Arno Botha is tackled by Jonny Sexton. (Bulls Rugby/Twitter)
- The United Rugby Championship (URC) is expected to have broken its historic viewership record following last weekend’s opening round of action.
- The inclusion of the four new South African sides undeniably helped fuel interest.
- The tournament wants to reach 1 million domestic viewers weekly.
Intrigue and interest in the four new South African sides in the United Rugby Championship (URC) – previously the PRO14 – seemingly fuelled the tournament’s record-breaking viewership tally from last weekend’s opening round of fixtures.
In a statement released on Friday, URC management announced that “early figures” suggest the tournament’s previous global record of 853 511 – set during a derby round in 2017/18 – will be surpassed once all consolidated reports and international numbers have been finalised.
Ironically, 2017/18 was the first season that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings formed part of the PRO14.
Another factor is the URC’s new hybrid model in terms of broadcasting, where games are scattered across Free-to-Air (FTA), Pay TV and Over-the-top (OTT) – customised content over the internet – platforms, a strategy “geared towards making the sport as accessible as possible in its core territories and in international markets”.
South African broadcasting heavyweight, SuperSport, naturally had a substantial hand in cultivating broader interest.
Round 1 also marked the successful launch of URC TV, the league’s OTT streaming service that is available domestically in the Republic of Ireland and internationally where fans in the US, Australia and many other worldwide territories can watch all of their team’s games live and on-demand throughout the season.
But the URC won’t be satisfied with a one-off record and are targeting over 1 millions domestic viewers per round for the rest of this season’s action.
“To achieve this milestone based only on domestic viewers in the first weekend proves the interest fans have in our players and teams and we firmly believe we will grow to audiences of over 1 million domestic viewers perround very quickly. Round 1 showcased everything the URC can be with fans back in the stadiums watching some thrilling rugby created by so many different playing styles,” said Martin Anayi, URC chief.
“We saw sharp presentation across all of our broadcasters who do a terrific job in bringing the stories of our games and players to life with engaging personalities and insightful analysis.”