The Absa Currie Cup season broke television broadcast records, the South African Rugby Union announced on Friday.
An average of 525 000 viewers watched the 33 matches in the competition – an increase of 36% on the 2011 season average – according to data produced by Repucom from DSTVi All4+ information.
The average was the first time it had breached the half a million barrier while Saturday’s final between The Sharks and DHL Western Province attracted the largest ever audience for an Absa Currie Cup match on SuperSport.
An average of 1,14m viewers tuned in to the coverage with a peak audience of 1,3m viewers. The 36% growth in average audience was against the backdrop of a 24% growth in the available audience.
“The semi-final and final numbers are on a par with the biggest matches in Vodacom Super Rugby,” said Jurie Roux, SARU CEO. “They confirm that the Absa Currie Cup has lost none of its appeal for rugby supporters.
“The return to a strength-versus-strength format intensified interest and the unpredictable nature of the games made for compelling viewing. That accounted for the increased average audiences, but the fact that the average audience for the semi-finals and finals was also up by more than 200 000 viewers in comparison to 2011 tells its own story.”
Repucom SA chairman, Kelvin Watt, added: "What makes these numbers even more remarkable is that they exclude SuperSport HD and Out of Home viewing which we believe accounts for between 30% and 45% for major matches such as finals."
Roux said SARU was monitoring the fact that stadium attendance had declined in 2012. He said that it was a trend being experienced by a number of live sporting events: “Whether it is a reflection of the general economic climate, the competition scheduling or of a wider phenomenon remains to be seen,” he said.