Crikey’s Terry Television has had a big impact on the Australian small screen industry this year and here are some of his more recent reports that have been sent to Crikey’s 5200 paying subscribers.

Seven beats Nine – but only just

Seven’s not whooping for joy, nor should it, but it has scored a narrow win over the Nine Network in winning the Wednesday night ratings. Narrowly, the smallest possible margin. But as Nine always says, a win is a win, is a win!

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More importantly it won nationally and in Sydney for one of Nine’s strongest nights of the week – and that will shake Nine.

Nine was also beaten in Melbourne, traditionally one of the other city powerhouses (Brisbane is the other, Nine won last night), Seven won far more easily in Melbourne 29.7% to 287.9% with Ten third. Seven also won Perth from Nine.

It was the narrowest of margins. Just 0.1% nationally and 0.2% in Sydney, but it confirms the network’s slow build post Olympics in its early and mid evening programming is now apparent and strengthening on most nights of the week, except Thursday, tonight, which remains a black hole because of the shows, Simple Life, Playing it Straight and Trading Spouses.

Instead of its improving performances in News and Today Tonight, which slowed post Olympics, losing their pre games momentum (but now showing some signs of recovery) Seven’s drama, some US programming and clever, sharper decisions about program placement, are proving winners at times.

Which will hearten those within Seven who worry about the performance of senior programming executives like Tim Worner and his sidekick, Brad Lyons. Nine of course will shrug this off and point to the still strong outings by CSI Miami and McLeod’s Daughters and the News, but A Current Affair was pipped (by a whole 20 viewers, and I know your names!) by Today Tonight. But that was after Nine News had beaten Seven News by 281,000 or so viewers.

By the time ACA and TT were going head to head, 178,000 people had turned off Nine, while 113,000 or so had turned on Seven. An enormous and worrying swing that is showing up more and more in Nine’s early evening audience profiles!

Seven though has a problem ahead when Forensic Investigators finishes next week. It finished in the top ten last night and beat the repeat of Without a Trace by 350,000 viewers (that’s where Seven won the night). It will be replaced by the new ‘observational’ series (to use David Leckie’s new term for these types of programs) called Border Security, which looks at Australia’s Customs Service in much the way as the British series Airport looked at Heathrow Airport.

Forensic Investigators/ will be back next year. So Seven will hope the Wednesday evening improvement will continue after being built on the back of the revamp of Blue Heelers(6th nationally) and the arrival of Forensic Investigators.

Seven won with a 30.1% share from Nine with 30%. Ten finished third 22.7%, the ABC on 13.5% and SBS down on 3.6%. For Ten Marty and Jess, first run Law and Order (the original series) and The Panel all lost ground as the night went on. Ten’s best show was the first run The Simpsons (at 7.30pm), it finished third nationally. It attracted 1.403 million viewers, but from then on Ten’s audience fell away with only 784,000 or so people watching The Panel, and then only 428,000 watching Ten’s Late News. But over on Nine 532,000 people were watching Merrick and Rosso, which hasn’t set the world on fire so far as its first two new episodes. Stargate on Seven was watched by an average of 609,000 people, an easy win.

Nine’s very narrow loss came despite the high finishes in the five major metro markets for CSI Miami (1st), McLeod’s (2nd) and National Nine New (4th). Frasier was 7th. ACA was 11th and just those 20 viewers behind TT in 10th. Forensic Investigators was 5th, Blue Heelers 6th, Home and Away 8th and Hot Property 9th.

In Sydney the All New Simpsons beat everything else for Ten, then Blue Heelers, and Forensic Investigators for Seven. CSI Miami was 4th. It just doesn’t turn Sydney viewers on like it does in other cities. McLeod’s was 5th, Frasier was 6th and Nine News was 7th. Hot Property and Home and Away were 8th and 9th for Seven, with ACA 10th.

