Last weekend was one of the best ever for gripping AFL finals and Channel Ten could have won the ratings week nationally if only they’d had the courage of their convictions to go live into the Brisbane and Sydney markets. They wimped it, as Terry Television explains.

So who won the battle of the codes on the box on the weekend? Well you could say Ten won the battle of the codes on Friday and Saturday nights, but then you can also say so did Nine. Impossible? No, it’s all about the codes and where they’re strongest.

And you can also say that because Ten missed a pretty good opportunity to snatch a rare week win nationally over Nine because it failed to take a gamble in its programming of the AFL in Sydney and Brisbane.

Unfortunately for Nine, Rugby League doesn’t rate anywhere else other than NSW and Queensland and while AFL does well in Queensland and in Brisbane, as well as Melbourne and all points west and south, it bombs in Sydney.

The figures for the weekend also leave you wondering that if Ten had gambled a bit more in Sydney, it could at least make some small inroads instead of all but abandoning the market to League at this time of year.

The two AFL finals rated very well, ending up as the 10th (Brisbane-Geelong) and 11th (Port and St Kilda) most watched prime time programs of the week.

In contrast the Saturday night NRL final between North Queensland and Brisbane was the 36th most watched program with a national audience of 1.165 million people, because outside of Brisbane and Sydney League was ignored by viewers.

With Sydney as the biggest and richest media market in the country, it’s the one the AFL needs to conquer and where Ten needs to take more programming gambles next year to try and rest some greater share away from the NRL.

But with Ten failing to exploit the AFL games it had at its disposal on the weekend, you can wonder about just how confident Ten is about tackling the NRL head on in Sydney. On Saturday night the AFL was on delay in Sydney, as it was on Friday, when there was no rugby league being played.

Ten chose to go with stop-gap programming, and its share in Sydney on both nights reflected that. Nine won Sydney on Friday night with a share of 27% from Seven on 25.4% and Ten a distant third on 19.7%.

The Port-St Kilda game on Friday night attracted a national audience of 1.572 million people while the Brisbane-Geelong game on Saturday night gathered a total average audience of 1.611 million. Good numbers on any night but great numbers for the traditionally low evenings of Friday and Saturday.

But the Rugby league rated extra well in Sydney on Saturday night. In fact it was the highest ever audience for a rugby league semi-final in Sydney since Nine has been televising the League.

The North Queensland-Brisbane Broncos game rated 709,081 people on Saturday, with the Brisbane audience averaging 381,006 people.
That audience in Brisbane on Saturday was considerably larger than the 298,732 people who watched the AFL preliminary final on Ten.
That meant Nine won in Brisbane with a 34.6% share to Ten’s 30.5%.

The Brisbane-Geelong game was watched by only 105,553 people in Sydney, 715,933 in Melbourne, 298,732 in Brisbane, 249,638 in Adelaide and 241,968 in Perth.

Proportionately the biggest audiences were in the smaller markets of Perth and Adelaide which didn’t have teams in the game, which shows just how deeply the AFL is entrenched in those markets. More so than the bigger market of Melbourne.

In Sydney on Saturday night Nine won easily, thanks to the League semi-final with a huge 47% share, compared to 12.1% on Ten and 18.4% on Seven. The delayed broadcast of the Brisbane-Geelong game attracted only just over 105,000 viewers from 9.45pm onwards, a missed opportunity.

But the League was all but unwatched outside of Brisbane and Sydney. Just over 48,400 people watched in Melbourne, 11,000 or so in Adelaide and 15,954 in Perth. Nationally it was no contest.

Friday night, though, Ten’s broadcast of the Port-St Kilda Game rated its socks off. In Melbourne Ten got a 46% share and in Adelaide a huge 49.6% share. In Perth the game helped Ten to a 34.9% share.

In Melbourne the Port-St Kilda game was watched by more than 757,000 people, 209,995 in Brisbane, a huge 316,245 in Adelaide and 206,857 people in Perth.

The Saturday night AFL game rated well in the south. Melbourne saw a 44.2% share for Ten, Adelaide a 42.2% share and Perth 34.7%.
Nationally,Ten won Friday (34.6%, to 21.3% for Nine) and Saturday (31.7% to Nine 31.1%) nights, making three for the week (Sunday evening was the other) and enabled Ten to finish a clear second behind Nine over the week. They destroyed Seven’s figures for the week.

But the AFL enabled Ten to win in Melbourne for the week as well as Adelaide and Perth. This week, it won’t matter with the AFL Grand final on Saturday afternoon and out of prime time.

It’s certain to do very well in Brisbane and in Adelaide, but just how well it does in Melbourne will be the mostly keenly awaited outcome.
With no Melbourne teams playing, the strength of the support for the game itself will be tested in the Victorian market.

Overall, good wins to both Ten and Nine from the battle of the codes, but as the sporting cliché goes there can be only one winner, and that was Ten. But Nine won the week because of large winning margins in Sydney and Brisbane.

So just imagine if Ten programmers had had the courage to program both Friday and Saturday night games live into Sydney. They would have trimmed Nine’s audience and probably pulled more people in Sydney on Saturday night and in Brisbane.

So the winner is Nine, because Ten failed to take a decent programming gamble.