NRL grand final: Nine smashes finals revenue record ahead of decider

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 29 September 2017
Can legendary Melbourne Storm trio Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk add more silverware to their bulging trophy cabinets?

Nine has smashed its advertising revenue target for this year's NRL grand final in what has been its strongest finals series ever from a revenue perspective.

Overall, the NRL season has delivered “strong single-digit revenue growth” even if TV audiences during the regular season are a tad down on last year.

On Sunday, the North Queensland Cowboys face favourites the Melbourne Story in NRL's showpiece event at ANZ Stadium.
Last year's NRL grand final between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and Melbourne Storm attracted an average national audience of 3.79 million, with 2.67 million metro and 1.2 million regional viewers.

Nine will do well to repeat those numbers this time around as there is no Sydney team, but network's sales director of sport Sam Brennan says ad sales for the grand final exceeded last year's mark a week ago – indicating strong support in the casual advertising market. Spots for the NRL grand final are worth around $125,000 per 30-second ad.

“This will be our biggest finals series ever from a revenue perspective; it's up 4-5% on last year. The ratings are where we thought they would be but what has surprised us this year is how much growth we've seen in the post-match,” Brennan says.

“We've had so many tight games that have come down to the wire that the audience flow into post-game coverage has been extraordinary – 15% to 20% higher than what I was expecting heading into the season.

“What gives me great comfort is that the casual market has been extremely supportive over the course of the home and away season and that only comes when you've got strong and consistent ratings from the year prior.

“We will see some strong single-digit growth on last year. People love sport and will flock to it and our audience and revenue results support that statement.”


To all-time NRL greats, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston, will be on opposing sides,
but the injured JT is unlikely to take the field in what could be his last grand final. 

The Melbourne effect could work in Nine's favour as the AFL season ends on Saturday, giving the Storm clear space with the sports-obsessed Melbourne market.

“The last time Melbourne Storm were in a grand final we delivered over 800,000 people in the Melbourne metro signal,” Brennan points out.

The network has seen a “marginal loss” in total people ratings over the course of the season, but TV audiences have held up pretty well in the major demographics compared to last year.

This year, Nine has had extra competition from Fox Sports, which launched a dedicated Fox League footy channel, but Brennan says this hasn't had any negative impact on Nine's audience.

“I can see no correlation between Fox League and our performance. If anything it is probably putting rugby league in a bit more of a spotlight, which benefits everybody who produces and distributes it,” Brennan says.

The major innovation for Nine's NRL coverage this year has been the introduction of the Telstra Tracker, which was first rolled out for the State of Origin series and has also now been introduced to the AFL.

Nine has exclusive coverage of the NRL grand final, just like it does with the State of Origin.

This year's third match produced the highest TV audience this year with a national average audience of 3.65 million viewers.
Nine will be hoping for a similar TV audience in Sunday’s showpiece event. NRL coverage runs most of the day with lower league grand finals.

Grand final entertainment, this year headlined by Macklemore, begins at 6.30pm with kick off at 7.15pm.

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