Study: The AFL Still Trumps The NRL For TV Eyeballs (But More Men Than Women Now Watching Women’s Footy)

Study: The AFL Still Trumps The NRL For TV Eyeballs (But More Men Than Women Now Watching Women’s Footy)

The AFL remains Australia’s most popular code when it comes to attracting TV viewers a new study has revealed.

According to research firm Roy Morgan, over 7.4 million Australians aged 14-plus (36 per cent of the population) watch AFL matches on TV including AFL pre-season games, AFL home and away games, AFL Finals, the AFL Women’s competition or the show-piece AFL Grand Final.

For the NRL, the number is six million, however, Roy Morgan is reporting both codes have suffered a decline in TV viewership numbers in recent years.

There’s also news this week that the local football (soccer) A-League competition will revert back to being a winter sport, meaning even more competition for eyeballs.

Another interesting aside is that more more men (1.64 million) than women (1.14 million) now watch the AFL Women’s on TV – the competition is most popular for people aged 50-64 – watched by over 750,000.

According to the study, the AFL is more popular with both genders than the NRL. There are more than 4.2 million men that watch the AFL on TV compared to 3.6 million that watch the NRL and over 3.2 million women that watch the AFL on TV compared to almost 2.4 million that watch the NRL.

TV viewership of the AFL is strongest amongst older Australians. Over 40 per cent of Australians aged 50-plus watch the AFL on TV including 1.97 million aged 50-64 and 1.71 million aged 65-plus.

In contrast around a third of people aged 35-49 (1.77 million) watch the AFL on TV as do just over a quarter of people aged either 25-34 (1 million) or under 25 (975,000).

The rise in TV viewership of the AFL Women’s is perhaps not surprising given the significant expansion of the competition in recent years with six clubs entering the competition in 2019 and 2020. These clubs include the last two Premiers in the AFL Men’s competition Richmond and West Coast as well as Geelong, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, and St. Kilda.

TV Viewership of the AFL vs. NRL: 2020

TV Viewership of AFL Women’s: 2019 cf. 2020

Industry communications director Julian McCrann said the resumption of the AFL season in recent weeks has provided 7.4 million Australians with some live sport to enjoy: “The AFL’s return to competition in early June has provided a degree of normality for Australians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic after the season was suspended for 12 weeks.

“Over a third of Australians (36 per cent) watch the AFL in some form on TV giving the competition the edge over its great rival the NRL watched by 29 per cent of Australians. The most popular AFL viewing experience is the AFL Grand Final watched by over 6.2 million (30 per cent) and this is closely followed by the AFL Home and Away games watched by 5.8 million (28 per cent).

“Unfortunately, the AFL Women’s competition will not be returning in 2020 with the season ending prematurely prior to the Preliminary Finals as the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-March. The AFL Women’s competition is watched by 2.78 million Australians and is the only form of AFL competition to increase its TV viewership compared to a year ago.

“In a time when every investment decision is closely analysed to determine where scarce dollars should be directed the success of AFL Women’s in growing TV viewership over the last year should not be under-estimated. Other AFL competitions, as well as rival sporting codes such as the NRL, have experienced declines in TV viewership compared to a year ago and the outperformance by the AFL Women’s competition suggests there is further growth to come for the league formed less than four years ago.”



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