NRL enjoys biggest ratings in six years

Thursday night's return to NRL action brought the sport's biggest TV viewing figures in six years.
Thursday night's return to NRL action brought the sport's biggest TV viewing figures in six years.

The NRL's ambitious push be the first Australian sporting code to emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown has paid off after attracting its biggest television audience for a regular-season game in more than six years.

A combined 1,306,938 million people across the country tuned in to watch Parramatta pummel Brisbane in the first live Australian sport played since March.

Almost one million watched on free-to-air broadcaster Channel Nine, including 615,000 across the five major metropolitan areas.

The bulk of that number stemmed from Sydney and Brisbane, with fans in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth tuning in via Nine's secondary channel, Gem.

It was the highest free-to-air audience ever in Adelaide.

Foxtel drew an audience of 355,000 for a match broadcast barely an hour after the NRL confirmed a new television deal with both of its network partners.

Currently in the third of a five-year deal, the coronavirus pandemic prompted all parties to re-negotiate the terms of its contract.

Nine informed the stock exchange that it will save more than $56m over the final two-and-a-half years of their current arrangement.

Foxtel extended its partnership with the league until the end of the 2027 season.

The league also earned positive reviews for its radical new six-again rule, which was designed to eliminate the wrestle in the ruck.

Interim NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo praised ARL Commission chair Peter V'landys for his bold determination to be one of the first sports back live.

"Last night was our highest-rating regular season game in six years - that's an outstanding result for the game and our broadcast partners," Abdo said.

"Everything our chairman Peter V'landys and the Commission have done has been for our fans, our partners and our shareholders - the clubs and states.

"We're delighted the resumption of the competition attracted so much interest and exposure.

"I want to thank our broadcast partners for the work they have done and the innovations to make the viewing experience as enjoyable as possible for the fans.

"Rugby League is part of the social fabric of so many communities.

"To have live unscripted sport back unites us and provides enjoyment and something to look forward to."

Australian Associated Press