Over 34 million fans tuned into the inaugural United Rugby Championship season as the league set a number of major broadcast records in its first campaign.
With records set for the season-long audience, play-off viewers and the URC Grand Final itself, it is clear that the new 16-team league has caught the imagination of rugby fans across the northern and southern hemispheres.
Despite reducing the regular season to 18 rounds, the strong viewership numbers produced across the UK, Ireland and South Africa prove that less is more.
In a further boost, Italy reported their largest audiences ever while international rights coverage and the launch of the URC.tv streaming service bolstered the global total.
In its first season, the United Rugby Championship was supported by Free-to-Air (FTA) broadcasters in the UK, Ireland and Italy – BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, Mediaset, RTÉ, S4C and TG4 and by leading Pay TV companies SuperSport (South Africa) and Premier Sports (UK and Ireland).
This mix of broadcast platforms allowed fans to enjoy rising standards of production while the crossover and collaboration across different territories gave the league a truly global feel.
Martin Anayi, United Rugby Championship, CEO said: “We are blown away by the broadcast audiences in the first season of the United Rugby Championship. It is a tremendous credit to the standard of rugby displayed by our teams and players and the superb work done by our broadcasters to showcase that talent.
“The URC offers a diversity in playing styles and cultures across two hemispheres that is unique in club rugby and we can see that fans in the north and south have been attracted to that. With a mix of Free to Air and Pay TV coverage allied to our increased presence in South Africa and record figures in Italy we have found a very effective formula to grow interest in our league and the sport of rugby union.”
The numbers behind the headlines are truly stellar and set a high benchmark for the URC, its teams, players, broadcasters and partners to aim for ahead of the new 2022/23 season.
THE NUMBERS BEHIND THE RECORD-BREAKING AUDIENCES
Thanks to the consolidated reports from Nielsen Sports, one of the world’s leading agencies in broadcast reporting, the United Rugby Championship can confirm that the audience for the entire 2021/22 season reached a high mark of 34.6million across 7,000-plus hours of coverage. That figure of 34.6m was an increase of 169% compared to the 2020/21 PRO14 and Rainbow Cup campaigns combined.
- The cumulative average audience per game during the season was 230k which represented a 109% increase on 20/21.
- A cumulative audience of almost 3 million people tuned into Round 3 with the figure of 2,892,000 setting a new record for the highest audience for a single round in the league’s history.
- In total, four rounds eclipsed an audience of 2 million, seven rounds drew more than 1.5 million and 6 of the remaining 7 rounds all attracted a minimum viewership of 1 million.
- The average audience per round in the regular season was 1.7 million.
- The cumulative audience from Italy was 1.6 million.
URC Grand Final and Play-Offs
The first-ever United Rugby Championship Grand Final took place in Cape Town, South Africa between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls and set a new TV milestone for the league.
A total of 1.25 million watched the DHL Stormers win their first URC title and set a new record for the league decider. Although the Grand Final was an all-South African affair 41% of the audience came from outside of the territory with RTÉ’s live coverage in the Republic of Ireland accounting for 15%.
This trend of interest was a hallmark of the entire URC Play-Offs which also set a record for viewership with 3.8 million across seven games. The largest viewership for the Play-Offs came in the DHL Stormers v Ulster Final Four game where the audience hit 754k while the other Semi-Final encounter between Leinster and the Vodacom Bulls drew 472k.
Including the URC Grand Final, the average audience per game in the Play-Offs was 537k