Rugby League TV

As part of its bold plan to kick off its 2024 season with a doubleheader in Las Vegas next month, the NRL is partnering with FOX Sports 1 (FS1) to broadcast the games in the United States.

For the first time in its history, the NRL has made the decision to open its season in America and will do so at Allegiant Stadium, home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, on Saturday, March 2nd.

The NRL has a five-year plan to try to eke out a slice of the American sports market, which is dominated by the NFL, followed by the NBA and Major League Baseball.

Doing a deal with any of the leading TV networks to broadcast its season-opening games wasn’t a reality, leaving the NRL to consider other options instead and it ended up going with FS1.

FOX Sports 1 is a cable channel in the US which is currently ranked the 31st most popular channel on TV with a rating of 0.11% (Nielsen). It was watched by a total of 345,000 people during primetime, as of the average weekly audience measurement for the period ending February 4, 2024.

Typically, FS1 gets anywhere from 53,000 to 150,000 viewers (Nielsen) during its off-peak times depending on the day of the week.

To put this into perspective, Nielsen ranks CBS the #1 network with 5.33 million viewers. FOX News is #2 with 2.52 million, NBC is #3 with 2.49 million, ABC is #4 with 2.05 million people watching and FOX is #5 with 1.93 million viewers.

The NRL won’t be up against the NFL as its season-ending Super Bowl was played on February 11th, but it will be competing for eyeballs with the NBA which is now into the second half of its season. The NBA’s Saturday night primetime games the week before this past Sunday’s All-Star game in Indianapolis got 2.57 million viewers (per Nielsen’s daily audience measurement on February 10, 2024).

On top of that, the MLB’s spring training has opened, and the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues typically attract fans in big numbers to Arizona and Florida and that could eat into the number of potential new fans to rugby league that the NRL is hoping to attract.

And baseball’s spring training games will be on television starting on February 22nd.

Ultimately time will tell how successful, or otherwise, the NRL will be by venturing into the US.

In its early season-opening match on FS1, the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles will play the South Sydney Rabbitohs before the Brisbane Broncos take on the Sydney Roosters in the late game.

Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others. Brian has his own YouTube channel @brianlowe5567 where he posts his interviews for Rugby League Planet. Be sure to check it out and subscribe.