The NRL's return to the paddock has delivered a bumper win on the airwaves, with Parramatta's demolition job on Brisbane recording more than 1.3 million viewers – the highest rating for a regular season game since 2014.
On the same day that long-term broadcast deals were announced with Foxtel and Channel Nine, rugby league's return dominated TV screens across the country with its largest combined market share in six years.
The total combined audience for the Eels' 34-6 victory tallied at 1,306,938 – a 29.5% increase on the corresponding round-three game in 2019.
NRL acting CEO Andrew Abdo lauded the TV figures on Friday, paying tribute to the efforts that went into making May 28 a remarkable return date for the game.
"Last night was our highest rating regular season game in six years - that’s an outstanding result for the game and our broadcast partners," Abdo said.
"More than 1.3 million Australians watched the return of the Telstra Premiership. Everything our chairman Peter V’landys and the Commission have done has been for our fans, our partners and our shareholders – the clubs and states.
"We’re delighted the resumption of the competition attracted so much interest and exposure for our partners.
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"I want to thank our broadcast partners for the work they have done and the innovations to make the viewing experience as enjoyable as possible for the fans.
"Rugby league is part of the social fabric of so many communities. To have live unscripted sport back unites us and provides enjoyment and something to look forward to."
Nine's 951,938 viewers across metro and regional markets for Thursday night footy were the highest free-to-air ratings for an in-season game since 2016.
That near-million free-to-air viewers figure made for a 39% increase on the 2020 season opener featuring the Eels and Bulldogs for Channel Nine.
Fox Sports' additional 355,000 viewers ranked as the highest-rating game for a simulcast in the broadcaster's history, and made for a 40% upswing on the season kick-off.
The subscription service also recorded its highest regional ratings since 2016, while the Sydney free-to-air audience tuning in was the highest since that same season.
Rugby league's return on Thursday night made it one of the first sporting codes worldwide to get back underway amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, Sky Sports broadcast the Eels-Broncos clash across three channels in the UK, while Fox Sports 1 carried the game in the lucrative US market.
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A strong take-up of the WatchNRL app is also hoped as the code is broadcast around the globe.
The switch to one on-field referee and new six-again rule made for a quality product, with Parramatta setting a rapid pace before running in six tries to one.
With no supporters able to attend Suncorp Stadium due to biosecurity restrictions, broadcast innovations such as artificial crowd noise were well-received by fans on social media.
Friday night's mouthwatering Roosters-Rabbitohs clash is also expected to rate highly with Latrell Mitchell taking on his former club for the first time, while Saturday's Storm-Raiders showdown looms as another ratings winner for Fox Sports.