A record-breaking number of fans tuned into the opening round of Super Rugby over the weekend.
The first Australian derby of the season, between the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds, brought in 158,000 viewers, the most of any regular season match since 2014.
NSW’s 30-10 win was the highest rating program on Foxtel on Saturday, the showpiece in a run of six consecutive matches on Australia’s leading sports broadcaster.
The ONE HD replay of the match - the first to be broadcast on free-to-air - had a reach of 117,000 on Sunday morning.
Friday night’s Brumbies-Hurricanes game attracted 95,000 viewers, as the ACT side romped to a 52-10 win over the 2015 runners-up. The Force vs Rebels match also scored well, with 76,000 tuning in to the six-point thriller.
It wasn’t just Aussie teams experiencing strong ratings, with Saturday afternoon’s Crusaders-Chiefs match watched by 77,000.
Australian Rugby Union Chief Operating Officer, Rob Clarke said the ratings reflected the quality of the Super Rugby competition.
“We saw some really high quality Rugby over the weekend and the ratings show that fans were really keen to have Rugby back on their screens on the back of the Rugby World Cup,” he said.
Clarke said it was pleasing to see teams from across the competition pulling viewers in, as well as the Australian matches reaching recent highs.
“The ratings for the Aussie matches were among the best we’ve seen in recent years for the opening round of Super Rugby and there was some strong interest in the newcomers, the Sunwolves and Jaguares,” he said
Clarke made particular mention of the marathon Saturday broadcast on FOX SPORTS that showcased the global reach of Super Rugby
“Saturday was like nothing we’ve ever seen before, with back-to-back live Super Rugby on FOX SPORTS from 3pm until 4am on Sunday morning,” he said.
“A lot of fans would have probably felt like they were in heaven taking in all that action and that’s the clear benefit of having matches played in different time zones across the competition.”