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URC more than doubles viewership of Pro14, with Munster the most watched team in Ireland

All five of the highest-viewed derbies of the season took place in Ireland.

A URC flag at Thomond Park.
A URC flag at Thomond Park.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

GAMES DURING LAST season’s inaugural United Rugby Championship were viewed on average by more than double the audience which tuned into the previous season’s Pro14 and Rainbow Cup.

With the addition of South Africa’s four former Super Rugby franchises, and the extension of terrestrial television coverage across the league’s territories, the cumulative average audience per game during the 2021/22 season was 230,000 — a 109% increase on ’20/21.

Munster were the most watched team in Ireland last season, followed by Leinster. Johann van Graan’s side, whose season ended at the quarter-final stage, featured in half of the competition’s 10 most watched regular-season games.

The southern province also featured in four of the five most watched derby fixtures of the season, all of which took place in Ireland.

However, the regular-season fixture which drew the biggest total audience was Ospreys’ Round 3 game with the Sharks, which was viewed by 581,000 people on BBC Wales, SuperSport in South Africa, and Premier Sports in Ireland and the UK.

mike-haley-and-stefan-ungerer Munster's home game with eventual champions, the Stormers, was the third most watched of the regular season. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The all-South African final between the Stormers and the Bulls was the most viewed game of the 2021/22 season overall, a total of 1.25million people tuning into the Stormers’ victory in Cape Town. Over 40% of that audience came from outside of South Africa, with RTÉ’s live coverage accounting for 15% (roughly 190,000 of the 1.25m).

Ulster’s gut-wrenching semi-final defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town drew an audience of 754,000 while the other semi-final, between Leinster and the Bulls in Dublin, drew 472,000. Including the Grand Final, the average audience across the seven play-off games was 537,000.

Italy also reported its largest ever audiences for the URC or its preceding editions.

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warrick-gelant-celebrates-with-the-trophy-after-the-game The Stormers' Grand Final victory over the Bulls was viewed by 1.25 million people, 15% of whom watched it on RTÉ. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Speaking on the figures which were compiled by broadcaster reporter Nielsen Sports, URC CEO Martin Anayi said: “We are blown away by the broadcast audiences in the first season of the United Rugby Championship. It is a tremendous credit to the standard of rugby displayed by our teams and players and the superb work done by our broadcasters to showcase that talent.

“The URC offers a diversity in playing styles and cultures across two hemispheres that is unique in club rugby and we can see that fans in the north and south have been attracted to that. With a mix of free-to-air and pay-TV coverage, allied to our increased presence in South Africa and record figures in Italy, we have found a very effective formula to grow interest in our league and the sport of rugby union.”

Top 10 most watched regular-season games in 2021/22

  1. R3 Ospreys v Cell C Sharks  580,026
  2. R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls 560,886
  3. R2 Munster v DHL Stormers 538,909
  4. R6 Cell C Sharks v Scarlets 531,421
  5. R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  6. R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  7. R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks 484,267
  8. R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652
  9. R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions 468,993
  10. R4 Dragons v DHL Stormers 445,471

Top 5 Games from Ireland

  • R2 Munster v DHL Stormers 538,909
  • R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  • R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks 484,267
  • R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions 468,993

Top 5 Derby Audiences (league-wide)

  • R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  • R16 Ulster v Munster 428,709
  • R15 Munster v Leinster 402,534
  • R6 Leinster v Ulster 401,603 

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