Well after one of the best grand finals seen in many a year, its time to say goodbye to the NRL season and hello to the forthcoming internationals, but first we take a good look at the metrics from what was a record breaking season for the National Rugby League.
its all good news here for the NRL as a record breaking 4,005,089 attended 204 NRL matches across two countries at an average of 19,633, using 49.5% of available capacity. This is a record total and average for the NRL.
The FInals season was attended by 329,255 at an average of 36,584 (83% of capacity), including 81,947 at Accor Stadium for the Grand Final (98% capacity). The 3 mens and 2 womens Origin matches attracted 207,635 at an average of 41,527 (85% capacity), and standalone NRLW matches contributed another 83,326 at an average of 2,778 per game.
In total 4.954m folks have attended professional rugby league matches in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
Suncorp Stadium was the best attended venue both on aggregate and average as more than a million attendees - 1/4 of the total attendance for the year! went to matches there at an average of more than 37,000, while Kayo Stadium made the best use of its capacity, using 100% of its available space.
Club home attendances were led by the Broncos (33,793), Dolphins (25,562) and Newcastle (21,132).
Attendances were affected by the Womens World Cup with the Broncos having to move games to the lower capacity Gabba, while construction restricted attendance at Pointsbet Stadium, and capacity limitations affected Kayo Stadium and Bluebet Stadium, but on the plus side 12 additional matches and multiple high drawing Queensland fixtures more than made up for it.
The Dolphins have been a tremendous success - having made an immediate mark on the league, attracting 30,000 members and an average attendance of more than 25,000 in their first year with matches spread between Moreton Daily Stadium and Suncorp Stadium. Moreton Daily - which sold its naming rights to Kayo, was filled to capacity for all matches held there.
On Television the high profile additon to the League came in 5th for overall audiences.
The latest data from Roy Morgan shows the total NRL supporter base has grown strongly from a year ago to over one-in-three Australians. In 2023 now 7.2 million Australians (33.5%), up a stunning 11.7% from a year ago, support an NRL team. The increase is even more impressive, up by over 2 million (+39.2%) compared to four years ago pre-pandemic in 2019.
The Melbourne Storm have again topped the ladder as the most widely supported NRL club in 2023 with 1,197,000 supporters, an increase of 34,000 (+2.9%) on a year ago to just edge out a resurgent Brisbane Broncos in second place with 1,150,000 supporters, up 94,000 (+8.9%) in a year. The most widely supported Sydney-based club is again the Parramatta Eels with 594,000 supporters, up a stunning 138,000 (+30.3%) on a year ago – the largest increase of any NRL club
The NRL is for some reason reluctant to release membership figures, but fortunately Footyindustry and the good folks at @Leagueunlimited also track these sorts of things.
7 NRL clubs declared record membership in 2023 with Brisbane clocking in over 40,000, Eels 35,015, Canberra 24,060, Canterbury 22,000, Panthers 21,525, Manly 16,332, and Sydney 20,072 The Warriors were the only club to not again not declaring any numbers for the season. If these numbers are included we are probably looking at a record number of memberships
2010-2023 NRL Membership Table
NRL clubs have 13 million followers across the major social media outlets, led by the Broncos with 737,000 facebook, 449,000 Instagram, 163,000 Twitter, and 330,000 followers. Coming in second are the Storm, closely followed by the Rabbitohs and Warriors.
2023 NRL Social Media table
Magic Round was held in Brisbane in Round 10.
A sellout was announced on the Friday morning with the NRL predicting over 130,000 in attendance. Individual match attendances across the weekend totalled 354,313, although taking into account the largest attendances from each day brings it to 147,095. An estimated 40 per cent of ticket holders were travelling from interstate.
Venues NSW chairman Rod McGeoch has outlined a multi-venue pitch for Sydney to bring Magic Round south of the border as the NRL weighs up the economics of keeping the marquee event in rugby league’s heartland or taking it to new markets.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has confirmed plans to take Magic Round to market following “serious expressions of interest” from NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia from 2025 and beyond, with its current contract with the Queensland government expiring next year.
In 2023 the NRL commenced a 5 year extension to its previous deal.
Nine is paying an average of ~$115 million per annum, which is in line with the price it paid for the 2018 to 2022 contract. The only difference this time is the additional ~$15 million per annum of contra and other non-cash services that will be provided. This is up from ~$10 million per annum previously. The amount being paid by Foxtel was unannounced, although it had been revealed that Foxtel were kicking in 100m for the Dolphins expansion team.
