THURSDAY night's blockbuster AFL clash between Collingwood and Richmond was the most-watched free-to-air home and away game in a decade.

It was also the highest-rating Thursday night match ever, coinciding with football's return from the COVID-19 shutdown, with 81 days passing between rounds one and two.

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The Magpies and Tigers fought out a draw in a 10-goal slugfest after Nathan Buckley's Collingwood kicked the opening four majors.

Channel Seven's average national audience was 1.275 million, including 1.02 million in metropolitan areas and 273,000 regionally, while Fox Footy's broadcast attracted 342,000 viewers.

Seven's average metropolitan viewership (1.02 million) dwarfed the NRL's corresponding figure of 394,000, with Melbourne's audience (668,000) trumping the NRL's national viewers (619,000).

Channel Seven managing director and head of network sport Lewis Martin said: "Last night just underlines how much Aussies love their footy and how glad we all are to finally have it back."

02:58 Mins
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Watch the last two minutes: Coll v Rich

Enjoy the thrilling final moments between the Magpies and the Tigers

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"We've worked tirelessly for the past three months on some exciting technical innovations and on-air initiatives to further enhance our broadcast for fans at home.

"But the footy will always be at the core of everything we do and we can't wait to bring fans what shapes as a compelling season."

Seven's broadcast included fake crowd noise to compensate for the empty stands and introduced a "Fan Zone", which brought fans into the coverage while they watched from home.

Cardboard cutouts of fans were used behind the goals. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the TV numbers were "massive" and that Seven "did an excellent job". 

The AFL has agreed to revised deals with Channel Seven and Foxtel, with the Telstra arrangement remaining unchanged.

McLachlan said the revised five-year deal with Seven for 2020-2024 was for $730 million, at an average of $146 million per year for free-to-air rights.

"We have revised our deals on the basis we missed a number of rounds this year and we spread that over three (years), so we are pretty comfortable with where we've landed," he told 3AW radio.

"It's a fair deal and it gives us certainty on how we will go forward."