Players celebrate after the NSW Blues defeated Queensland Maroons in Game 2 of State of Series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Players celebrate after the NSW Blues defeated Queensland Maroons in Game 2 of State of Series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Nine’s call to ditch Sunday Origin after ratings dive

CHANNEL 9 is likely to urge the NRL to drop its Sunday experiment with State Of Origin, after the series decider saw a ratings dive of 12 per cent on its Wednesday night staging of Game I.

The NSW Blues victory over the Maroons, 18-14, was a victory for Nine too - winning the night's national ratings battle, with an average combined audience of 3.179 million viewers across the five-city and regional markets.

The thrilling series win by coach Brad Fittler's 'baby Blues' team made the 7pm Sunday broadcast the second highest rating program of the year, only bettered by the Origin 2018 opener (which averaged 3.456 million viewers nationally).

But despite the solid ratings result, the numbers were more than 300,000 viewers down on the Game II national average of 3.487 million last year, when it aired in the traditional Wednesday night timeslot.

While expectations were for the Sunday timeslot to deliver bigger market share for league's showcase event, the choice of reality TV options on rival networks, Seven and Ten tempted many viewers away.

What did you think of Sunday night State of Origin?

This poll ended on 26 June 2018.

Current Results

I like it, the NRL should persist with it.

33%

Not a fan, move it back to Wednesday night.

66%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

 

The final house reveal on Seven's House Rules (from 7pm) posted a season high against Origin, averaging 948,000 people; beating reality rival MasterChef on Ten, which drew a metro market average of 731,000 viewers.

A kick-off at the earlier time of 7.50pm caught out many who were counting on the same start time for Wednesday matches, which are typically scheduled 20 minutes later at 8.10pm.

While the early start-time and Sunday shift were widely publicised, viewers have also come to expect Origin on a Wednesday night as it has been scheduled for the past 17 years (in 2001, all three games were aired on Sunday nights).

Players celebrate after the NSW Blues defeated Queensland Maroons in Game 2 of State of Series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Players celebrate after the NSW Blues defeated Queensland Maroons in Game 2 of State of Series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Early tries by Queensland and a dramatic penalty try to NSW in the first half kept viewers locked on in Sydney (peaking at 981,000 viewers) and Brisbane (with a peak of 805,000 viewers); while the sin-binning of Blues star James Robert late in the second half set up another gripping finish.

But both NRL stronghold cities were down on Game I audience figures, which had peaked at 1.058 million in Sydney, and 829,000 people in Brisbane.

Melbourne viewers, who had tuned into the MCG-hosted opening game after a strong marketing push into the AFL's heartland (peaking at 425,000 people), also dropped off for Game II on Sunday (which peaked at 386,000 viewers).

A change to policy this season means the NRL now controls all broadcast scheduling and kick-off times - making it their decision, not Nine's, to include this year's Game II in a stand-alone weekend.

Blues players celebrate in the change rooms following their win over the Maroons in Game 2 of the 2018 State of Origin series. Picture: AAP
Blues players celebrate in the change rooms following their win over the Maroons in Game 2 of the 2018 State of Origin series. Picture: AAP

Halting the club competition allowed the women's Origin battle to be broadcast in the regular Friday night timeslot, and Pacific Islands test matches scheduled on Saturday (from 4pm and 7.30pm); with both exceeding ground and ratings expectations.

Will Chambers of the Maroons  after losing Game 2 of the 2018 State of Origin series.
Will Chambers of the Maroons after losing Game 2 of the 2018 State of Origin series.

The first-ever women's Origin game to be televised - also won by NSW 16-10 - drew an average Friday night audience, combined with the simulcast on Fox League, of 690,000 people (peaking at 1.010m).

The two Pacific Islands tests saw Papua New Guinea defeat Fiji (26-14), watched by a combined national average of 269,000 people (including Fox League); while Tonga overpowered Samoa, 38-22 with a combined TV audience averaging 507,000 people.

Angus Crichton leaps on to teammates as the Blues celebrate after the NSW defeated Queensland Maroons in Game 2 of State of Series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Angus Crichton leaps on to teammates as the Blues celebrate after the NSW defeated Queensland Maroons in Game 2 of State of Series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Nine's cumulative standalone league audience for the weekend averaged 6.8 million viewers nationally.

Nine's head of sport, Tom Malone said while the ratings for all weekend games, including Origin were strong, "we would prefer it to be a Wednesday night to get its biggest possible audience share,:

An NRL spokesman said the game was prepared to discuss timeslot options for State of Origin 2 with Channel 9.

Blues fans during Game 2 of the State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and Queensland Maroons at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Blues fans during Game 2 of the State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and Queensland Maroons at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard

He said the NRL would look favourably at a family-friendly 4 pm kick off on Sunday afternoon for the second Origin game.

Their decision to stage the stand alone Origin and representative weekend was set up for a range of issues, including player welfare.

"Holding Origin II on a Sunday is a new concept for our fans but it still attracted more than three million viewers and was the second most watched show on television this year. The only show which has beaten Sunday's match was Origin 1.

He added: "while we are always prepared to discuss options to attract more fans, we believe it was a highly successful weekend of Rugby League."

NINE'S RATINGS GAME:

ORIGIN GAME I: averaged 3.456 million (5 city metro 2.353 million / Regional 1.103m); peaked 3.894 million (5 city metro 2.591 million / Regional 1.303m).

ORIGIN GAME II: averaged 3.179 million (5 city metro 2.122 million / Regional 1.057m); peaked 3.665 million (5 city metro 2.419 million / Regional 1.246m).

PROS OF SUNDAY

* Close to 7 million people watched league's marquee players across the standalone round, showcasing both the womens competition and Pacific Island nations.

* Since its inception in 1982, Origin has been played at various times on every night of the week, except Saturday.

* Biggest night of the TV week mean broadcasters can charge bigger premiums on advertising and sales packages.

PROS OF WEDNESDAY

* Rep teams get a 10-day turnaround between NRL rounds and Origin, allowing for greater recovery time and team cohesion.

* Less competition on Wednesday, compared to Sunday which is the biggest night of the TV week when programmers roll out their hit programs.

* Getting more viewers on a less-cluttered night of the week could convert to more revenue flowing back into the game.



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