Ex-St Helens and Hull FC winger Jamie Foster gives verdict on Channel 4

Channel 4 has provided a major boost to Super League in 2022.

After signing a two-year contract at the beginning of the year, the broadcasting channel has gone from strength to strength in its coverage of the UK top flight.

Starting out with Leeds Rhinos against Warrington Wolves led by Australian host Adam Hills and a plethora of excited and enthusiastic pundits such as Danika Priim, Leon Pryce and Kevin Brown.

There was considerable excitement amongst – not just rugby league fans – but the general public, interested in seeing live rugby league on terrestrial television for the first time.

There was perhaps no wonder, therefore, that the crowd figures resembled that with an average audience of 531,000 with almost 750,000 watching the final few moments of the game.

That was the equivalent of a 7% audience share which proves just how well received the game was in its new home.

Whilst experiencing a drop in viewing figures, St Helens’ fixture over Hull FC a week later still pulled in considerable numbers, too.

The highest-minute peak was 624,000 with the average audience for the match (whistle-to-whistle) being 515,000 – which equated to a 6.8% audience share.

The match did really well with 16-34 year olds – it was the most popular programme with that age group on at that time with a 13.7% share, up 117% on slot.

The average audience for the whole programme : 468,000 which was 6.0%, up 43% on slot average thousands and up 29% for share.

Unfortunately for the broadcaster, Warrington Wolves’ home fixture against Wakefield Trinity was less well received as perhaps a combination of the good weather and two sides who some rugby league fans weren’t interested in reduced the numbers.

There was an average viewing figure of 198,000 which was 3.4% of the coverage at that time with a peak of 297,000.

Wigan Warriors and Salford Red Devils then played out a classic, but instead of a Saturday primetime TV slot, the game was broadcast on a Sunday – and that seemingly did little to help the numbers.

Channel 4 revealed that the viewing figures took on an average of 213,000 which equated to 3.2% of the TV share with the peak at 270,000.

Four games down, another followed a month later when Hull KR hosted Catalans Dragons back in the Saturday lunchtime slot.

No wonder, then, that the viewing figures increased: there was a programme average viewing of 207,000 – 4.3% of the TV share – whilst the match itself took an average of 254,000 – 5.2% of the TV share – with a minute peak at 314,000.

With Castleford’s debut on Channel 4, the increase in viewers rose sharply despite the fact that it was a Bank Holiday weekend in celebration of the Queen’s 70th year on the throne.

There was a peak of 390,000 with a match average of 302,000 which equated to 5.4% of the TV share at the time and a broadcast average of 268,000 or 4.8%.

And, for a number of the rugby league fraternity, Channel 4 has provided a major breath of fresh air with former St Helens and Bradford Bulls winger Jamie Foster giving the coverage a 10/10 on a Twitter poll devised by Serious About Rugby League.

His tweet read: “10…really enjoyed it. Keep it coming.”

Foster has been outspoken in recent weeks on a number of issues, causing some controversy especially after including Warrington Wolves and their current issues in a tweet.

Foster tweeted: “What’s going on at @WarringtonRLFC ??? I thought Powell coming in was gonna give them a boost this year but they Can’t buy a win. Litrelly. Paying all them wives who work in club shop as well 6 figures. Wow.”

It’s fair to say the backlash was…hefty.

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