Battle of the Codes: Rugby League’s Challenge Cup Final Faces Off Against Rugby Union’s Showpiece Event

The 2023 Challenge Cup Final captivated close to 1,000,000 viewers at home, despite facing stiff competition from the concurrent Gallagher Premiership Final in rugby union. This scheduling clash highlighted the enduring appeal of both codes, as the rugby league community eagerly anticipated the showpiece event.

Rugby League Takes on Rugby Union in Captivating Challenge Cup Final

The 2023 Challenge Cup Final, played in front of a raucous crowd of 64,845 fans, captivated close to 1,000,000 viewers at home. As the rugby league community eagerly anticipated this showpiece event, it faced stiff competition from the Gallagher Premiership Final, the equivalent of Super League’s Grand Final, which was held concurrently.

Scheduling Clash and Viewership

The decision by Rugby League Commercial and the RFL to bring the Challenge Cup Final forward in the calendar year, compared to the previous year’s August scheduling, had significant implications. While the move allowed for the event to be staged earlier, it also resulted in a clash with the high-profile Rugby Union final, forcing the casual audience to choose between the two codes.

BBC One’s coverage of the Men’s Challenge Cup Final drew an impressive average audience of 745,000, representing a 12.6% share. This was notably higher than the semi-final viewerships, which ranged from 9.6% (Wigan vs Hull KR) to 3.6% (Warrington vs Huddersfield). In contrast, the Rugby Union Final’s combined coverage on ITV and TNT averaged 651,000 viewers, with an 8.8% share on ITV and 2% on TNT.

However, the peak audience for the Rugby Union Final, which exceeded 1,000,000 viewers, edged out the Challenge Cup Final’s peak of 877,000. This decline in peak viewership can be attributed to the lack of the same level of drama seen in the thrilling 2023 final.

Audience Comparison

The average audience for the Challenge Cup Final this year was slightly lower than the previous year’s 784,000, which had a lower audience share of 10.9%. Nonetheless, the peak figure of 1.1 million viewers in 2023 was over 200,000 more than this year’s event.

“The challenge of competing with the prestigious Rugby Union Final is evident, and the rugby league community will hope to avoid such scheduling conflicts in the future. A final featuring two of the top teams in the game deserves the opportunity to capture the attention of at least 1,000,000 viewers.”

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