State of Origin - QLD v NSW: Game 1
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 04: Cameron Munster of the Maroons looks to offload the ball during game one of the 2020 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at the Adelaide Oval on November 04, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Wednesday night’s Origin opener has recorded the lowest TV ratings in the fixture’s history.

For the first time ever the State of Origin series was moved to a standalone post-season slot due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the regular season. 

And it’s seen a poor return from TV viewership, with Game I drawing a national average audience of 2.38 million, which is down almost 25 per cent on last year’s game.

It marks the lowest return in 18 years, with national figures first being made available in 2003.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys told The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday that he believed the expected one-sided result and US election played a part in the poor result.

“I think there were two factors,” he said.

“One, I think a lot of people expected a whitewash and Queensland proved it wrong. And secondly, a lot of people were fixated on the US elections because it was so interesting and that’s proven by the amount of money that has been betted on it.

“I’m not too disappointed. I will wait until next Wednesday and then make a judgement. To compare it just to this game would be premature. There’s no need to hit the panic button at this stage. It was only one game and there was a US election.”

V’landys stood by the decision to move the series to November, declaring that the integrity of the competition was a key priority.

He didn’t rule out keeping Origin as a standalone fixture, saying a call would be made at the end of the series.

“You have to remember why we played it at the end of the season, and that was to protect the integrity of the NRL competition,” V’landys said.

“If you had it mid-season in a competition with less rounds, it would have really disadvantaged those teams that had the good players. Also, one of the reasons we did was to have crowds. If we did it mid-year we wouldn’t have had crowds.

“Once we look at all three games, then we will make a judgement. You have to wait and see the audience now the people realise it will be competitive and not a whitewash. We’re not going to base judgement on one game. We’re waiting on all three.”

Origin TV viewership has been on gradual decline in recent years, with four of the past five matches failing to crack three million viewers.

It comes at a bad time for the NRL has they look to negotiate a new free-to-air television rights deal, including the Origin series.