IF you didn’t already notice, the Super League season is less than a month away.
But, for reigning Super League champions St Helens, their season will start differently to the rest of the 11 top flight teams.
The Merseyside club will be travelling to Australia for a pre-season warm-up game against NRL side St George Illawarra Dragons before taking on reigning NRL premiers Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge.
Saints take on the Dragons on Saturday 11 February with a 9:05am kick-off (UK time) a week prior to battling Penrith on Saturday 18 February with a kick-off of 7am (UK time).
Interestingly, both Sky Sports and Channel 4 will be showing the World Club Challenge battle, with both programs coming on the TV broadcaster and Sky Sports Arena at 6.30am before kick-off at 7am.
Last season, both Sky and Channel 4 broadcast St Helens’ home semi-final game against the Salford Red Devils.
On Channel 4, that match averaged a viewing figure of 283,000 which was a 4.9% of the TV share, with a one-minute peak of 394,000.
That was actually a remarkable number considering the might of Sky and the fact that 2022 was the first year in which another broadcaster had access to Super League games.
What comparative numbers will we see following the World Club Challenge? Will Channel 4 lure in the viewers or will Sky’s monopoly reign supreme?
It’s an interesting time rugby league is currently going through, with the game’s new stakeholders IMG aiming to ‘re-imagine’ the sport.
What will that mean for Sky and Channel 4 coverage? Well, the TV broadcasting deal is up for discussion for 2024, with the current contract with Sky ending at the culmination of the 2023 Super League season.
66 games will be shown live on Sky this year and ten from Channel 4 – that disparity in itself perhaps shows where the strength lies, but people were certainly impressed by the offering from the terrestrial broadcaster in 2022 and not least with the team of Adam Hills and Helen Skelton fronting it.