The likelihood of State of Origin remaining an end-of-season spectacle has been dashed after the opening game drew the smallest TV audience since 2003.
Rugby league’s showpiece event was shifted from the winter months to a three-week block at season’s end due to integrity issues relating to the COVID-19 impacted NRL year.
But, as the NRL prepares to negotiate a new broadcast deal, figures on Thursday revealed the Adelaide opener attracted a national average audience of 2.38 million, down almost 25 per cent on the corresponding game last year.
That included a metropolitan audience of 1.6 million and a regional audience of 780,000, the lowest figures since ratings became available in 2003.
The game was played as the United States election count unfolded, while Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup may have also left fans jaded.
Injuries to a swathe of top-line talents from both teams also left the series without considerable star power.
The Nine Network will be hoping next Wednesday’s clash in Sydney is more eagerly anticipated after Queensland’s shock win breathed life into the series.
Australian Rugby League Commission boss Peter V’landys said before Wednesday’s game that he was already planning for a mid-season series next year.
“We made it a stand alone for the integrity of the competition. If you took your best players out mid-season it could have affected teams,” he told AAP.
“Because it was going to be five less rounds we wanted to make sure every team had every opportunity to make the top eight.
“That’s why we made the decision, but if it’s a runaway success we might look at it again.
“At this stage it will go back to mid-season. But in anything you do you have to have an open mind and be agile.”