Channel 4’s Head of Sport on relationship with Sky, pundits for 2023, ‘surprise’ at Super League reaction and reasons for being so successful

ONE of the biggest positives to come out of the 2022 Super League season was the reception towards the beginning of Channel 4’s coverage of the first tier.

With 20 games included in a two-year deal – with ten games a season – Channel 4 took the sport by storm, bringing rugby league to different corners and households.

It was so well received that over three-quarters of a million people tuned in to watch Leeds Rhinos take on the Warrington Wolves in round one, with 2.9 million unique reach across the whole coverage for the ten games.

Even Channel 4’s Head of Sport, Pete Andrews, was taken aback with how popular the coverage was.

“I was a little bit surprised, we knew we were starting with a lot of experienced people behind the scenes who really know what they are doing,” Andrews told League Express.

“There is a lot of people with a lot of passion for rugby league but until you go on air you never know and normally audiences can be impatient, but the rugby league audience has been brilliant.

“I knew we put everything into it, but sometimes it takes a while for programs to find their feet yet I was delighted when it started so well, so early.

“We will be going with the same punditry team and me and Helen will still be there hosting. We do like to add people here and there, but why change a winning squad?”

Andrews also explained why he thinks the Channel 4 coverage did so well in its inaugural year, citing the freshness of a new program as well as the enthusiasm of the punditry team.

“I think obviously there was hopes of a new audience coming in and the first few games were brilliant.

“I think everyone was taken aback with how great an occasion it was and how it went.

“I think Adam is key. To be able to cast a not so traditional sports presenter was different but the passion cannot be denied. Adam was actually umming and ahhring when we approached him because he said he wasn’t an expert.

“But, his love shone through and rugby league fans could see how much he loved the game. Danika (Priim) and Kyle (Amor) were naturals to television and Mark Wilson has done a tremendous job on commentary.

“We’ve had a lot of good people coming in too like Sam (Tomkins) and Leon (Pryce). Sometimes the chemistry is there, it’s a hard thing to build but if it’s there then we don’t need to meddle with it.

“We also get time to build up to ten games a year but Sky are covering two games a week. We have the advantage of having all that time to plan our program.

“Sport, free to air is a big driver for all sorts of things such as exercise. There is a good mix, I remember watching Challenge Cup finals as a kid and watching rugby league on grandstand.

“It’s lovely having Super League on terrestrial. We are still a public service broadcaster so it’s great to have it on terrestrial.”

That being said, whilst some people have called it a ‘rivalry’ between Channel 4 and Sky, that actually couldn’t be further from the truth with the two companies enjoying a fruitful relationship.

“I think Sky have done a brilliant job for rugby league over a long time. We have to appreciate they are really good partners to work with, they are really generous to us.

“We work with Sky on Formula 1 as well as cricket so they’ve done really well for rugby league and that’s something we need to appreciate.”