WHEN rugby league bosses open negotiations for a new TV rights deal this year, they should be armed with these compelling figures of the code's undersold popularity on the box.
Rugby union officials, however, would be inclined to feed them into the nearest paper shredder.
The annual Repucom survey of TV audiences for clubs across all four football codes has declared correct weight on a historic NRL quinella, with Brisbane and Parramatta attracting more viewers than AFL giant Collingwood in 2009.
In further proof the code's off-field dramas in 2009 had no effect on its appeal, five of the eight-most watched teams in Australian sport last winter represented the NRL.
Other top-raters were the Dragons, Bulldogs and Storm - and the premiers might have finished higher had Channel 9 not broadcast their Friday night games into Melbourne at obscene hours of the morning.
Furthermore, the figures only applied to regular-season games. Given the NRL Grand Final out-rated the AFL decider on a national scale, it's not out of the question that rugby league could have bridged the slender 400,000 viewer gap in combined audiences for the entire season.
It's no wonder the Bulldogs are standing firm on a $300,000 asking price for their sleeve sponsorship, which last year's occupant Bankstown Sports Club has refused to pay.
"We know it's worth that much because of the amount of exposure our club and the game in general is creating," Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg said. "We've had plenty of companies try to get it cheap, but we won't be budging below $300,000."
The fascinating rankings leave no room for speculation on the sustained power of free-to-air coverage.
Clubs from the two competitions without it - Super 14 and the A-League - were found wallowing on all of the bottom 12 rungs.
Most disconcerting was the performance of Australia's Super 14 quartet. Every A-League team bar the Wellington Phoenix finished above the Waratahs, Brumbies, Reds and Force, with soccer's overall viewership nearly double that of the rah-rahs.
TV ratings ... the stats. Source: The Daily Telegraph