Media Buzz: Highest TV ratings in NRL history revealed

Media Buzz reveals the ground-breaking television ratings that put a cherry on one of the greatest opening rounds in NRL history. See the extraordinary figures for every match.

Fox Sports and Kayo have recorded their highest TV ratings in history in a blockbuster start to the NRL season over the weekend highlighted by the Dolphins beating fierce cross-town rivals the Broncos for the hearts and minds of Queenslanders.

Television figures were up 17 percent over the first weekend compared to last season with the Dolphins attracting 567,000 viewers in their upset win over the Roosters, while Broncos got 552,000 for knocking off defending premiers Panthers.

The Sharks against Rabbitohs game on Saturday night was the highest ever for a regular season game on the pay TV network

The Dolphins’ against the Roosters was the network’s highest ever Sunday afternoon game.

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett hailed the ratings result as vindication for the NRL’s expansion plan and proof the Broncos’ 25-year monopoly in south-east Queensland is well and truly over.

“The numbers are wonderful, it’s a great result for rugby league,” Bennett said.

“I’ve been informed of the figures by our CEO Terry Reader and they are massive, I’m blown away.

“It vindicates everything Peter V’landys (ARL Commission chairman) sought to achieve when he looked to bring a 17th team into the NRL.

“He came under fire at times but he always believed in expansion and this is a great result for the NRL and rugby league in Queensland.”

Asked if the Dolphins can challenge the might of the Broncos, Bennett said: “Look, the Broncos have a great history – they have a 30-year headstart – but this shows the Dolphins have made an impact and now we are real.

“When the Broncos entered the league in 1988, we had 16,000 at our first game against Manly. Times have changed, but we had 32,000 there on Sunday (for the Dolphins’ debut).

“Our victory (against the Roosters) was the first step in what we plan to become.

“The Dolphins and Broncos can become one of the game’s great rivalries.”

Channel Nine’s free-to-air and streaming audiences were also up.

Patrick Delany, Chief Executive Officer of Foxtel Group said: “Two years ago Peter V’landys began a ground-breaking discussion around further expansion in Queensland and this vision was brought to life over the weekend.

“He believed at the time that extra teams in Queensland would stimulate the total market for NRL in Australia and the extraordinary start of the season including a fairy tale first game win from the Redcliffe Dolphins is undeniable proof of that.

“Congratulations to Peter, Andrew and also to the incredible Wayne Bennett. It seems like wizardry but it takes hard work and extraordinary experience to pull off something like that. It’s what the fans have been waiting for.”


Brisbane is the most popular NRL club on social media with more than 158,000 Broncos followers on Twitter — double that of many of the Sydney clubs.

Melbourne is second with 154,100 while Souths lead the Sydney NRL clubs with 124,000.

These are small numbers compared to English Premier League clubs. Man United has 35 million followers and Liverpool 23 million — far greater numbers than NFL clubs in the US where the San Francisco 49ers have 2.3 million.


The media exposure that comes with winning NRL titles has given Penrith some huge financial benefits. The Panthers’ annual report shows sponsorship increased by 44 per cent to almost $13m last season. That money came from the playing kit, stadium naming rights, corporate suites, stadium LED signage, digital advertising on social media, and coach and membership partners.


Legendary TV commentator Ray Warren wasn’t always on a big-money contract at Channel 9.

In fact when he was sacked by Channel 10 and replaced by Rex Mossop in the 1980s, Rabs got knocked back for a few gigs and had to mow lawns to make a quid.

He told the story at the funeral of greyhound scribe and colourful punter Gary ‘Milton’ Manning in Forster on Wednesday.

Manning used to pay Rabs $25 a week – which was decent money back in those days – to look after his front lawn.

His neighbour once commented: “Geez your gardener looks like Ray Warren.”

To which Manning replied: “Probably because it is him.”

It was a fitting farewell for Milton, a great bloke and very generous man.

Rabs, Jeff Collerson, Kenny Callander, old sideline eye Tony Megahey and big Queensland punter Lemonade Tommy were all there to pay their respects.


The NRL has had a busy week doing briefings with TV and radio partners. Nine, Fox Sports, 2GB, ABC and Triple M lined up in separate teleconferences to hear head of football Graham Annesley and referees boss Jared Maxwell outline what to expect on the field this season. Notable TV heavy hitters in attendance included Nine’s Origin coaches Brad Fittler and Billy Slater, head caller Mat Thompson while Fox Sports had Andrew Voss, Greg Alexander and Paul Kent.

MEDIA FOCUS: RAY HADLEY, 68 (2GB Morning Show)

First Job?

Packing the shelves at Woolies in Ermington on a Thursday night, aged 14. I drove cabs and was an auctioneer before getting a start in radio.

Sporting heroes?

Ken Thornett and Bob Fulton, and of course the race callers Bert Bryant and Ken Howard.

What team do you follow?

The great Frank Hyde told me in 1986 – given all the broadcasters followed teams – I should set a trend and not be affiliated with any club.

Did you play league?

I played rugby union from aged six 6 until 22 when a distinct lack of ability set me on a different path.

How do you spend a day off?

Lunch with my wife, visiting my five grandchildren and playing golf.

Career highlights?

Cathy Freeman’s 400m win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, every State of Origin and grand final and 18 years at number one on morning radio.

Originally published as NRL Round 1 TV ratings: Media Buzz reveals the historic Fox Sports, Kayo figures

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