The new partnership, from 2023-2027, includes;
- A joint commitment to grow and promote the game from grassroots participation to the elite level across all of Nine’s media platforms.
- A focus on broadcast innovation and presentation of the game for fans.
- Nine retaining the exclusive live broadcast rights of the NRL Telstra Premierships Grand Finals Day and the Ampol State of Origin Series. All three Origin games will be played on Wednesday nights.
- Nine continuing to broadcast a live Telstra Premiership game on Thursday and Friday nights as well as Sunday afternoons and a Saturday night game for the final five rounds prior to the commencement of the Finals Series.
- Nine radio continuing to broadcast rugby league via Radio 2GB and 4BC.
- Exclusive commercial broadcast of four NRL Home and Away Matches each week
- State of Origin, Representative Matches and NRL Finals Series
- NRL Women's Premiership, Nines and All Stars
As part of the deal that will extend to the end of 2027, selected games during Anzac Round and Magic Round will be available on free-to-air television.
The deal ensures all NRL Telstra Premiership and NRLW games will be broadcast live in New Zealand. The enhanced agreement involves a new level of collaboration with both the ARLC and Sky NZ working closely alongside New Zealand Rugby League to co-invest in initiatives to grow rugby league.
A massive year in Television for the NRL with an estimated audience of more than 174m for the year up to and including the Grand Finals of the NRL and NRLW. This is up from 149.35m in 2022, even accounting for the lack of NRLW in the 2022 figures.
- FTA 62.786m
- Foxleague (STB) 52.365m
- FoxBVOD est 52.257m*
- NRLW ~6.916m
At the start of the year we were estimated FoxBOVD (kayo/foxgo/foxnow) off reported ratings in round 1. From Round 24, Oztam began releasing Foxtel data via its live VPM reports. Since this started being reported we have seen the average stream worth almost a 1:1 ratio with STB.
Foxtel Group now captures more than 52% share of commercial BVOD viewing. With the integration of Kayo Sports data, 29 of the top 30 BVOD programmes (including live and Video On Demand) in May were from Foxtel Group. The start of the winter sports season saw growth in the total Foxtel Group streaming audience, which includes Kayo Sports, Foxtel Go and Foxtel Now, for NRL (rounds 1-15) and AFL (rounds 1-13) up 13% and 15% year-on-year respectively.
Nine reported that Total TV grew 3% YoY, and NRL on 9Now up +36% YoY. While the NRLW GF was up 16% on Linear TV and +62% on 9Now YoY.
As always note that this data is Australian only unless specified. We simply cannot get the data we would like and many would seem happy for us to fabricate.
The preseason was exclusive to Foxtel, where it puilled an audience of 932,000 in the first week, averaging 103,000 on Foxtel and 1.104m in the second, averaging 123,000 viewers per match. The preseason was down on the 2.891m who watched in 2022.
The Indigenous Allstar clash was watched by 134,000 on Foxtel, with a similar number believed to have stream the event.
Home and Away season
Despite fantastic ratings for the season, the NRL was challenged by both the mid year Ashes series and the Womens world cup right before the finals.
The most watched match of the season was thjefirst Dolphins/Broncos derby with a record 1.441m viewers on Fox and Nine. T
The Home and away season tallied an estimated 140m viewers (well up from the 118.964m viewers we estimated in 2022)., including
- 42.345m viewers on Nine (up from 32.267m)
- 49.141m viewers on Foxtel Set top boxes (up from 42.74m)
- up to 48.631m viewers on Foxtels streaming services.
- Sydney average 161,000
- Melbourne average 12,000
- Brisbane average 111,000
- Adelaide average 7,000
- Perth average 8,000
In Brisbane, the Broncos average 170,000, the Dolphins average 126,000. Other Queensland regional teams average 131,000 on Nine, while matches involving no Queensland sides average 98,000.
In NSW, Sydney sides average 163,000 per game, while sides from regional NSW average 163,000 as well. Matches with no teams from NSW average 146,000.
The leading clubs on television during the season werre Brisbane, Sth Sydney, Penrith and Melbourne.
Brisbane were the dominant club on Nine averaging 620,000 viewers per game.
