BBC’s Rugby League Broadcast: Concerns Over Viewership & Coverage

The BBC’s New Rugby League Deal Faces Underwhelming Viewership

The BBC’s inaugural year of their new Super League broadcast deal has been met with underwhelming viewing figures, raising concerns about the national broadcaster’s commitment to promoting the sport.

The BBC’s recent coverage of the Leigh Leopards vs Salford Red Devils match on BBC 3 averaged just 55,000 viewers, with a peak of 63,000 and a meager 0.5% audience share. This represents a stark contrast to the previous month’s match between the Catalans Dragons and St Helens, which averaged 110,000 viewers on BBC 3 and peaked at 133,000, with a 0.9% audience share.

Surprisingly, the BBC’s pay-to-view counterpart, Sky Sports, enjoyed a higher average viewership of 112,000 for the Catalans vs St Helens clash, with a peak of 126,000 and a 0.9% audience share.

This disparity in viewership between the BBC’s free-to-air coverage and Sky Sports’ paid platform is a concerning trend, suggesting that the national broadcaster has not adequately promoted or prioritized its rugby league coverage.

The BBC’s underwhelming approach to the sport extends beyond the Super League, as the broadcaster failed to air any Challenge Cup fixtures in Round 6, including the highly anticipated clash between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens, which was relegated to the BBC iPlayer and Red Button platforms.

Despite the BBC’s long-standing association with the Challenge Cup, dating back to 1948, the network chose to air other programming, such as The One Show, Celebrity Mastermind, and Would I Lie To You, on its primary channels.

As the BBC prepares to showcase the semi-finals of both the men’s and women’s Challenge Cup competitions this weekend, rugby league enthusiasts hope to see a renewed commitment to the sport’s coverage. With the men’s semi-finals airing on BBC One and BBC Two, and the women’s matches on the BBC Red Button and iPlayer, the potential for increased viewership and broader exposure exists.

However, to truly capitalize on the new Super League broadcast deal, the BBC must prioritize airing the league’s fixtures on its two main channels, BBC One and BBC Two, where the sport can reach a wider audience and potentially attract new fans.

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