Thursday, 17 September 2015

TV tales

Since the move to BT Sport in 2013 Premiership Rugby have not been shy about telling everyone how well that move has worked in terms of TV viewers.

Using we at Leicester Tigers Ultra SubMarines have been tracking the viewing figures from the past 11 Premiership Finals and they tell an interesting story.

These figures are based on the average viewers for a programme, other figures may be based on a peak audience which will obviously be higher.  For instance it is claimed the 2015 Premiership Final's peak audience was 297,000; but BARB reports the average figures at 165,000.  Obviously BT's preference for a long pre-game build up and post game analysis will hurt an average but the Premiership Final's record average viewing figures were 394,000 in 2009; the last final before the announcement to move away from Sky Sports.  So whilst you've probably read about a huge rise in viewing figures these are all based from the historic lows recorded on the short lived ESPN.

As we can see from the high point on Sky Sports we have actually lost c.60% of viewers.

Successful growth in TV audiences according to Premiership Rugby

BARB also allows us to track the weekly figures from the 2014-15 season.  BT Sport showed 66 games in the regular season and it is these we shall review.

BT Sport regularly show one game on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The kick off times on Saturday and Sunday migrate a bit around the day but the times are pretty consistent.  On Saturday at 3:15 you can be pretty confidant of catching a game.

Does the kick off time have an affect on the viewing figures?

A simple analysis says that it does.  Traditionalists will rejoice that the most popular time for armchair fans is good old Saturday at 3 o'clock.  As a canny reader will spot that was just the one game though, Saracens hosting of Quins at Wembley.

Generally Saturday was the best day with a consistent 150,000 people tuning in.  The low of 77,500 can be explained as the last day of the Premiership season which saw 155,000 people watch the two games simultaneously broadcast.  Friday nights are the next most popular, a fairly consistent 100,000 tuning in each week, whilst Sundays saw very changeable audiences with a peak 162,000 seeing Gloucester play Wasps over Christmas whilst only 32,000 saw Wasps travel to Sale in October.

That begs the question do the teams involved make a difference to the viewing figures?

Saracens v Bath failed to get in BARB's weekly top 10 so is excluded from these figures

It looks like they do.  Overall Northampton were the most watched team with 1,988,000 views over the course of the season, just beating Tigers by 6,000.

Tigers though had two fewer games broadcast and were well ahead of any rivals on a per game basis.  These figures are interesting when compared with attendances (excluding "big games" at Wembley, Twickenham and Stadium MK).

The TV figures are much closer to the competition average smoothing the results, with Irish attracting the least viewers but only 22.35% less than the average.

Welsh in contrast attracted 70.61% less than the average attendance.  Similarly Tigers attracted TV audiences 26.35% up on our rivals but our attendances were near enough double the competition average.

What this does show is that those clubs that have been successful in building their attendances have also been successful in bringing fans in front of the TV.  The only club to buck that trend is Wasps and this due to bump in attendances generated with the move to Coventry.  It will be interesting to see if their new found fan base is willing to part with their hard earned cash for a BT Sports subscription next season.

Overall the most watched game in the season was Tigers 32-12 loss at The Stoop whilst Sarries "Big Game" at Wembley and Tigers trip to Northampton pre-Christmas were the others with an average over 200,000 views.  The Premiership Final would be the 7th most watched game on this measure.

According to data published this was the most watched regular season match in 2015 in either Rugby Union or League.  For those who love rivalry between the codes the same source gives the Super League an average viewership of 114,327, 2% above the Premiership's figure.

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