What has happened?

The  AFL has just staged the second year of AFLX – the shorter, faster format of the traditional game. Played on a rectangular field, with 10 minutes halves, 8 players, super goals, and plenty of at-ground entertainment.  It aired on Friday, Feb 22, and saw 4 teams in a  6 game knockout to the Grand Final. These teams weren’t founded on any traditional club institutions, rather cross-club combinations of the best players with team names like “Rampage” and “Deadly”. Players arrived, not stepping off the team bus in uniform, but as individual rock stars in their own right, complete with designer digs and skateboards.  Whilst the night aired on traditional AFL platforms such as Channel 7 and Fox Footy, there were also some games streamed live on Facebook. What is interesting about the broadcast profile and the robust discussion around the game – is who exactly is the AFL targetting with AFLX? If the social commentary is anything to go by, then definitely not the average AFL fan – who by the way is a 48-year-old male.

The Media Store Take

There is no doubt the AFL is looking to new revenue sources. Whilst the primary goal for the physical world is all about a format that works for global markets and modelled somewhat on the NFL, locally the AFL needs to hold interest for younger audiences too. This year’s AFLX highlights that the format definitely attracted a slightly younger and more male skew than the traditional Friday night broadcast. However, the exception is the 18-24-year-old group in Melbourne, where the female viewers accounted for 62% of the viewing in that age group. This could be a consequence of the impact of the AFLW, but could equally be the entertainment factor,  and the appeal of the “Brand stars” competing in the game.

This game evolution is all part of a much larger plan by the AFL to stay relevant to future generations, which arguably should also mean AFLX live broadcast is on non-traditional channels. However, a much larger play is potentially the AFL’s exclusive partnership with RIOT, (the game developers and creators of League of Legends). These two organisations can benefit a lot from each other. As far as the AFL is concerned, this will be a space to watch, and for brands to play in, as the AFL future proofs itself in both the physical and digital worlds.

Sandra Wiles