NRL grand final ratings deliver bad news for fans of daytime decider

Phil Gould, pictured here during the NRL grand final.
Phil Gould is among the many who believe the NRL grand final must remain at night. Image: Getty

A move to a daytime NRL grand final would see TV ratings plummet further while the AFL is being urged to urgently reconsider its starting time after disappointing viewing results for both codes were laid bare over the past week.

That's the compelling argument after Sunday's NRL decider – billed as the Battle of the West between arch-rivals Parramatta and Penrith – attracted a record-low national audience of 2.367m.

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The OzTam figures were respectable in Sydney, where 837,000 tuned in, but average to poor elsewhere in the country.

It comes a week after the Cats-Swans AFL grand final pulled a modest viewership of 2.96m nationally, emboldening rights holder Channel 7's push for a night-time start.

Many rugby league fans argue the poor ratings are another reason television executives can no longer argue a night-time kick-off is mandatory for the grand final to rate.

An overwhelming number of supporters – up to 80 per cent in one poll – are in favour of an afternoon or early evening start rather than the current 7.30pm kick off.

But television guru Steve Molk, from, has bad news for those after change.

"It (this year's ratings) is a cause for concern for Channel 9, but they would fare worse in the afternoon in my opinion," Molk told Yahoo Sports Australia.

"This year's grand final was between two Sydney teams so that takes out a fair chunk of your Queensland audience for starters.

"And being a very one-sided contest means people will have turned off early.

"Factor in people now going to the game or meeting up with friends, which we couldn’t do the last couple of years, and that also has an impact."

Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo, pictured here with the premiership trophy at BlueBet Stadium in Penrith.
Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo celebrate with the premiership trophy at BlueBet Stadium in Penrith. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images) (Jenny Evans via Getty Images)

Phil Gould says NRL grand final must remain at night

Channel 9 commentator Phil Gould tweeted before the match: "There’s a case for daytime or earlier grand final time slots (but) reality is that TV ratings better at night.

"The spectacle and entertainment under lights is far more spectacular, the Monday public holiday (in NSW) to follow diminishes the argument about it being too late for kids."

Molk feels the AFL will have to eventually follow suit and relent to Channel 7's demands and push the grand final back several hours to maximise the television audience.

He said: "The AFL grand final would rate better at night once everyone got over the tradition argument."

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