End-of-year Origin cops more ratings hits

Scott Bailey
·2-min read

State of Origin is almost certain to return to the middle of the year after another lacklustre TV audience for Game II.

Some 2.43 million viewers tuned into Nine for NSW's series-saving win over Queensland on Wednesday night, the second lowest figure in at least 17 years.

The number only marginally beat the 2.38 million that tuned in for Game I in Adelaide, which was the lowest since TV ratings became available in 2003.

There had been hopes that could be due to the match being played interstate, with thoughts the US election may have taken away some viewers.

But Wednesday night showed if that was a contributing factor, it was only minor.

The viewership marks a 13 per cent drop on the 2.8 million who watched Game II last year, which was the least watched match of last year's series on a Sunday night.

Game II also failed to reach 40,000 spectators at ANZ Stadium, although that could be put down to fears of mass gatherings as much as fan fatigue.

It comes after ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has previously stated the game's showpiece event will return to the middle of the year unless this series is a runaway success.

The NRL opted to move this year's interstate series to the end of the year after COVID disrupted the season.

The move was multi-dimensional, allowing crowds and also stopping the game's best talent being taken from club teams in an already shortened season.

But it has left both teams without star players through injury, with Queensland in particular depleted after the full season.

"More likely that this will be the one and only time (Origin is played at the end of the year) because the ratings weren't very good," V'landys told SEN after Game I.

"I know there's been a few excuses, and we will see if those excuses are credible come (Game II) when it's a live rubber.

"If we're able to have (full) crowds again, mid season is probably the right place."