Rugby Australia [RA] says the response to the debut broadcast of Super Rugby AU on Nine Gem and Stan Sport has been "overwhelming", with the governing body lauding the increased ratings from the competition's opening night.
Friday night's double-header marked the start of the sport's new streaming era on Stan Sport, which broadcast both Super Rugby AU games live and ad-free, while also seeing a provincial game screened live on free-to-air television for the first time as well.
RA are seemingly ecstatic with the early response, too, with a spokesperson claiming Friday night's Reds-Waratahs opener was 161 percent up on the viewership for the same Round 1 opener on Fox Sports last year.
The spokesperson claimed the free-to-air broadcast for the Reds-Waratahs match on Nine Gem rated 146K across both metro and regional.
"It was a great start to our new partnership with Nine and Stan Sport," RA chief executive Andy Marinos said.
"The community response has been overwhelming. People have been telling me how much they loved the new look and feel of the broadcast, the accessibility of the games as well as the quality on display.
"This is just the beginning though and we look forward to growing with Nine and Stan."
Nine and Stan had driven a huge marketing campaign in the lead-up to kick-off, with Super Rugby AU promoted across Nine's Australian Open broadcast while Stan Sport was hugely visible across various advertising mediums.
"Friday night's launch of Rugby on both Stan Sport and 9Gem was hugely successful, exceeding all expectations," Nine director of sport Brent Williams said.
"We look forward to growing on this strong base as we continue to work closely with Rugby Australia, the teams and players to build our coverage throughout the season."
Stan Sport on Friday also announced it had done a deal to screen select games from the Japanese Top League where Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is currently stationed as part of a six-month playing sabbatical.
Playing alongside former All Blacks captain Kieran Read, Hooper's Toyota Verblitz defeated Toshiba Brave Lupus while former Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi helped power Suntory Sungoliath to a whopping 75-7 win over Mitsubishi Dynaboars. Both games were screened live on Stan Sport and while ESPN was told of multiple reports of a deterioration in the broadcast quality for the Toyota-Mitsubishi match, a Stan Sport spokesperson insisted the technical aspect was fine on its end.
It would appear Australian rugby fans might have to be prepared for an adjustment to streaming and temperamental wifi.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing for Stan Sport, with the streaming service currently struggling to secure a deal for pubs and clubs across Australia.
A breakdown in talks with TABcorp on the eve of Super Rugby AU prevented Friday night's second game between the Brumbies and Force being shown in hotels and clubs with a resolution unlikely to come ahead of Round 2.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Stan Sport is investigating the use of Smart TVs in hospitality venues as a means of ensuring the streaming service's exclusive games are viewable in such venues.
With Super Rugby Aotearoa kicking off this weekend, Stan Sport will want to find a solution quickly given the competition's popularity among rugby fans and for the fact that it will not be screened on free-to-air television at all.
Hospitality venues could also investigate digital casting solutions themselves, providing they have access to a Stan Sport account.