Nine owns Tuesday nights

September 29

Tuesday nights are Nine Network nights, and that’s what it was with CSI seguing into Cold Case, after National Nine News and Survivor had completed the top four shows watched across the country last night. But Sydney once again produced a couple of results that will worry Nine.

And that saw Nine end with a national share of 33.2%, with Seven second on 24.2% and Ten third on 22.4%. The ABC finished with a solid 15.3% while SBS was on 4.1%.

Sydney a little different. Nine won with 33.5%, from Seven stronger on 26.9%, Ten down at 21.4%, the ABC weaker than normal on 13.8% and SBS about lineball on 4.4%.

After the top four programs from Nine, Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens reappeared in the top ten for the first time in ages at 5th and only 25,000 viewers short of Survivor Vanuatu. A special on helping an ill little girl no doubt played its part in boosting viewers, but interesting anyway.

Home and Away was 6th, A Current Affair 7th (with Karl Stephanovic standing in for Ellen Fanning who should have been standing in for Ray Martin, but was unwell. She is late into her pregnancy), Frasier was 8th (thanks Karl), Today Tonight was 9th and only 7,000 viewers behind ACA and Ten’s Everybody Loves Raymond repeat rounded out the ten.

In Sydney a different look to the top ten, as is sort of becoming normal on some nights. While the CSI repeat was tops, and the new episode of Cold Case was second, Better Homes and Gardens appeared at 3rd, a good result, beating Survivor Vanuatu (8th) by 40,000 viewers. That’s a result that will not make Nine happy. After the first night last week Nine would have been very pleased, but for an underperforming program to suddenly do well against Survivor in week two signals either a sharp improvement in the Seven program or viewer unease or disenchantment with Survivor.

Perhaps it was the nature of the program, a special which granted a wish to a little girl as part of the StarLight Foundation, a ratings puller that many programs resort to kick start viewer attention. Nine’s Backyard Blitz built a tribute to Scott Cam’s dog Lizzie, the team’s so-called ‘site manager’ around a half hour program last Sunday that went for a hour, but underperformed compared to previous hour long efforts by the program.

All Saints did very well to finish 4th in Sydney, 32 viewers ahead of National Nine News. Everybody Loved the repeat of Raymond on Ten and it finished 6th, Home and Away was 7th, Survivor was 8th, ACA was 9th and its ‘twin’ Frasier was 10th. In a complete turnaround from Monday night, Seven News and Today Tonight were beaten easily by Nine and finished out of the top ten. Seven News also failed to make the top ten nationally.

Seven’s procession of Thursday night duds

September 29 sealed section

The Seven Network has responded to the poor performance of the ‘gaydar’ reality program, Playing it Straight, by keeping it in the schedule but revealing its replacement, something called The Amazing Race. Check out the Seven announcement here.

“Gaydar” was the word used by Seven in its pre-publicity for the series, which failed on its first outing and has been in steady decline since. Which is, well, perfectly understandable given that it’s all about a woman picking the straight blokes from the gay! A sort of Miriam in reverse.

But coming on Thursday night, Seven’s worst night of the week and surrounded by Paris Hilton’s not so Simple Life and the equally empty Trading Spouses (Trading Louses as one industry wit describes it), Playing It Straight completed a trifecta of underachievers.

One Seven person describes The Amazing Race as “Survivor on Speed”. So where is Sandra Bullock?

Another executive quits Nine

September 29 sealed section

Nine Network CEO David Gyngell has lost his fourth executive so far this year in what is described as a worrying trend by some Nine insiders.

Latest to go is Hilary Innes who announced her resignation yesterday. She’s a network executive producer in charge of developing light entertainment ideas. She was recently given the role when Glenn Pallister was promoted from running The Footy Show in Sydney (Rugby League) to the role of the network executive producer in charge of light entertainment programs.

Hilary Innes had that role (called ‘Director’) but was moved to the new development area (with a concentration on new talent) when Glenn Pallister was elevated.

