With the AFL having a national footprint; it’s generally expected to eclipse NRL when the figures are compared. However; when representative games and junior footage (Toyota Cup) is added in – the National Rugby League has come out on top of AFL for the first time in many years.
While the AFL does not have rep and junior coverage; they do have the NAB Cup tournament which provides good figures for their code – these figures were also taken into account when compared to the NRL.The promising victory is a vote of confidence for the NRL, clubs and the new frontier as TV rights are soon to be negotiated.
The growth in viewing figures also backs up the decision by the National League not to expand too quickly; with additional teams on hold for now.Many feel the success of the NRL relates to the ‘closeness’ of the competition. In weekly rounds, any team can win on their day – by comparison, the AFL has several ‘easy-beat’ teams that are rarely a chance of winning week to week.
This could prove a problem as the AFL tries to expand into the Gold Coast and Western Sydney; with new clubs generally needing several years before they have the infrastructure and stock to be competitive weekly.The other surprising figure related to pay-television viewing stats.
While the AFL outscores the NRL on free to air viewing (understandable given the 4 AFL games to 3 NRL games shown weekly on free to air TV) and with 99% of the population having free-to-air access; penetration is ensured.However, with pay-tv only reaching 33% of the population – the NRL really shines through here, achieving a good portion of this market.
The National Rugby League achieves almost double the viewing figures of AFL on Foxtel, despite being paid less for the rights to the games.It’s all good news for the NRL as they look to establish a new commission to run the game. They have a solid package that is continually repairing year on year after the Super League war; combined with strong regional support, solid tv ratings and competitive games weekly.
Headlines at times aren’t kind, but like it or not – they keep the game on the front and back pages; with marketing that at times is hard to buy. The future challenges really lie with the salary cap, the need for a national competition once more and essentially a player draft system.