The NRL has taken a TV ratings hit with 85,000 less people tuning in to round one compared to last year.
All eyes were on how viewers would respond following the game's off-season from hell which has dragged the game's name through the mud and prompted the ARL Commission to introduce its controversial "no fault" stand down rule.
Despite round one getting off to a flying start with a bumper audience tuning in to the Melbourne v Brisbane season opener, numbers flagged across the weekend.
A total cumulative audience of 4,055,000 tuned in across Fox League and Channel Nine for the eight matches, down from 4,140,000 for the 2018 opening round.
However these number do not take into account the number of viewers who tuned in across streaming portals including Kayo and the NRL's app.
Officials at Rugby League Central were doing handstands after the Storm's 22-12 win over the Broncos attracted a record audience of 1,183,000 (334,000 on Fox League, 849,000 on Nine) on Thursday.
Comparatively, last year's corresponding game between St George Illawarra and Brisbane reached 1,026,000 viewers.
Last year's opening round did have the added bonus of the first Saturday fixture kicking off at the viewer-friendly timeslot of 4.30pm, while this year the Warriors v Canterbury clash began at 3pm.
Just 181,000 tuned in to see the Warriors thrash the Bulldogs, compared with 274,000 who viewed the Sydney Roosters-Wests Tigers thriller in the corresponding Saturday-opening game last year.
Despite reigning wooden spooners Parramatta upsetting the highly-fancied Penrith in a tense match, ratings also took a big dive in the 4pm Sunday timeslot.
Overall, the audience was down 131,000 for the western Sydney derby compared with the corresponding game between the same two sides 12 months earlier.
Last year 242,000 Fox League and 603,000 Nine viewers (845,000 total) watched the match, while this year the Fox audience slid to 233,000 and the Nine audience down to 481,000 (714,000 total).
The cumulative Fox League numbers across the round dropped from 2,063,000 to 2,022,000 while the Nine audience went from 2,077,000 to 2,033,000.
Australian Associated Press