She joins three other former Nine executives who have resigned from Nine in the past two months. Kim Anderson is now at TV and film production house Southern Star as chief operating officer. She was the former head of Nine’s digital business. Similarly, Maree Slater, the head of Nine’s Human Resources, has now moved to defence group, Tenix, in a senior management role.

But the most notable departure was that of Jim Rudder, the Network director of News and Current Affairs who was supported for a year by Gyngell (who boasted last year of flying to London to sign him up from BSkyB) and who then removed him and sacked him earlier this year.

That happened within a month of Gyngell taking responsibility for the Nine Network in the aftermath of the Peter Yates departure from PBL as CEO in May and John Alexander’s smooth move into that role.

All the Sunday ratings

September 27 sealed section

Another Sunday, more Idol and Law and Order and a win to Ten nationally and everywhere, but for Nine, more signs of the old weakness in the Sydney audience appearing as the Network drops to third in the country’s biggest media market, beaten by a stronger Seven, and despite a good effort by National Nine News.

Not that you would have thought Nine did badly, judging by the trumpeting of the Nine News effort “National Nine News Blitzes Sunday” screamed the blurb from Nine.

But from then on the Network must have had trouble remembering what happened. It was the now usual Sunday evening rout for Ten.

And to think Nine didn’t really want Idol when it was up for grabs last year and only put in a fitful bid (as did Seven for that matter).

Also notable was the continued weakness in the figures for 60 Minutes in the face of the Idol onslaught. Idol averaged more than two million viewers to top the national most watched program list. 60 Minutes finished 6th on 1.36 million.

What also hurt Nine was the lack of any attraction of Russell Crowe in the stinker he made with Meg Ryan called Proof of Life. It might have been a repeat, so only 827,227 people watched in the five capital cities. But what it did do was collapse Nine’s national audience so that less than half the people watched big Russ, compared to the 1.865 million who watched the News. That ensured third place in Sydney and a distant second overall.

Also helping Ten was the debut of the series Sensing Murder using psychics to try and resolve murders. A goodish set of figures with 1.41 million. I wonder if the program and its stars forecast that they would do those numbers and finish 8th nationally and the same position in Sydney?

The Rugby League Preliminary Final between North Queensland the Eastern Suburbs was watched by 1.14 million people on average (in Sydney and Brisbane) and this helped Nine News reach Number two in Sydney and the same position nationally with 1.865 million, about average for a Sunday evening.

So how did the networks go?

Ten finished top with a 32.8% share, from Nine with 27.3%, Seven with 26.1. The ABC fell in a heap to finish with a 10.1% share and SBS was also low on 3.7%.

In Sydney It was Ten tops with 31.9% from Seven with 27.7%, Nine with 26.2%, the ABC with an even lower 9.8% and SBS with a fairly average 4.5%

Idol was the most watched program, from Nine News, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Backyard Blitz, Seven’s Movie, The Princess Diaries was 5th in a strong outing. 60 Minutes was 6th, the Rugby League was 7th, Sensing Murder was 8th, Seven News was 9th and the Seven program The World Around Us: Land of the Falling Lakes was tenth.

In Sydney the Rugby League final was the most watched program, but this didn’t help the network in prime time share except to delivery Nine News a very large number of viewers. The Preliminary Final averaged 647,000 or so viewers and Nine’s News, 623,000. So not much of a turn-off there. Idol was third, followed by the new episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. The Seven movie, The Princess Diaries was 5th (school holidays no doubt helped and the strong appeal to young girls). Backyard Blitz was 6th, and 150,000 viewers down the news, a big turn-off. And there was a further loss of 88,000 viewers to 60 Minutes in 7th slot. Sensing Murder was 8th, Jag was 9th and Seven News was 10th.

The audience for Sunday’s second League final was 38,000 or so under the 685,000 who watched Saturday night’s game between Penrith and Canterbury, which was understandable given that two Sydney clubs were playing in the latter and a North Queensland side was in the Sunday game.

