The AFL and NRL and the mystery of digital subscriber numbers

Basic Facts

  • The AFL Live application launched in 2012, and shows every game live. From 2013, this service became available to customers on all networks.
  • The NRL Live application launched in 2013 and shows all Foxtel games live, and Nine games at time of broadcast.

For those who wonder about such things, finding out just how many subscribers there are for either the AFL or NRL offerings on mobile and digital is near impossible. Hell even getting media outlets to report the same figures appears to be a damn impossibility, sometimes its hard just getting ONE outlet to agree with itself.

In September 2012, the Financial Review reported that the AFL live app had been downloaded a million times with more than 74% of downloaders taking up a paid subscription.

“This is the first year and people have a whole new experience they need to get their head around . . . but more than 74 per cent of customers converted from the free trial to the [paid] product so that’s been great”

– Adam Good, Telstra Director for Media and Digital Content

Business Spectator reported that it had taken Telstra less than six months to hit the million mark.

In February, 2013, the Financial Review reported that while there had been almost a million downloads, it was partly because the service was limited only to Telstra customers in 2012, the service was then opened up to all customers, regardless of carrier, in 2013.  This apparently followed Telstras negotiations with the NRL which allowed broadcast across multiple carriers, for an extra fee, split between the NRL and Telstra.

The Financial Review reported in July, 2013 that there had been 2 million downloads of the NRL live app on smartphones and ipads, with more than a million video views on the app alone.

In November, 2013, the Financial review reported that the AFL app had more than 2 million downloads.

In December 2013, Roy Morgan Research ran a poll which found that while 6 million Australians over the age of fourteen watch the AFL, only 5.5% or 332,000 used the AFL live app in any given four week period in 2013. The article concluded

“NRL regular season TV viewers are typically more likely to be male and skew younger than AFL viewers. As these groups are also the ones more likely to take up live sports streaming on mobile devices, we could expect the new NRL app will soon attract a higher proportion of its TV viewers than the 4.1% of AFL viewers who used the AFL app in an average month last year. “  


On February 10th, 2014, The Australian reported that the AFL app had been downloaded 1.5 million times, with the NRL app downloaded 800,000 times with numbers expected to increase if Telstra could get them onto Chromecast.

On March 8th, 2014, Fairfax media ran an article that claimed that the AFL app had been downloaded 1.8 million times to the NRL apps 800,000.

On May 5th, 2014, The Financial Review reported that downloads of the AFL app had reached 3.1 million, up about 40% on the uptake in June last year., while the AFL said that it was averaging a million unique viewers across an average weekend of footy.

The AFLs 2014 Annual Report said that downloads of the AFL live app, club apps and Fantasy app totalled 3.8 million compared with 2.9 million in 2013, while the NRL 2014 Annual Report said more than 1.4 million Australians now have the NRL app on their mobile devices.

The AFL showed further details

  • Aggregate video streams of 84 million increased by more than 23 per cent as
    against 2013 (2013 was up 23 per cent on 2012).
  • Paid subscribers to the AFL Live App streaming service, AFL International Streaming Service (Watch AFL) and the re-launched AFL Fantasy service increased by more than 102 per cent on 2013.
  • Downloads of the AFL Live App, Club Apps and Fantasy App grew to a lifetime 3.8 million (2.9 million in 2013).
  • Our Nielsen Online Unique Audience measurement increased by more than 14 per cent for the period March-September 2014 compared with the same period in 2013.
  • Qualitative measurements (user engagement, App Store ratings and Net Promoter Score) were all in excess of our 2014 target.
  • Previously unmeasured analysis of traffic through to functional and transactional
    areas of the sites (club and AFL membership, ticketing and Shop AFL) matched our desired expectations.
  • The live streaming results for the AFL Live App showed: No. 1-ranked sports app in the country; daily engaged users grew by 97 per cent; more than 68 million minutes of live streaming was consumed (+46 per cent); and the average live streaming audience grew by 113 per cent as against 2013.

For the NRL these figures were all that was available –

  • 28 million video views across the NRL network in 2014.
  • 57% of these now occur on a mobile device
  • 3.3 million people access the NRLs digital platforms every month
  • Monthyl NRL app audience grew 46% in 2014.

On June 1, 2015, The Australian reported that the NRL had 1.5 million live action video downloads totalling 25 million viewer minutes, ahead of the AFL on 20 million (although the NRL had  a two week head start on the AFL).

In July 2015. MCN released its July data for downloads and visitors to websites and apps.

In August 2015, Roy Morgan Research published the results of polling which revealed 384,000 people use Telstra’s AFL Live Official App in an average four weeks, up from 254,000 in 2013. Although the AFL Live Official App is also used by people seeking free stats and match info, a paid subscription allows users to stream live to hand-held mobile devices.

