The 2012 television ratings year — which finished over the weekend — produced some unmemorable bombs. But there was no bigger turkey than Lachlan Murdoch’s Ten Network.
At long last we can give Ten an award for its performance in 2012. Official ratings are over for the year and Ten easily claims the biggest turkey title.
Ten’s 2012 ratings review summed up its performance like this: “Local productions deliver strong results, led by MasterChef, The Biggest Loser and Offspring.” Not a mention of the late-year ratings collapse and losses. (Of course, Nine’s report didn’t mention the debt for equity deal that stopped the network from imploding, while Seven’s release missed the big fall in the Seven West media share price.)
Given its ratings slide, it’s no wonder Ten isn’t talking about its performance, except to promise to do better when Lachlan Murdoch and the rest of the board front this Thursday’s annual meeting in Sydney. But the dud programs have to be acknowledged, along with those flops Nine and Seven have already consigned to the boning yard.
Before all that, the winners: Seven and Nine (most improved). Nine won the 25 to 54s, Seven won the rest. The ABC and especially ABC1 had a strong finish to the year, thanks in part to Ten’s award-winning ratings collapse but also to a strong suite of local product.
Seven had a total combined share for all channels of 30.8%, down slightly from the 31.0% in 2011 (you can blame the slide in Australia’s Got Talent, plus disappointing performances from the 6pm news and Today Tonight in Sydney and Melbourne). Nine rose to 27.6% from 26.3%, the ABC jumped to 17.1% from 15.9% and SBS edged up to 5.5% from 5.4%. Ten, on the other hand, experienced a sharp fall from 21.4% in 2011 to 18.9% this year.
Biggest failures (in no particular order)? Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive, Don’t Tell The Bride, Being Lara Bingle, The Shire, Emily Owens MD, Hawaii Five O and the finally cancelled Breakfast (Ten); Please Marry My Boy, Smash and Brynne: My Bedazzled Life (Seven); Two and a Half Men, Anger Management, Excess Baggage, Tricky Business and Two Broke Girls (Nine); Problems and Randling (ABC). On top of that Big Brother (Nine) and Beauty and The Geek Australia (Seven) started their seasons promisingly but ended (like Talent on Seven) with fewer viewers interested in their finales than the first episode.
Some unkind souls in the print media have added Today Tonight and A Current Affair to that list; while I’m tempted to agree (the ACA edition with the disgraceful Leanne Edelsten stalking an ill Clive James would qualify as grubbiest current affairs story of the year), I won’t include them in the turkeys list. There’s only so many years you can kick them.
Seven’s 6pm bulletin in Melbourne is the year’s biggest news flop. Ratings were down 20%, and that’s a self-inflicted wound — most of that fall in viewers was from the end of July when former Herald Sun editor Simon Pristel was made newsroom boss in Melbourne by Seven management. That in turn crippled TT in Melbourne, on top of a weakening performance off the back of a faded 6pm news in Sydney.
TT host Matthew White fell on his sword last Friday, three days after news and current affairs boss Peter Meakin stepped aside and a new news boss in Rob Raschke was appointed, along with the return of a golden oldie in Neil Mooney to oversee TT. Talk is that boned Ten reader Helen Kapalos could get the TT gig — if Ten will release her. They reckon she’s still a Ten girl (until March), despite the disloyalty of sacking her. The Murdochs never understand that loyalty is a two-way thing.
Everybody Dance Now must be the biggest programming flop, with host Sarah Murdoch’s performance an individual contender. But it wasn’t as bad a program as The Shire — vacuous, idiotic, exploitative and just plain nasty at times. A creation of the Ten programming department, focus groups, the board and CEO James Warburton, not to mention chairman Murdoch. The same gang were responsible for Everybody Dance Now. David Castran and his focus groups failed to pick it.
As for Seven’s Please Marry My Boy and My Bedazzled Life, if they are “reality TV” then give me Thomas the Tank Engine any day.
But no individual program matches Ten’s hall of fame performance. Not since Eddie McGuire drove the Nine Network to Victoria Park at Collingwood in Melbourne and left it there with the keys in the ignition, hoping someone would steal it, has a TV network performed with such a deep lack of professionalism and competence.
Murdoch will be warbling at Thursday’s AGM on about how things are going to change. They won’t, but Ten will still be around in a year’s time. Advertisers will still give it ad dollars to balance Seven and Nine (just as Nine got ad dollars from 2005 to 2010 to keep Seven and Ten honest). Ten’s share price at the time of the 2011 AGM was 91.5c. This morning it’s around 36c — a fall of 55c or 61%.