Stormers most-watched as over 34 million rugby fans tune in for debut URC season

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  • URC champions, the Stormers, were the most-watched team during the season.
  • Over 34 million fans tuned in to watch the inaugural URC season.
  • The figure was an increase of 169% compared to the 2020/21 PRO14 and Rainbow Cup campaigns combined.

Over 34 million fans watched the inaugural United Rugby Championship season, with the league setting a number of major broadcast records in its first campaign. 

Organisers announced on Wednesday that records were set for the season-long audience, playoff viewers and the URC grand final itself. 

The Stormers, who beat the Bulls 19-13 in the final in Cape Town, were the most-viewed team in the league with their total audience coming in at over 7.2 million. They are followed by the Bulls, Munster, Sharks and Leinster for audiences across the entire season.

In its first season, the 16-team event was supported by free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters in the UK, Ireland and Italy - BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, Mediaset, RTÉ, S4C and TG4 - and by leading Pay TV companies SuperSport (South Africa) and Premier Sports (UK and Ireland).

The Stormers celebrate with the URC title
The Stormers celebrate with the URC title. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Gallo Images

URC CEO Martin Anayi said they were "blown away" by the broadcast audience in the debut season.

"It is a tremendous credit to the standard of rugby displayed by our teams and players and the superb work done by our broadcasters to showcase that talent.

"The URC offers a diversity in playing styles and cultures across two hemispheres that is unique in club rugby and we can see that fans in the north and south have been attracted to that. With a mix of Free to Air and Pay TV coverage allied to our increased presence in South Africa and record figures in Italy we have found a very effective formula to grow interest in our league and the sport of rugby union."

THE NUMBERS

Regular Season

According to Nielsen Sports, the URC audience for the entire 2021/22 season reached a high mark of 34.6 million across 7 000-plus hours of coverage.

That figure of 34.6m was an increase of 169% compared to the 2020/21 PRO14 and Rainbow Cup campaigns combined.

The cumulative average audience per game during the season was 230k which represented a 109% increase on 20/21.

A cumulative audience of almost 3 million people tuned into Round 3 with the figure of 2 892 000 setting a new record for the highest audience for a single round in the league's history.

In total, four rounds eclipsed an audience of 2 million, seven rounds drew more than 1.5 million and 6 of the remaining 7 rounds all attracted a minimum viewership of 1 million.

The average audience per round in the regular season was 1.7 million.The cumulative audience from Italy was 1.6 million.

URC grand final and playoffs

The first-ever United Rugby Championship grand final took place in Cape Town, South Africa between the Stormers and Bulls and set a new TV milestone for the league.

A total of 1.25 million watched the Stormers win their first URC title and set a new record for the league decider.

Although the finalwas an all-South African affair 41% of the audience came from outside of the territory with RTÉ’s live coverage in the Republic of Ireland accounting for 15%.

This trend of interest was a hallmark of the entire URC playoffs which also set a record for viewership with 3.8 million across seven games.

The largest viewership for the playoffs came in the Stormers v Ulster semi-final game where the audience hit 754k while the other last-four encounter between Leinster and the Bulls drew 472k.

Including the URC final, the average audience per game in the playoffs was 537k.

Top 10 most watched regular season games in 2021/22

In the Top 10 most watched games of the regular season, Munster featured five times, the Sharks were involved in three with Ospreys, Ulster and the Stormers appearing twice.

The most watched game in the regular season was Ospreys' Round 3 game with Sharks which was viewed by a combined audience of 581k on BBC Wales, SuperSport and Premier Sports.

1. R3 Ospreys v Sharks 580,026

2. R3 Cardiff v Bulls 560,886

3. R2 Munster v Stormers 538,909

4. R6 Sharks v Scarlets 531,421

5. R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707

6. R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110

7. R1 Munster v Sharks 484,267

8. R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652

9. R4 Ulster v Lions 468,993

10. R4 Dragons v Stormers 445,471

Most Watched Clubs

Helped by their appearance in the URC final, the Stormers were the most viewed team in the league with their total audience coming in at over 7.2million.

The URC champions are followed by the Bulls, Munster, Sharks and Leinster for audiences across the entire season.

The Stormers and Munster were the most watched teams in South Africa and Ireland, respectively with Ospreys leading the interest in Wales, Benetton were No 1 in Italy and Edinburgh topped the pile in Scotland.

Derby matches which are at the heart of the tribal rivalries in the URC also performed well with only one South African fixture breaking the dominance of the all-Irish clashes.

Top 5 Derby Audiences

The most watched derby games of the season all took place in Ireland, with Munster’s R10 clash with Ulster drawing in 523k in a game that was also No 5 in the list of Top 10 most watched in the regular season. Munster also feature in four of the Top 5 derby audiences.

R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707

R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110

R16 Ulster v Munster 428,709

R15 Munster v Leinster 402,534

R6 Leinster v Ulster 401,603

Top 5 Games from South Africa

R6 Sharks v Scarlets 531,421

R17 Stormers v Leinster 417,323

R7 Lions v Munster 394,416

R16 Sharks v Leinster 361,290

R17 Bulls v Glasgow Warriors 323,386

Top 5 Games from Ireland

R2 Munster v Stormers 538,909

R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707

R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110

R1 Munster v Sharks 484,267

R4 Ulster v Lions 468,993

Top 5 Games from Italy

R11 Zebre v Munster 439,701

R1 Zebre v Lions 295,647

R1 Benetton v Stormers 213,754

R10 Benetton v Sharks 202,283

R4 Benetton v Ospreys 196,817

Top 5 Games from Scotland

R3 Edinburgh v Stormers 382,185

R3 Glasgow Warriors v Lions 363,674

R4 Edinburgh v Bulls 260,448

R5 Glasgow Warriors v Leinster 224,494

R2 Glasgow Warriors v Sharks 209,027

Top 5 Games from Wales

R3 Ospreys v Sharks 580,026

R3 Cardiff v Bulls 560,886

R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652

R4 Dragons v Stormers 445,471

R3 Scarlets v Munster 330,313

The 2022/23 URC season starts on 16 September.

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