In January 2016, NRL Chairman John Grant released a statement that included

More than nine million fans now follow the NRL through the NRL Telstra digital network and social media so we are determined to be at the leading edge in providing digital content on our platforms anywhere and any time. “

In February, 2016, Gillon Mclachlan told a business lunch that 4.2 million people downloaded either the AFL app or an AFL club app in 2015. “That’s a fundamental change”.

The NRL 2015 Annual Report states

  • More than 60 million views on the NRL facebook page in 2015.
  • A unique audience of over 26 million visited the NRL digital network in 2015
  • Over 28 million video streams on the NRl network in 2015.

Telstras 2015 Annual Report reflects that growth also continued across key content areas, particularly in AFL and NRL digital sports properties where live video views increased by over 70 per cent and 100 per cent respectively in the past year.

According to MCN Digital in October 2015, h the AFL held the No.1 spot for sport brands on all mobile devices. The AFL Live App currently sits at over 3 million downloads – the most of any sporting app in Australia. NRL featured prominently with the No.3 Sport brand on smartphones and No.4 on tablet. Fox Sports, which recently added a new all-in one app, made its presence felt in market ranked the No.3 on tablet and No.4 on smartphones.

On May 29th, 2016, The Financial Review reported that  the NRL’s digital strategy, another area it lags behind the AFL. That was borne out in the latest Nielsen digital ratings figures released showed the AFL growing its unique monthly audience total in April by 22 per cent from the previous month to 3.9 million, while the NRL rose 13 per cent to 2.1 million.

In September 2016, Telstra evidently released some data


  • Most watched play of 2016: Hawthorn V St Kilda ANZAC Weekend (267K live streams around 4pm)
  • Most popular game of 2016: Fremantle V Carlton (unique audience of 56,153 / maximum concurrent audience of 27,655)
  • Australia’s most popular team: Carlton (Average unique audience of 34k per match)
  • The game Australia couldn’t stop watching: Carlton V Geelong (2.14 million minutes watched / averaging 43.1 mins per unique audience member)
  • Fastest growing audience of 2016: GWS Giants, Carlton, Sydney Swans (GWS average unique audience of 33k per match, Carlton average unique audience of 34k per match, Sydney average unique audience of 30k per match)

From the NRL side of things, here’s what Telstra found:


  • Most watched play of 2016: Golden Point Match: Cronulla V Titans (29k concurrent users)
  • Most popular game of 2016: Sharks V Titans (59k unique viewers, 29k concurrent users)
  • Australia’s most popular team: Cronulla Sharks (three of the top five games of the year – based on digital pass audience)
  • The game Australia couldn’t stop watching: Battle for the Minor Premiership: Storm v Cowboys (1.8million minutes watched/ 35.9 mins per unique audience member)
  • Fastest growing audience of 2016: Sharks, Raiders, Titans

Key takeouts:

  • Golden Point remains a huge drawcard for digital viewers – the Cronulla v Titans match above (Round 21) pulled big numbers towards the extra time period. While Golden Point remains a polarising aspect of the game, there’s no doubt it’s a ratings winner.
  • Cronulla Sharks are officially the NRL’s most popular team when it comes to digital viewers. They are closely followed by the exciting Canberra Raiders, proving tight, entertaining games and attacking, exciting football is a winner with fans tuning in on-the-go.
  • Fans streamed a total of 2,091,663 hours on the NRL Live App.

The 2016 NRL Annual Report notes

  • The Official NRL App from Telstra saw a 25 per cent increase in audience, a 57 per cent increase in visits and a 60 per cent increase in engagement, with the number of people watching live games on their mobile or tablets more than doubling year-on-year. In fact, more than 100 million minutes of live video was streamed in 2016 for the first time.
  • A cumulative audience of 11 million people follow the game on social media through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat across NRL, Clubs and State League
  • NRL saw a 29 per cent growth across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • NRL Facebook now has more than 1.32 million fans
  • Instagram alone had a 61 per cent year -on-year growth increase
  • There was more than 170 million video views across NRL’s official channels in 2016.
The 2016 AFL Annual Report states
  • Aggregate video streams (excluding AFL Live Pass streaming of live matches) of 135 million, up 11 per cent on 2015;
  • Aggregate monthly unique visitors up five per cent;
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Weibo) up 30 per cent to more than two million followers;
  • Total number of downloads of the AFL Live App and club apps totalling more than 5.8 million (up 1.1 million);
  • Cumulative streaming minutes of live matches via the AFL Live App of 185 million minutes (up 79 million minutes) and peak concurrent Live Pass subscribers up 100 per cent on 2015;
  • International Digital Rights revenue via our partner Brave Bison (formerly Rightster International) grew by more than 20 per cent.
  • The AFL Digital Network consistently achieved the No. 1 Unique Audience metric for all single sport sites for the period February to October. In March and September 2016, we achieved a Unique Audience peak figure of 3.9 million individuals for the respective months.



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