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Seven boss eyes prime time AFL grand final

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The match, which ended in a thumping 81-point win for the Geelong Cats over the Sydney Swans, was broadcast live on Seven and drew a national television audience of just 2.96 million (with an additional 95,000 viewers tuning in on 7plus), making it the second-lowest-rating AFL grand final in the past two decades. The ratings for Saturday’s grand final only marginally eclipsed the national TV audience for the 2019 decider, which was a similarly lopsided affair, with Richmond crushing GWS by 89 points. That match drew a national audience of 2.4 million.The one-sided nature of the Geelong-Swans match on Saturday was undoubtedly a key factor in the surprisingly low TV ratings, given that the Cats had raced out to a matchwinning lead by quarter-time.But the fact that the national free-to-air audience failed to break through the three million mark – when pre-game expectations were that it would pull in excess of four million viewers – prompted Mr Warburton to revive the debate about the grand final timeslot. “We will always support the decisions the AFL makes for the fans,” the Seven chief executive told The Australian on Sunday.“The numbers and comparisons are clear for all to see to support a prime time grand final.“ It’s a national game and a twilight or prime time bounce will maximise the audience for the code.”Mr Warburton, who earlier this month brokered a record multibillion-dollar deal with the AFL to ensure that Seven remains the sport’s free-to-air broadcast partner until the end of the 2031 season, has been agitating for years for the code’s September showpiece to be moved from its traditional 2.30pm start.But he has always acknowledged that the timing of the grand final is ultimately a matter for the AFL’s governing body to decide, and the AFL remains reluctant to make any changes, primarily because of significant opposition to the idea among the game’s fans.  In May this year, the sport’s chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan said that the league would not shift the grand final to prime time any time soon. “We won’t be going to night, it will be a twilight or a day,” McLachlan said.“And on the other side (of the debate) … over 100 years we have been playing at 2pm-something. And we respect that people like their rituals and the traditions.“A lot of people like the tradition of 2.30pm.”A spokesperson for the AFL told The Australian on Sunday: “It was fantastic to have the 2022 AFL grand final return to Melbourne in front of 100,000 fans on what was a perfect, sunny afternoon. “The build-up into the game was epic.“Like we do every year, we will review all aspects of the finals series and present our recommendations to the commission at the appropriate time.”The AFL held the 2020 and 2021 grand finals in twilight timeslots, but the games were played interstate, away from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, because the southern capital was in lockdown on both occasions.The 2020 grand final between Richmond and Geelong, which was played in Brisbane at 6.30pm local time, drew a healthy national TV audience of 3.82 million, while last year’s decider in Perth, between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, was played at 5.15pm local time and pulled 3.91 million viewers across Australia.The NRL moved its grand final away from its traditional 3pm starting time in 2001, when it held its decider in a twilight timeslot. For the past few years, it has been held in prime time on Sunday night; next week’s grand final between Penrith and Parramatta will kick off at 7.30pm.

Source: Daily Telegraph
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