It’s all Nine as the tsunami hurts Seven…

It is a truism in Australian television that when there’s a big news story, people switch to Nine. Nine uses it as a promotional boast and after the first ten days of the Asian tsunami crisis coverage, it is still very much the case.

While Seven and the ABC might try to claim otherwise, this time around the ratings from December 26 to January 3 say it’s so. In short, a comprehensive win to Nine nationally and in the troubled Sydney market.

Seven did well in Perth and to a lesser extent in Adelaide, but in the major east coast markets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane National Nine News was king, and this helped the underperforming A Current Affair regain some of its lustre.

As well the ABC experienced a solid lift in viewer numbers for its 7pm News and for The 7.30 report.

Last week the ABC 7pm News was the second most watched news service across the country, continuing its traditional summer strength and relegating Seven to third.

What this means when the battle proper resumes in early February when the current ‘unofficial’ ratings become ‘official’ is too early to say. But it should be pointed out that when Seven failed to send a reporter to cover the Beslan school siege in southern Russia after the Olympics, its news ratings sagged as viewers switched back to a struggling Nine News.

Seven has remained in the game this time around, but there’s a feeling that its coverage has been designed to ‘cover’; the story rather than get stuck in and be involved in explaining it with any expansiveness or depth. A sort of expanded Ten-style coverage of this big news story.

Viewers voted with their channel changers, remote or otherwise. So much so that the top rating program of the week ending new Year’s Day was the Boxing Day 6pm News of Nine with 1.532 million viewers.

That’s more than 300,000 up on what the audience was on the Sunday evening before Christmas for example, but only 200,000 or so above what it was on one or two evenings the previous week.

In contrast Seven News was far behind at 931,360 for Sunday December 26. That’s a 600,000 plus difference. Seven News rose slightly during last week to average 1.071 million, but Nine News was averaging 1.49 million people, a substantial difference.

On New Year’s Night, Nine News had a network audience of 1.485 million people, Seven News 1.063 million. Seven can argue that that was higher than most Saturday nights in December, and some other weekday evenings. But Nine’s figures were substantially up on the normal December, non-ratings period figures.

Seven did beat Ten News, but the Monday to Friday editions of Ten News at Five averaged more than a million people last week, a higher audience than that network is used to on many summer evenings.

The ABC 7pm News was watched by an average of 1.273 million people, which made it the second most popular news service last week, easily surpassing Seven. ABC News on New Year’s night was watched by an average of 1.23 million, again the second most watched news broadcast of the night.

In the battle for the 6.30pm current affairs slot, the Helen Dalley anchored A Current Affair was boosted by the disaster and the better performance of Nine News.

In the three weeks leading up to Christmas, Seven’s Today Tonight, anchored by Anna Coren was a frequent victor over ACA on the network and in Sydney. In fact Seven was clearly ahead on many nights and at least one week.

But last week, ACA bounced to average 1.297 million viewers, around 200,000 or more up on its pre-Christmas figures. In contrast Today Tonight hardly moved, averaging around 1.04 million people.

The ABC’s 7.30 Report did a little better last week, averaging 1.139 million people, thanks to the good work of some of its correspondents, and the solid rise in viewers watching the 7pm News.

Last night, Nine News averaged 1.55 million people, with the 7pm ABC News second across the networks with 1.35 million people, ACA was third on 1.34 million and Seven news had lifted to finish 6th with more than 1.2 million people. More people watched the ABC News in Sydney than watched Seven News.

Nine News was the second most watched program in Sydney on Monday night, a welcome boost for the under pressure Sydney newsroom. The gap between Nine and Seven widened. The Monday to Friday Nine News averaged around 413,000 people, well ahead of Seven which averaged 271,000 or so.

Today Tonight, however, remained stuck under 1.1 million people at 1.07 million. It has hardly got out of the blocks, despite sending host Anna Coren to Phuket for last night’s broadcast. TT finished more than 90,000 viewers behind ACA in Sydney.

The 7.30 Report was much weaker last night, losing viewers to finish under a million network viewers with 956,000 people.

The week before, the Sydney New Years Eve broadcast was the 12th most watched program of the week, but in Sydney it was the most watched with more than 607,000 people watching, which was a natural outcome, given the location. A total of 1.162 million viewers watched the telecast across the network.

The Sydney audience for the New Year’s Eve crackers easily surpassed the news broadcasts by Nine in the week.

So who won last week? Nine did easily with wins everywhere bar Perth which was Seven’s country.

On Boxing Day night, Nine won narrowly from Seven, 30.9% to 29.3% but by the end of the week, the margin had widened to Nine with 29.7% and Seven with 25.2%. The ABC, which started the week on Boxing Day night with a 17.3% share ended the week with a 20.7% share after easily winning New Year’s night.

Nine easily leads this week after two wins on Sunday and Monday evenings.