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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Australia’s National Rugby League Poised to Take on US Audiences

For the first time ever, Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) will kick off its Premiership season on American soil (Saturday 2 March 2024 local time) at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas.

Sponsored by Australian telecommunications company, Telstra, Round 1 of the NRL will see two matches take place in Las Vegas – Sydney teams the Sea Eagles and the Rabbitohs, followed by Sydney’s Roosters vs Queensland’s Brisbane Broncos. The first match will be televised in Australia via subscription services Kayo and Foxtel, while the second tussle will be available via the Nine Network, Nine Now, Kayo and Foxtel. Both will be shot in 4K.

As the Las Vegas venue would suggest, however, the target audience for this year’s opening NRL is the American sports fan. In terms of stadium audience, the NRL is aiming for some 60,000 attendees. US television viewers, meanwhile, will be able to catch the NRL doubleheader live on the Fox Sports’ FS1 channel and the FOX Sports app. The matches are also available to other foreign territories via

Speaking at a recent Business Sydney function, chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, Peter V’landys, outlined the NRL’s strategy to overcome the limitations of scale with current audiences.

“I went overseas to try to sell the NRL broadcast,” said V’landys. “We wanted to get competitive attention, naturally, to maximise the return on the broadcast. And we went to Amazon, we went to Facebook, we went to Twitter, we went to all of them. And they all said, ‘what’s the population of Australia?’ And, I’d say 26 million. They said, ‘see you later’. I said, what do you mean? They said, ‘You’re so small-scale, there’s 40 million in California. Why would we be bothered with somebody with 26 million that’s just not in our market? We’ll do a revenue share, you pay for production.

“But, they made me think they’re right. We’ve got no scale in Australia. And then I looked at the population in America, it’s 340 million people. And we have an app in America that we sell, which is an NRL app that you can watch every game. It’s a $160 subscription. And I worked out that if we could get 0.1% every year of the population in America, we would generate $650 million in additional broadcast revenue. Even if we got half, that’s 300 million. Now, in order to do that, you need a good partner, which we do with Fox. And if we can get Fox to show us on Fox One in America every week after we’ve promoted it at Vegas, I think it’s got an unlimited potential, not just for rugby league but for all sports in Australia, to sell to a scale that’s much bigger than what Australia will ever be.

“And, if it works, then you can try other big populations like India or China or those places where there is scale. Australia has a very small population, so if you want a big market, you need to look elsewhere, and that’s why we’ve looked at the US. And I’m very confident that if we do it right, and it all comes back to implementation, if we do it right in America, we can be talking billions of dollars in 10 or 20 years.”


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