Perhaps it is time for the AFL and NRL to recognise that their attempts to colonise non-code states have pretty much failed. On the weekend the two grand finals represented ‘back to the future’ moments: two Melbourne teams in the AFL and two Sydney teams in the NRL. The AFL won the largest number of viewers (as noted here) but the interesting feature is not the number of viewers but the spread.
The AFL Grand Final re-match won out over the NRL because it had a lot of viewers across all five cities – a whopping 1.311 million in Melbourne, 405,000 in Sydney, 375,000 in Brisbane, 274,000 in Adelaide and 314,000 in Perth.
The NRL Grand Final scored monster ratings in Sydney and Brisbane (1.127 million and 635,000 respectively) but was ignored by other cities. Only 221,000 Melbourne viewers tuned in. Adelaide had 33,000 and Perth 75,000.
It is clear that the penalties on the Melbourne Storm have wiped out any Rugby League interest in Melbourne (expats from Queensland and NSW excepted). And there is even less interest in Perth and Adelaide.
For the AFL, Brisbane is a beacon. In population adjusted terms almost as many people in Brisbane watched the AFL grand final replay as in Perth. But as soon as the Swans are out of contention, Sydney couldn’t care less about the AFL (Southern and Western expats excepted).
With these numbers, you have to really wonder about the business sense of the AFL expansion into Western Sydney.