(Image: Seven)

The AFL grand final on Saturday night easily won the battle of the eyeballs (as it has done all throughout the 2020 disjointed COVID year). The NRL grand final fell nearly 900,000 viewers short of the AFL’s audience.

The NRL grand final last night was watched by 2.97 million people nationally on Nine — 2.10 million in the metros and 863,000 in the regions.

It fell short of the most recent high in 2018 when Easts beat the Melbourne Storm (who had won in 2017 and beat Penrith last night). That was up noticeably from the 2.61 million who watched in 2019 (1.87 million in the metros and 775,000 in the regions).

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But last night was well short of the 2018 grand final which was watched by 3.03 million — 2.12 million in the metros and 912,000 in the regions.

The audience again rose for the women’s grand final on Sunday — 552,000 watched the Brisbane Broncos win their third title in a row. 513,000 watched their win last year and 461,000 watched their first title in 2018. That’s a rise of nearly 20% in three years (off a low base, admittedly, but still solid).

Saturday night’s AFL grand final was watched by 3.91 million (2.97 million metro viewers and 833,000 in the regions). That was nearly 900,000 more than the one-sided win by Richmond in 2019 (over GWS) which was watched by 2.94 million (2.197 million metro, 714,000 regions). It was higher than 2018’s 3.38 million (won by the West Coast Eagles) when 3.38 million watched nationally (2.60 million in the metros and 778,000 in the regions).

All AFL games have been well short of the 2005 4.44 million-plus record when the Sydney Swans beat the Weagles. Sydney has in fact played in the top four most watched grand finals since the turn of the century. Without the Swans, no other teams (GWS failed in 2019) will drag in more than 900,000 viewers, as the Swans did, to boost the national total).

In the NRL it was the absence of a team from Queensland which depressed last night’s national audience.

The AFL’s win at the weekend was the easiest win of the final series, but that was no reflection on free to air broadcasters Seven and Foxtel which forced the AFL to accept lower fees for the disrupted season and then sat back and hypocritically lapped up the praise and the higher quality of many games (especially the grand final).

Nine forced the NRL to accept lower payments and yet the rugby league season saw high quality games. As usual the boorish, ‘me first’ behaviour of the networks and Foxtel diminished their reputations, not that of the two codes while the players sacrificed more in the hub system than Seven, Nine or Foxtel did at any time in the seasons. Seven couldn’t be bothered hubbing commentators — most of the commentary coming from Melbourne in a bunker with green screens.

Nine won the night, naturally, Insiders had 586,000 viewers on on the ABC Sunday morning.

In regional markets the NRL grand final was tops with 863,000; the grand final presentation, 577,000; grand final entertainment, 456,000; Seven News, 433,000; Nine/NBN News, 383,000.

Network channel share:

  1. Nine (49.3%)
  2. Seven (20.0%)
  3. ABC (13.5%)
  4. Ten (10.9%)
  5. SBS (6.2%)

Network main channels:

  1. Nine (42.6%)
  2. Seven (15.2%)
  3. ABC (9.9%)
  4. Ten (6.0%)
  5. SBS ONE (4.0%)

Top 5 digital channels:

  1. GO (2.5%)
  2. 10 Bold (2.4%)
  3. 10 Peach (2.1%)
  4. 7mate (2.0%)
  5. Gem 1.9%)

Top 10 national programs:

  1. NRL Grand Final (Nine) 00 2.97 million
  2. NRL Grand Final Presentation (Nine) — 1.86 million
  3. NRL Grand Final Presentation (Nine) — 1.60 million
  4. Seven News — 1.50 million
  5. Nine/NBN News — 1.49 million
  6. 7pm ABC News — 937,000
  7. Restoration Australia (ABC) — 734,000
  8. Nine Late News — 707,000
  9. Grantchester (ABC) — 649,000
  10. Billion Dollar Cruises (Seven) — 640,000

Top metro program:

  1. NRL Grand Final (Nine) — 2.10 million
  2. NRL Grand Final Presentation (Nine) — 1.29 million
  3. NRL Grand Final Presentation (Nine) — 1.15 million
  4. Nine News — 1.11 million
  5. Seven News — 1.08 million

Losers: With the NRL grand final, no real losers. Penrith did themselves proud.

Metro news and current affairs:

  1. Nine News — 1.11 million
  2. Seven News — 1.08 million
  3. 7pm ABC News – 636,000
  4. Nine Late News — 526,000
  5. The Sunday Project 7pm (Ten) — 394,000
  6. The Sunday Project 6.30pm (Ten) — 328,000
  7. Ten News First — 321,000
  8. SBS World News — 190,000

Morning (National) TV:

  1. Insiders (ABC, ABC News) ;– 586,000
  2. Landline (ABC) — 447,000
  3. Weekend Sunrise (Seven) – 417,000
  4. Weekend Today (Nine) – 305,000
  5. Sports Sunday (Nine) — 233,000
  6. Offsiders (ABC) — 215,000

Top five pay TV programs:

  1. NRL: Get ‘Em Onside (Fox League ) — 175,000
  2. NRL: Women’s NRL Grand Final (Fox League ) — 138,000
  3. NRL: Final Footy On Fox (Fox League) — 106,000
  4. Outsiders (Sky News ) — 83,000
  5. F1: Portugal Races (Fox Sports ) — 68,000