Rugby League

Grand final TV coverage rates through roof, beats Olympics opening

Saturday night’s AFL grand final out-rated this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony, recording 3.9 million viewers to make it the most watched television program so far in 2021.

For just the second time, the AFL grand final – won on Saturday night by the Melbourne Demons – was held outside Victoria and at night time in the eastern states, and the television event outstripped last year’s decider in Brisbane between Richmond and Geelong by two per cent, and was up 33 per cent on the 2019 decider.

The Demons celebrate their grand final win.Credit:Getty Images

It was the fifth biggest television audience for an AFL grand final and the biggest since the 2016 decider between the Bulldogs and Sydney.

However, opinion remains mixed on whether the decider is best served during the day or at night under lights.

Experienced sports reporter Stephen Quartermain described the night grand final as “the ultimate event” on Twitter, but was met with backlash from hundreds of social media users, including former footballer Brendan Fevola.

A lot of the criticism also revolved around the fact there was little to watch during the day, despite Victorian racing taking advantage of the late start in hosting the Underwood Stakes on Saturday, rather than on Sunday and the NRL shifting Melbourne Storm’s preliminary final with the Penrith Panthers to a 4pm AEST slot.

But Lewis Martin, managing director Seven Melbourne and head of network sport, said the event delivered in spades from a television perspective.

“The historic 2021 AFL grand final lived up to the hype and delivered extraordinary audiences on Seven,” Martin said.

“The AFL is a vital part of Seven’s unrivalled sporting content and once again Australia’s No.1 winter sport has gripped the nation with another unmissable premiership decider.”

By comparison, the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony attracted a peak audience of 3.81 million viewers, and last year’s grand final was watched by 3.812 million viewers nationally.

In 2016, 4.121 million viewers watched the Dogs’ historic premiership win over the Swans.

Incredibly, 900,000 regional viewers watched Saturday night’s grand final, smashing all three State of Origin matches televised this year, where regional NSW and Queensland have a large number of rugby league followers.

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