- Penrith 586,000
- Parramatta 569,000
- Sth Sydney 549,000
- Dolphins 521,000
- Melbourne 518,000
- Sydney 510,000
- Sth Sydney 270,000
- Melbourne 267,000
- Nth Queensland 259,000
- Penrith 257,000
The NRL Finals series had 13.879m viewers, with 3.404m tuning in to watch the Grand FInal. This is down from the 15.54m that watched last year.
The most watched final leading up to thje grand final was week 1s Brisbane v Melbourne wich was watched by 1.504m viewers.
The Grand Final
The 2023 NRL Grand Final had the highest ever live streaming audience for an AFL or NRL Grand Final in Australian TV history. Viewers flocked to 9Now, with the game attracting a record BVOD Live average audience of 605,000, up 56% year-on-year.
Grand Final audience
- Metro 1.841m
- Regional 957,000
- BVOD 607,000
Consolidated Grand Final Audience
- Nine 3.577m
- Metro 2.074m
- Reg 881,000
- BVOD 622,000
- Entertainment 1.822m
- Post 1.605m
State of Origin
State of Origin had 10.681m viewers across Mens and womens matches this year. This was up from the 9.939m that watched last year, but with an extra womens origin thrown in.
- Origin 1: 3.421m
- Origin 2: 3.191m
- Origin 3: 2.631m
Foxtel Media has signed 12 brands as sponsors for the 2023 NRL season starting March 2. Sportsbet, McDonald’s, KIA, KFC, VB, McCain, Ford, Red Rooster, Harvey Norman, Chemist Warehouse and Telstra are the 2023 season game day sponsors, with Westpac coming on as the 2023 Fox League Super Saturday Naming Rights partner.
Foxtel Media announced 5 corporate sponsors for the NRLW 2023 season. This includes returning sponsors Telstra, Harvey Norman and Chemist Warehouse, with KFC as the new naming rights sponsor for NRLW live games. Meanwhile, Westpac has signed on as naming rights sponsor of a new NRLW entertainment show titled, NRLW ON FOX, which will air weekly across Foxtel and Kayo Sports.
Nine announced 14 partners for the 2023 NRL season. Harvey Norman, Telstra, Sportsbet and McDonald’s have returned as Full Season Partners, each leveraging of Nine’s NRL content ecosystem. Chemist Warehouse, Kia, Gulf Western Oil, Isuzu Utes, Stan, Tradie and RAM Trucks are also returning as sponsors, while a number of new partner brands, including Westpac, Youi and DoorDash, have partnered with Nine’s footy in 2023.
Andrew Abdo stated that around 6 million people had watched NRLW leading into the Grand Final. 916,000 viewers tuned in across Foxtel and Nine, and when BVOD comes back I expect viewership to hit a million for the NRLW Grand Final.
Consolidated NRLW Grand Final Ratings
- 9/Fox Total 1.02m
- Nine 799,000
- Metro 400,000
- Regional 311,000
- BVOD 88,000
- Fox 133,000
- FoxBVOD 88,000
Origin 1 had 761,000 viewers, while Origin 2 had 677,000 viewers
Stand alone womens matches during the season attracted 83,326 to home and away matches.
These numbers arent included in the season total above.
- Nine 437,000
- Metro 241,000
- Regional 143,000
- 9BVOD 54,000
- Foxleague 146,000
- FoxBVOD 124,000
- Nine 195,000
- Metro 94,000
- Regional 81,000
- 9BVOD 20,000
- Foxleague 75,000
- FOXBVOD N/A
- Fox 61,000
- Post 51,000
- Fox 26,000
Sky reported 700,000 viewers for the week 1 final. We have not been able to clarify exactly whether this is average, peak or reach. NZ media also report this didnt include numbers from Skys sport streaming service.
With no other data to draw on, and no substantial data since 2015, we are unable to even make an educated guess at what the ratings would be now. If that offends you, Im not sorry. Theres literally nothing I can do about it until such a time as data is available.
Sources and acknowledgements
Crowds are sourced from NRL.com, and verified through RLtables with assistance from LeagueUnlimited
Memberships are sourced from club websites, social media and the NRL website. With assistance from LeagueUnlimited
Social Media data is taken from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok.
Ratings data is provided by Oztam and VOZ. Estimated BVOD data is derived from BVOD data on the OZtam site. With assistance from TVBlackbox.
Id like to thank everyone on twitter and Leagueunlimited, and yes even Bigfooty who helped put this altogether over the year.