Grand final TV: AFL beats out the NRL

John Davidson Roar Guru

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    The Sydney Swans’ dramatic defeat of Hawthorn in Saturday’s decider has helped the AFL to an impressive national television ratings win over the NRL’s Sunday grand final between the Storm and the Bulldogs.

    The ratings for the AFL grand final on Seven were the biggest since 2005. The 2012 edition racked up 3.196 million viewers in the five metro markets, according to OzTam.

    This included an audience of 1.406 million in Melbourne, 313,000 in Brisbane, 338,000 in Adelaide, 399,000 in Perth and 740,000 in Sydney, obviously helped by the presence of the Swans.

    This figure was a big boost from 2011’s ratings and was the third most watched metropolitan TV program this year. It also beat the 2012 State of Origin figures.

    For a code focused on expansion in NSW and Queensland, this will be a heart-warming result. It also points to the strength of the Swans as a crowd-puller.

    For the NRL, it is a slightly disappointing outcome. The Melbourne Storm’s biting-affected defeat of the Canterbury Bulldogs on Nine managed a five metro figure of 2.424 million. This included 957,000 in Sydney, 751,000 in Melbourne and 564,000 in Brisbane but just 51,000 in Adelaide and 46,000 in Perth.

    While encouragingly this was an improvement on 2011’s grand final figure, it is well below the AFL’s national result.

    It shows the NRL has some work to do to spread the game outside of NSW and Queensland. Expansion into the WA market, and perhaps another Queensland team, should definitely be a priority, I believe.

    It could also mean a change in the time of the kick-off of the rugby league showpiece and a decision to actually sign some credible musicians as the pre-match entertainment, not some contracted Nine talent.

    However, there was some good news for the NRL – its regional audience was higher than the AFL’s.

    Of course, the TV networks cut their broadcast coverages into several different programs to inflate the figures. Seven’s AFL coverage was broken down into five segments and Nine’s NRL into three.

    In my opinion, the introduction of the AFL Media Unit, the re-establishment of the Fox Footy channel and the new broadcast rights deal that has every AFL game shown on TV live, has boosted the sport’s appeal.

    Interestingly, the NRL grand final was watched by more people in Melbourne than the AFL grand final in Sydney. Is this down to the strength of the Melbourne Storm’s following and rugby league in general in Victoria? Or the belief of some that Melbournians are more passionate sports fans?

    More food for thought.