Has the Women’s World Cup killed ratings success for free-to-air TV shows?

The Matildas' captivating World Cup run is shaking up ratings across the TV industry.

The Matildas' captivating World Cup run is shaking up ratings across the TV industry. Photo: TND/Seven/Getty/Nine

Let’s face it, nobody was grabbing the TV remote to change channels before, during or after the Matildas’ FIFA Women’s World Cup match on Monday night.

As the Seven network’s lead-in show, The Voice, wrapped, and with a 30-minute Women’s World Cup pre-match including plenty of Sam Kerr ‘will-she-or-won’t-she-play’ hysterics, audiences across Australia were glued to their television sets on August 7.

Besides the 75,000 soccer fans who turned up on a cold winter’s night to Stadium Australia in Sydney’s west (with an overall tournament attendance record of 1.4 million and rising), it turned out to be a TV-ratings bonanza for the host broadcaster.

Audiences at home and at the stadium held their collective breath as Sam Kerr slipped during her 10-minute cameo after a calf injury. Photo: AAP

They pulled in 6.54 million viewers, with an average audience of 3.56 million throughout the game as the country watched Australia defeat Denmark to advance to the quarter-finals.

“[It] beat the viewership of the 2022 AFL grand final (2,179,000) … [and] the spectacular outing eclipsed the competition as the biggest solo channel broadcast of 2023,” reported Mediaweek in its daily TV ratings wrap.

Nine’s big-budget show The Block, which launched only 24 hours before, started at 7.30pm, while the finale of Ten’s Hunted and then Have You Been Paying Attention? had to brace themselves for softer ratings.

Seven reported the pre-match program was the “No.2 broadcast program nationally in 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s and No.3 in all people (1.53 million broadcast viewers), while the post-game program was No.3 nationally in 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s and No.5 in all people (1.22 million broadcast viewers)”.

“It’s very satisfying,” Football Australia (FA) chief executive James Johnson said.

“To put it in perspective, there hasn’t been a State of Origin match or an NRL grand final since 2016 that have reached those (broadcast) numbers. So things are in a good space.

“The game is in a very strong position. We’re coming off the best-ever performance at a men’s World Cup, and regardless of the outcome on Saturday night (when the Matildas play their last-eight match), we’ve at least equalled the best performance at a Women’s World Cup.”

Broadcast rights for the Matildas and Socceroos are up next year, with Mr Johnson confirming the process to negotiate a new deal will begin next month, adding they were happy with the current Network Ten deal.

Bathroom renovations began for the five couples renovating 1950s homes on Charming Street in Hampton East. Photo: Nine

A short reprieve for The Block

The saving grace for big-budget home-grown content, especially The Block, is that the Women’s World Cup matches aren’t all scheduled to go head to head in the crucial 7.30pm weekday time slot.

For example, the Matildas play France on Saturday (August 12) with the pre-match at 4pm and the game scheduled to kick off at 5pm in Brisbane.

Seven, which also owns the rights to the AFL, has moved the Carlton v Melbourne match at the MCG back five minutes to 7.30pm.

So it’s a win for football fans of both codes.

On Tuesday night, The Block bounced back in ratings, with Nine announcing it “took out the top program streamed on catch up against all broadcasters”.

However, reported The Voice had the win with 624,000 “while The Block (568,000) slipped night on night and finds itself in a definite second place in prime time”.

Both the Nine and Seven networks will be keeping a close eye on The Block and The Voice as they resume the ratings TV war on Sunday (7pm) through to Tuesday (7.30pm weeknights).

Then there’s some bad news.

On August 16, The Block goes head to head again in prime time with the Women’s World Cup … at 7.30pm.

For a show that has spent $14 million buying five houses in Hampton East, spent months recruiting influencer couples with TV appeal, and kept a host of crucial sponsors on board, programmers are most likely counting down the days until the Women’s World Cup plays out its final match on August 20.

The Block and The Voice will do OK but not as well as they have,  simply because they are existing formats and have audiences … though we’re all tired,” TV Blackbox’s Steve Molk says.

“They’ll have to bring something new to secure our interest.”

Twelve-year-old Gezel Bardossi on The Voice. Photo: Seven

Meanwhile, if Monday night’s figures on Seven are anything to go by, the broadcast rights for football will clearly be in demand.

“Ten have been a great broadcast partner, and one where the whole country can watch the Matildas and the Socceroos free to air every single match,” Mr Johnson said.

Sponsors have flocked to the Matildas, but he urged governments and other partners to maintain the rage post-World Cup.

“We need our sponsors (and) broadcasters to continue to support post-Women’s World Cup and we need support across the sport.

“Because we’re all focused right now on the Matildas, the Women’s World Cup, and it’s magnificent.

“But as soon as we finish, we go straight back into an October window where the Socceroos are front and centre.

“Football needs ongoing support from government and commercial partners to continue on the trajectory that we’re on.”

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is live and free on Seven and 7plus. The Matildas play France with coverage starting from 4pm on Saturday

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