Terry Television looks at some interesting developments in the ratings.
Sunday night remains the most interesting night of the week for
television viewing in this country. There’s more undercurrents about
viewer preferences evident there than elsewhere in the schedule,
despite the attention being given to the battle in the 5.30pm slot
between Nine and Seven and the dog eat dog approach of both networks to
the hour news and current affairs slot from 6 to 7pm.

Forget that Nine won the night in Sydney and nationally, they did and
it was thanks to another strong news effort from the respective National Nine News in each state.

Helping no doubt was that nice exclusive from Bob Penfold in Iraq. A
consummate performer Penfold showed considerable cool in bringing to
viewers the story of the Australian army training team under fire in
Mosul. So viewers naturally backed up again on Sunday evening,
helping Nine news in Sydney reverse a recent easier trend.

Nationally the news was the top program for Nine and will remain the
top program for the week. But will viewers tune in for Jim Waley
popping up in Baghdad from 6pm Monday, flack jacket and all? A gamble,
yes, but a good one by Max Uechtritz, in the Peter Meakin mold.

The interesting story on Sunday night is how the ABC showing of the great BBC production, The Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, continues to creep up on viewers and grab their attention.

This week the program (7.30pm Sunday) was the third most watched
program nationally and in Sydney, the second week in a row the series
has featured in the top 10.

There’s nothing like a bit of intelligent story telling to grab
viewers. I know it is old fashioned, and old hat, but Terry loves a
good yarn. And these are tremendous feats of story telling.

Will the ABC’s much touted, but apparently stumbling version, History Detectives
(History Defectives to those on the inside), ever reach the heights of
the BBC series? Probably not and bang goes another $8 or $9 million at
our hard-pressed national broadcaster.

This was another example of the audience preferring a good story to the
hype from the commercial channels. It diddled Nine’s 60 Minutes comprehensively by 180,000 viewers nationally and 40,000 viewers in Sydney.

Seven’s unusual move of giving a week’s break to the strongly performing The World Around US
documentary hour (topped and tailed by Lisa McCune) also helped the ABC
program but more importantly its replacement for a week, Better Homes and Gardens, couldn’t drag viewers to it from the Nine program, The Block.

That’s something Lisa McCune has been doing on most Sunday nights. Nine’s The Block
an hour earlier did well, getting to its second highest audience of the
year (1.6 million) but still down on a year ago. That the Seven Wonders garnered more viewers an hour later than The Block shows how much viewers want a good story that’s new (and hasn’t been on in a cinema near you beforehand).

But as much as the Nine spinners weaved their web of yarn about The Block‘s
strong showing, what they couldn’t disguise was the strong turn-off
from the top rating news by 6.30pm. Almost 280,000 viewers nationally
and 90,000 in Sydney said ‘no’ to The Block, which is reaching the interesting and bitchy stage.

Ten’s best performer was Law and Order Criminal Intent. It
finished second nationally and in Sydney and has effectively killed off
the idea of the “Big Sunday Night ” at the movies on commercial TV. Big Brother did well with yet another eviction and NCIS, which follows Law and Order at 9.30pm also featured in the top 10.

Now with the National Nine News at number one, Seven News at number sever and the ABC News at number nine, viewers obviously have a preference for information.

And while 60 Minutes and the Seven Wonders are not strictly factual programs, they are based on fact and situation, with entertainment thrown in (‘flirt’ interviews on 60 Minutes for example), there’s a strong demand from viewers for factual programming of some sort.

Could this be a clue for Peter Meakin at Seven when he wonders were the
new current affairs program he is planning will run next year?

This why Sunday night is the most tantalising night of the week. Not
only do more people watch, but they have more time to make interesting
program choices, which occasionally upset all the carefully laid plans
of the programmers, and suggest different directions for future
programs.

Now for the slightly yucky battle between Nine’s expanded The Price is Right, with its $100,000 in prize money boost up against Seven’s Wheel of Fortune and Deal or No Deal. Seeing that Wheel of Fortune was whipping Price at 5pm over the past fortnight when Eddie McGuire was mini-Millionaire playing at 5.30, you’d have to say the Seven duo have a good show on wining the hour, and helping the news.

Peter Fray

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