The AFL have again beaten the NRL in the grand final TV war, but both codes came away smiling after a fruitful weekend.
Saturday night’s AFL grand final between Richmond and Geelong attracted a national average TV audience of 3.812 million and a peak audience of 4.283 million.
It was the AFL’s highest average audience since the 2016 grand final and was a 30 per cent increase on the 2019 decider, with the decision to schedule it at night playing a massive role in the positive figures.
The NRL’s grand final between Melbourne and Penrith on Sunday attracted a national average TV audience of 2.967 million and a peak audience of 3.442 million.
The national average audience represented a 12 per cent increase on last year’s figure of 2.641 million from the Sydney Roosters-Canberra decider, which was one of the smallest free-to-air audiences for an NRL grand final.
Although rugby league still rules the roost in Queensland and NSW, the AFL is making up ground.
There were 383,000 fans who tuned into the AFL grand final in Brisbane – the highest audience there since 2004, when the Lions’ bid for a four-peat came unstuck at the hands of Port Adelaide.
The numbers in Brisbane on Saturday represented the highest-ever audience for an AFL grand final not featuring the Lions.
The overall Queensland average audience was 523,000, up 22 per cent on last year.
In Perth, the AFL broadcast attracted 335,000 while the NRL got 80,000.
Sydney’s average audience for the AFL grand final was 413,000, which is the highest figure for a non-Swans grand final in the past 20 years.
The AFL heartland of Victoria also experienced a significant ratings boost, with the Melbourne average audience of 1.58 million the highest ever for a grand final.
The overall Victorian market average audience was 1.84 million, which was up 50 per cent on last year.
The AFL now faces a huge decision about whether to revert to a daytime grand final in 2021, or continue with the glitz and glamour that comes with a night-time decider.
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin is among the players calling for the grand final to return to its traditional day-time slot.