The longtime rivalry between the AFL and NRL has had its ebs and flows for both codes, but as we approach the midway mark of the season for both sports, a trend is beginning to show as the NRL are set to eclipse the AFL as the most watched sport on television this year.

The Oztam ratings suggest that if the watching pattern of Australian sports fans stay steady, the rugby league is headed for a historic season in terms of broadcasting success.

If the NRL is able to pull this off, this would be the first time it has had a larger premiership season audience than the AFL since 2011.

Television ratings in the Australian market has experienced an 8.9 percent decrease overall since 2017, but specifically, the AFL has fallen more than anticipated after Round 9, recording a 13.9 percent decrease. In comparison, the NRL have only suffered a 0.6 percent decrease in viewership since 2017.

The NRL are holding its ground and holding its viewers better than other codes, particularly the AFL.

The AFL's cumulative live audience through the first nine rounds is 36.9m viewers, compared to 42.9m last year, while the NRL's cumulative live audience has been 43m for the first 11 rounds, compared to 43.3m in 2017.

Subscription television also tells a similar story and shows the same patterns as free-to-air TV. The average subscription (Foxtel) audience for NRL is 244,853 this season, dwarfing the AFL's average, 180,387.

Unexpected growth may be on the horizon for the NRL, with their broadcast numbers staying as high as they are at this point of the season, support from non-traditional rugby-supportive locations could become much more prevalent.

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