At a time when many proclaimed that broadcast television was dying or dead, the Australian Football League held a steady ship, as 111.4 million people tuned in over the course of the year on the Seven Network and Foxtel, pretty much on par with 2017 overall.
A promising start to the season was waylaid by a late season Ashes series which distracted the AFL viewership – particularly in Melbourne – and a lacklustre Grand Final audience didn’t help matters much either.
Ratings experienced a drop for the AFLW – of around 10% on average, but had a slight increase of 4.4% for the preseason Foxtel-exclusive JLT series.
The 2019 AFL premiership season rated 89.11 million viewers across both the Foxtel and Seven networks with 63% of viewers (56.6m) taking in the feed from 7, 7HD and 7mate, while 37% (32.4m) opted to view the AFL on Foxfooty or Foxsports.
Fairfax media reported late in August that AFL television ratings on Seven were up 7% for the year. Foxtel audiences continued to drop, with the likelihood that many were making their way to Kayo – which launched in the previous November, but by mid season had reached 380,000 subscribers.
The highest rating game of the premiership season was the ANZAC Day clash between Essendon and Collingwood which rated in 1.417m nationally, well up from the 1.221 million that watched in 2018.
Filling out the top 3 were 2 games from round 1 including Collingwood and Geelong on the Friday night which came in at 1.256m and the season opener between Richmond and Carlton at 1.231m.
17 games for the season cross the million audience mark – up from 14 in 2018, including 11 Friday night matches, 4 Thursday day matches and the Anzac Day, Anzac day Eve matches.
As above, the top 3 games on the Seven network for the year were the ANZAC Day clash, and the two round 1 games, with no others topping 900,000 for the year.
Anzac Day was the highest rating game on Foxtel, and one of only two games to rate over 300,000 in the premiership season at 315,000. Round 1s Collingwood v Geelong game was the other coming in at 311,000. Round 10s Sydney v Collingwood game came in 3rd with 294,000 viewers on paytv.
A total of 14.335 million watched the 2019 AFL finals series – up 12.8% on the 2018 series, but down 9.6% from the 15.862 million who watched in 2017.
Early finals weekends were faced with a surprise Ashes assault on Nine, but recovered for the Preliminary finals.
The 2019 AFL Grand Final was a blowout, and this reflected in its TV ratings with only 2.939 million folks switching on – the lowest national tv audience since 2003, and the lowest metro tv ratings since the 1993 Grand Final.The match failed to gain much traction in Sydney, while elsewhere the one sided match caused viewers to switch off early in the peace.
During the premiership season, Collingwood was the most watched AFL club on both Seven (metro) and Foxtel, with 7.826m viewers in the 5 cities on Seven at an average of 460,000 per game and 4.9 million viewers nationally on Foxtel at an average of 224,000 per game.
On Seven, the top 5 was rounded up with Essendon, Richmond, Melbourne and Geelong leading the averages and Richmond, Essendon, Adelaide and West Coast leading the aggregates. At the opposite end of the ladder, Gold Coast finished lowest – the only club to finish with an average metro audience under 100k – followed by St Kilda, Brisbane, Carlton and GWS on aggregate and Brisbane, GWS, Fremantle and St Kilda on Average.
On Foxtel, the top 5 was filled out by Richmond, Geelong, Essendon and Adelaide, while the lower end of the ladder was occupied by Gold Coast, followed by GWS, St Kilda, Port Adelaide and Fremantle.
Note that due to the nature of AFL broadcasts and the way in which data is released, regionals have not been included.
A tale of 5 cities
In Sydney the highest audience was 87,000 for the derby game in Round 6. 2.8 million people watched on the 7 network in Sydney in 2019, with an average viewership of 31,000 per game. The Swans average 53,000 per game on FTA, while relative newcomer Greater Western Sydney averaged 32,000. Games involving neither side averaged 21,000 for the year. Foxtel City splits are not published, however in 2017 the average Foxtel audience in Sydney was just 16,000 per game.
In Melbourne, the highest audience was obviously Anzac Day with 483,000 viewers, followed by the R1 clashes between the Blues and Tigers (475,000) and Magpies/Cats (436,000). A total of 20.08 million people watched the premiership season in Melbourne, with average viewership coming in 261,000. As above Foxtel city information is not available, but in 2017, the average Foxtel audience in Melbourne was 86,000.
In Brisbane, the highest audience was the R23 Richmond v Brisbane clash with 74,000 viewers. A total of 2.59 million people watched the footy in Brisbane on the 7 network, at an average viewership of 28,000 per game. The Lions averaged 43,000 viewers per game in their home city, while the Suns rated 25,000 (and regional splits in their territory are not available). Games on tv in Brisbane featuring neither Queensland side rated an average of 23,000. With no figures available for 2018 and 2019, the average Foxtel viewership in Brisbane in 2017 was 12,000 per game.
In Adelaide, the highest rating game was Round 8s Showdown with 187,000 viewers. The second Showdown rated only 4th with 170,000 viewers. A total of 8.28 million viewers watched the AFL in Adelaide in 2019 at an average of 92,000 viewers per game. Viewers watched Crows games at an average of 133,000 per game, while Power games averaged 105,000. Matches featuring neither side rated an average of just over 70,000 per game. Foxtel viewership in Adelaide in 2017 averaged 21,000 per game.
Finally, to Perth, where the highest rating game was the Western Derby in Round 16 with 235,000 viewers. The first derby in round 4 was the second highest with 228,000. A total of 8.4 million people watched on Seven in Perth at an average of 95,000 per game. West Coast matches averaged 143,000 viewers in Perth, while the Dockers averaged 116,000. Games involving neither side rated an average viewership of 68,000. As mentioned, while we have no recent Foxtel city data, Foxtel viewership in Perth in 2017 averaged 27,000 per game.
Kayo reported in at the start of September that AFL fans watch an average of 3.5 hours a week on Kayo, with regular season games reaching up to 100,000 viewers or more, with Richmond v West Coast attracting 130,000 viewers late in the season on the platform. (The game had a total reach of 628,000 across Foxtel, Foxtel Now, Foxtel Go, and Kayo).
Telstra and the AFL released Live Pass data earlier in September that showed 403 million minutes of AFL were watched in 2019. Collingwood was the most streamed with 57 millions watched over the season, with West Coast (51.9m) and Carlton (51.8m) coming in 2nd and 3rd. The most watched match was Richmond v West Coast with 7 million minutes streamed in Round 22.
The 2019 SANFL Season was watched by more than 788,000 people on the Seven Network in Adelaide, with ratings averaging 34,000, including 98,000 for the Grand Final.
In Melbourne, more than 1.2 million people watched the VFL, at an average of 45,000, including 174,000 in Victoria who watched the Grand Final. In addition, 47,000 tuned in for the VFLW Grand Final.
In Perth, more than 581,000 people watched the WAFL on 7, at an average of 32,000, including 56,000 folks who tuned in for the Grand Final.
· Most Data sourced from OzTAM, RegTAM.