PETER JACKSON: RBS 6 Nations leading the way across the world
25 January 2017 19:25pm
By Peter Jackson
Captains from six countries in the RBS 6 Nations attended Wednesday's launch in London
The RBS 6 Nations has been putting so many numbers through so many roofs for so many years that the next big one can be merely a matter of time, writes Peter Jackson.
"Last year was a very strong year in terms of digital activity.''
The figures generated by the oldest annual international tournament on the sporting planet are so towering that they seem beyond reach. And yet hardly a season goes by without public interest soaring to new heights.
On Wednesday media from across Europe gathered at the Hurlingham Club in London for the launch of the 2017 edition of Rugby's Greatest Championship - another indication of its appeal across the continent.
The following is now so great that the RBS 6 Nations can justifiably point to levels of support beyond those for other prestigious events specialising in various ball games, whether it's soccer, American football, Aussie Rules, Indian cricket or Major League Baseball.
The totals take some adding up every year and 2017 will be no different. Aggregate live attendances at the 15-match event have topped seven figures for each of the last six seasons. There are already signs that the record, 1,043,395 in 2012, will fall and that average crowds for the championship starting on February 4 will inch up to 70,000.
The sell-out of every match would push the overall figure to around 1,076,000. The Scottish Rugby Union has already forecast sell-out crowds at BT Murrayfield against Ireland on February 4 and against Wales three weeks later.
Dominic McKay, the SRU's chief operating officer, greets the news as: "testament to the passion of our fans and the rugby the team is playing. Matchdays at Scotland's biggest stadium are unique. We look forward to welcoming our own fans and our visitors from Ireland, Wales and Italy for what should be three great contests."
There can be no denying that the RBS 6 Nations has excelled itself in recent seasons, not least in its capacity for stage-managing a theatrical denouement. Super Saturday has taken the concept of the grandstand finish to hitherto untouched heights of drama, never more so than two years ago.
A day which began in Rome with Wales making a serious bid for the title at Italy's expense ended with England going within a whisker of topping the pile after a frantic finale against France at Twickenham. In between, Ireland had done just enough to take the crown, deservedly so on the strength of a record 30-point win over Scotland in Edinburgh.
Last year the RBS 6 Nations again demonstrated its penchant for ensuring the last match proved decisive, England's victory in Paris completing their first Grand Slam since 2003. Super Saturday this year, on March 18, features Scotland-Italy, France-Wales and Ireland-England.
Whether that becomes the decider depends on the four previous rounds and the RBS 6 Nations' propensity for dealing in the unexpected. Scotland and Ireland are first up in Edinburgh on February 4, followed by England-France at Twickenham later that afternoon and by Italy-Wales in Rome the next day.
Not surprisingly, the Grand Old Championship's impact on the sports entertainment business has brought the game millions of new converts, if not to the matches, then certainly to a television audience that keeps going up.
Aggregate live viewing figures last year topped 125 million. In 2015, audiences watching on television and on-line reached 140 million, an increase of some twelve per cent on the previous season.
Last year the overall total for both and for the new highlights programmes landed in the same ball park. Online viewing across broadcast partner platforms across the RBS 6 Nations fell just short of ten million, two and a half times greater than the number two seasons ago.
"Last year was a very strong year in terms of digital activity,'' RBS 6 Nations communications manager Shane Whelan said. "The website attracted record numbers while the official YouTube channel now has in excess of 21 million views.
"The popularity of the Championship's social media channels are reflected in the numbers following Facebook (925,243), Twitter (303,000) and Instagram (198,000).
"The official App remains the ultimate screen experience with all-time downloads and updates of more than 3.9 million. The introduction of a Fantasy game last year saw huge interest and record numbers are expected to take part this time round.''
The tournament's global dimension becomes more pronounced with the advent of each new season. Distribution to 21 other European nations exposes each match to another 12 million viewers.
Much larger potential markets are being explored farther afield. Australia, New Zealand, north America, Brazil and the rest of south America, offer the possibility of untold millions more.
"Rest of world and Rest of Europe distribution accounts for an additional 140 million households and 615 million individuals,'' says an RBS 6 Nations report on global expansion. "It is important to note that these territories for the most part are not audited and the figures represent availability, not viewing.
"Going forward, Six Nations is taking a more strategic view of international distribution and will select certain territories from Rest of World for 'special project' status to drive revenues, but, more importantly, awareness for the championship with a view to future development.''
Top ten average live viewing figures across the RBS 6 Nations last year:
France v England 12,638,900
Wales v France 11,188,600
Scotland v England 9,965,300
France v Ireland 9,801,300
England v Ireland 9,494,500
Wales v Scotland 9,233,100
England v Wales 9,221,500
France v Italy 8,751,100
Ireland v Wales 8,497,900
Scotland v France 8,163,400
Average viewing per game: 8,341,487
Top five highest viewing figures for the two previous years:
1 - England v France 13,907,300
2 - Wales v England 11,622,700
3 - Ireland v France 11,170,200
4 - France v Scotland 10,870,800
5 - France v Wales 10,648,300
1 - France v England 13,645,000
2 - France v Ireland 11,733,600
3 - Wales v France 10,953,000
4 - France v Scotland 8,969,700
5 - Italy v France 8,604,000
Total live television viewing figures for 2016:
France 2/3 46,090,000
Discovery (Italy) 5,661,700
Percentage of live BBC/ITV viewing figures 2016:
England v Wales 41.00 per cent
Scotland v England 36.60 per cent
England v Ireland 36.20 per cent
Italy v England 33.60 per cent
Wales v Scotland 32.20 per cent
France v England 32.20 per cent
Ireland v Wales 30.30 per cent
Percentage of live RTE viewing figures 2016:
Ireland v Wales 59.95 per cent
Ireland v Italy 59.36 per cent
France v Ireland 59.29 per cent
Ireland v Scotland 52.79 per cent
England v Ireland 47.49 per cent
Percentage of live France 2/3 viewing figures 2016:
France v Ireland 38.50 per cent.
France v Italy 35.10 per cent
Scotland v France 31.50 per cent
How attendances at the RBS Six Nations last year compared with other major world sporting events:
Event Average crowd
RBS Six Nations 68,728
NFL (American football) 68,216
Rugby World Cup 2015 51,458
Bundesliga (Germany) 43,300
Premier League 36,452
AFL (Aussie Rules) 33,352
IPL (Indian cricket) 32,800
MLB (US baseball) 30,517
La Liga (Spain) 28,191
RBS Six Nations aggregate attendances:
Year Total % of capacity
2011 911,448 94.9
2012 1,043,395 98.2
2013 1,026,527 95.2
2014 1,027,472 96.7
2015 1,040,964 96.5
2016 1,030,921 97.0
Scotland won three matches in this year's Championship
24 March 2017, 3:33pm
Scotland secured three RBS 6 Nations victories for the first time since 2006 as they beat Ireland, Wales and Italy at BT Murrayfield. Here we take a look at what lies ahead for the Scots in the next 12 months.
Peter Malone has been Nigel Carolan's assistant since 2015
24 March 2017, 11:56am
The IRFU have announced Peter Malone as the Ireland Under-20s interim head coach for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Georgia this summer after Nigel Carolan announced he would take a position at Guinness PRO12 side Connacht.