network Fox Sports 1, the Allegiant Stadium encounter between Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs garnered an average audience of 61,000 viewers, which dropped to 44,000 for the Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos clash immediately afterwards, as reported by US SportsMedia website.

These figures fell short of the NRL’s expectations, despite reassurances from key figures like Peter V’landys and Andrew Abdo acknowledging the gradual nature of the game’s expansion in the American market.

While the NRL has secured La Vegas matches for a five-year stint, sustained year-on-year growth will be necessary to meet its ambitious objectives of tapping into the lucrative sports gambling market in the USA and significantly expanding the US subscriber base for the international streaming app, Watch NRL.

Despite these challenges, the NRL is choosing to highlight positive aspects of the TV ratings. NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo emphasised that the 61,000 average viewership for the season opener surpassed previous NRL games aired in the US on Saturday nights on Fox Sports 1, and compared favourably to some Major League Soccer games on the same network.

“We are proud of what we achieved this year in Las Vegas and have been blown away by how positively Americans have responded to rugby league,” Abdo commented.

“The exposure the game received and the reviews of the matches by US fans and media will be a massive boost for year two and beyond. We are very focused on the long-term opportunity this presents for the game.”

However, industry experts like Jon Lewis of SportsMediaWatch.com cautioned that the American TV ratings were low.

“Anything below 100,000 viewers on American television is very low. There’s no question, there’s no sugar-coating it,” Lewis stated.

Lewis attributed this partly to the limited audience share of Fox Sports 1, which aired the NRL games, though he pointed out that competing programs like NASCAR garnered substantially higher viewership on the same network.

Logistical challenges, such as scheduling conflicts and switching networks mid-game, may have affected the NRL’s viewership numbers. For instance, the delayed start due to overtime in a college basketball game led to the NRL game initially airing on Fox Sports 2 before switching to Fox Sports 1.

Despite these hurdles, the NRL remains optimistic about the long-term prospects of its American venture, citing positive feedback from US fans and media. The exposure gained and the potential for future growth are seen as promising signs for the game’s expansion beyond traditional markets.

However, it’s clear that building a solid position in the competitive American sports landscape will require sustained effort and adjustments from the NRL.

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