How Ten lost on Saturday
September 27 sealed section

The Ten network would probably get the gong for being the most calculating programmed TV Network of the year. By concentrating on the 16 to 39 age group demographic and then the 25 to 54 group, Ten has lifted its share of revenue this year and viewing audiences.

But twice in the past couple of weeks it has ‘choked’ in using its AFL coverage to drive its market positioning.

The first ‘choke’ was the failure to program the Brisbane-Geelong game into Sydney live on the Saturday night it was played.

That’s on top of quite odd programming decisions by the year of screening non-Brisbane and non-Sydney games into the late evening of Friday and Saturday nights.

It is perhaps why the AFL is really struggling in Sydney and its lowest audience (not peak as many sports writers get confused about, fed by a smart Ten PR outfit) since 2001 in the NSW capital.

But the biggest blunder was not covering the post match events after the AFL in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth (and Tasmania) and keeping it going in southern Australia for as far into the evening as possible, say to 7.30pm.

Ten bailed at 6pm and went to the News, then an episode of Charmed, then a hodge podge of ‘crime’ shows that sank as the night went on.

See how the rest of the night unravelled for Ten here:

Wednesday night ratings: Nine wins…of course

From the September 23 sealed section

Nine Network of course won Wednesday night’s ratings with its usual trifecta of CSI Miami, Nine News and McLeod’s Daughters, but the Seven Network again showed surprising strength to run an encouraging second (for them).That left Ten third, but again boasting that they won the demographic of choice, the 16 to 39 age group.

Nine’s spinners tried for a bit of alliteration in boasting “Nine whips another Wednesday win”, but a 31.6% share to Seven’s 28.2% in the five major metro markets (and in the regional markets no doubt when the figures become available next week) is hardly a whipping. Nine’s Tuesday night win was more of a ‘whipping’.

But winners are grinners, although Nine will not be happy that Seven’s Blue Heelers has continued its recent recovery to become the most watched program in Sydney last night, pushing McLeod’s Daughters to second and CSI Miami to third. CSI Miami is clearly underwheming Sydney viewers compared to the rest of the country.

Both All Saints on Tuesday night and Blue Heelers are showing good powers of recovery after their revamp several months ago, a tribute to the Network’s drama department more than the programmers.

Last night must have really upset Seven though. To come as close because of mid-evening programming, while News and Today Tonight were weak, cost the Network a win perhaps. If News and TT had have rated like they did Monday or Tuesday night, it would have been far closer, and Nine may have just been pipped.

Across the country Nine was first, Seven second, Ten third with 21.4%, the ABC was also down, scoring a 12.5% and SBS ended with a 4.5% share.

After CSI, McLeod’s and the News, the All New Simpsons finished 4th for Ten, then Home and Away for Seven, followed by A Current Affair, then Blue Heelers, Frasier, Without a Trace and Forensic Investigators.

In Sydney Nine finished with a 30.8% share, half a point in front of Seven(hardly a whipping), with Ten a long way third with 21.7%, the ABC down on 12.5% and SBS on a high 5.4%.

Helping Nine was another winner on The Price is Right which lifted Nine’s audience (and Ray Martin and ACA did their little bit by interviewing him at just after 6.30 pm and cross promotional gem)

Nine News had nearly 113,000 viewers on Seven News last night, a massive win, but by the time Today Tonight and ACA were on air that had fallen to just under 44,000.

Overall Nine News beat Seven by more than 420,000 people, with another 246,000 of that in the winning margin in Melbourne, where Seven’s News continues to stumble. By 6.30 ACA’s margin over TT had narrowed to 109,000. Ninehowever had lost 205,000 viewers from News to ACA while Seven added around 106,000 viewers from its News to TT.

And what also made Blue Heeler’s win in Sydney and performance so interesting nationally that it beat a first run Law and Order episode on Ten. Clearly Law andOrder fans are now looking for Criminal Intent, or perhaps trying to find the Special Victims Unit!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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