State of Origin continues ratings run: What’s it worth to the game?
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Game II of the State of Origin series was watched by 2.47 million last night, down just 40,000 viewers from the record-breaking Game I audience.
Game II received 2.472 million metro viewers, according to OzTam, with 1.185 million Sydneysiders tuning in and 774,000 Brisbanites watching.
More people in Sydney watched Game II than Game I, but less people in Brisbane watched Game II compared with Game I.
In Melbourne 366,000 people watched the game (more than Game 1 which was held in Melbourne), Adelaide 68,000 and Perth 79,000.
The total metro audience of 2.51 million for Game I was the highest TV audience in its history, the biggest since OzTam measurement was introduced.
The pre and post-match coverage was also strong on Nine, with 1.978 million tuning in for the post-match and 1.558 million watching the pre-match.
With the series locked at 1-1, the scene is set for a massive third and final game. The build up to both games has been big, and the lead-in to the third match will surely be huge.
The three-game State of Origin series effectively gives the NRL a four ‘grand finals’ in a year. The NRL grand final commands an audience of around 2-2.4 million. Having four annual events that pull in one-off audiences of that size, along with smaller but solid regular competition audiences, should be a useful weapon in the NRL’s quest for an improved broadcast rights deal.
The strength of Origin as a ratings weapon could be better monetised if the TV rights are split between free-to-air networks, with one housing the NRL competition and the other Origin.
Why lump the game on just one network? Surely it is better served by spreading its product across two, increasing the potential audience for rugby league.
It’s hard to put a figure on what Origin might be worth as a standalone product, but it could be as high as $200 million or more.
Lumping a high-rating event such as Origin in with the regular NRL season to one TV network is devaluing the product. Sure, there is the potential threat of Origin cannibalising the NRL, but I don’t think that would happen.
The NRL has enough diehard fans, tribalism, tradition and history for club supporters to continue to feed off. Origin is the pinnacle of the sport and remains a special, separate sphere that is still inextricably linked with the NRL. One can’t exist without the other.
The removal of David Gallop from the CEO’s job could mean a less cosy deal being set up with long-time partners Nine and Fox Sports.
There is also the Trans-Tasman Tests, the improving international game and the annual All-Stars game, which usually receive decent TV ratings. New Zealand’s recent important victories over the Kangaroos have breathed life into the international game, which has been somewhat revitalised.
The 2008 World Cup was the best in recent memory and it will be interesting to see how the 2013 edition shapes up next year. An improved international game with a more higher standard would result in better ratings and could also fetch a decent price.
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