NRL's success in Las Vegas as 'real goal' highlighted amid low American TV ratings

The NRL's disappointing numbers from the US TV audience should be taken with a grain of salt.

A leading television analyst has cast doubts on the NRL's ability to cut through to an American audience on the back of disappointing ratings for the Las Vegas double header. Fox Sports 1 in the States recorded an average viewership of 61,000 for the Manly-Souths game, dropping to 44,000 for the Roosters-Broncos encounter.

Steve Allen, director of strategy and research at Pearman Media, can't see Fox Sports in America enthusiastically pushing the NRL's cause on the back of those figures. "It is, and will be, a long road. US sports is a very crowded market and that audience is practically an asterisk (next to nothing) in US sport telecasting, so it's extremely disappointing," he told Yahoo Sport Australia.

Reece Walsh, pictured here in the NRL in Las Vegas.
Reece Walsh was one of the star attractions in the NRL's takeover of Las Vegas. Image: Getty

"Even with the relationship NRL has through News Corp and Fox Sports, you would have to question any substantial ongoing involvement for NRL telecasting, even with News' historic involvement in rugby league. I do not know if Fox Sports 1 have agreed to any regular telecasting of NRL season 2024 but to me, this is the only hope - to educate and excite US Sports audiences.

"However, it would require solid on-air backing and promotion. My estimate remains, that on these US telecast figures, there is nothing in it for Fox."

Good news for NRL despite low American TV audience

But Allen did see many positives in the inaugural Vegas venture. He said: "The NRL certainly did not leave anything on the field. It was a PR success. We have witnessed a month, at least, of wall-to-wall publicity.

"And with the real goal of entry into the US sports betting market, this shows they might just have made the right impression. It was also a domestic ratings success (in Australia). The live telecast ratings across two matches – on Foxtel and Nine – the total audience was 1,250,000, near 25 per cent up (on the same time last year)."


NRL CEO Andrew Abdo was buoyed – not deterred – by the viewing figures in the States. "The Las Vegas matches were watched by a huge number of people around the world, including a record Australian audience," he pointed out.

Allegiant Stadium, pictured here during the NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos in Las Vegas.
A general view of Allegiant Stadium during the NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos in Las Vegas. (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

"(The double header games) are the two most watched NRL matches in the US on record. We are proud of what we achieved this year in Las Vegas and have been blown away by how positively Americans have responded to rugby league.

"The exposure the game received and the reviews of the matches by US fans and media will be a massive boost for year two and beyond. We are very focused on the long-term opportunity this presents for the game."

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