THE opening fixture of the 2014 First Utility Super League season smashed all box office records by recording the biggest television audience for a Round 1 fixture in the competition’s 19-year history.
Figures out today show the match between defending champions Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants, the 2013 League Leaders, on Friday, February 7 drew a peak audience of 353,000 to Sky Sports 1 and an average audience of 299,300, a 38 per cent increase on the figures from the opening game of last season, Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos.
The audience was also 288,000 more than tuned in to watch the live Premiership rugby union match, Worcester v Leicester on BT Sport 1, which was watched by 65,200 people – 543 per cent higher - and 293,500 (593 per cent) more than the 59,500 who watched live World Trophy darts on Eurosport.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “This is tremendous news which demonstrates the growing appeal of the First Utility Super League and the sport as a whole.
“To record such a massive audience, one which dwarfs every other competing sports programme, was the perfect way to celebrate our new contract with Sky Sports, who continue to be fantastic broadcast partners.
“It was also a terrific start for the competition’s new title sponsors First Utility, who gained unprecedented exposure from their involvement with a sport which continues to grow in stature.
“Following the success of Rugby League World Cup 2013, we were confident that there would be a tangible legacy and I have no doubts that many of the viewers who switched on last Friday did so as a consequence of that tournament.
“With some intriguing Round 1 fixtures coming up this weekend, including two very attractive matches live on Sky Sports 1, I can confidently predict that Super League will continue to break records.”
The Sky Sports cameras will be at The Halliwell Jones Stadium tonight, Thursday, for the compelling derby clash between Warrington Wolves v St Helens, 8.00pm kick-off, and tomorrow the focus switches to East Yorkshire where Hull FC host Catalan Dragons at the KC Stadium, 8.00pm.
There are four fixtures on Sunday, February 16, all of which kick-off at 3.00pm, are Bradford Bulls v Castleford Tigers, Hull Kingston Rovers v Leeds Rhinos, Salford Red Devils v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Widnes Vikings v London Broncos.