The once supreme Nine Network is battling for the sort of ratings it once took for granted.

A closer night Monday, Seven squeezing home on a night when programs ran over time on Nine, especially Who Wants to be a Millionaire (don’t mention the Supremes to Shane).

Nine used running over in time and the celebrity special on Millionaire over two parts as an attempt to pinch the night, and it almost worked, but while there were a couple of concerns for Nine, there were also some small pleasures.

Nine News did better in Sydney, winning from Seven and Today Tonight found Nine’s A Current Affair much closer. However the new Nine sitcom from the US, Joey, the Friends spin-off, debuted badly, and Ten’s X-Factor is struggling to improve its audience at the end of its second week.

Millionaire ran badly overtime to around 10pm, meaning the figures for Cold Case, which was due to start around 9.40pm, were not accurate.

Shane Warne and his brainy partner failed to go for the million dollars, preferring not to try and answer the question, which was the first hit of the Supremes singing group in the 60s.

Seven’s Desperate Housewives got the network across the line, attracting 1.972 million viewers on its third outing, still good numbers but off half a million or so on its debut.

Seven News, Home and Away, Today Tonight and Crossing Jordan completed the five programs Seven had in the national top ten. The Great Outdoors finished just outside the top ten.

Seven won with a 29.8% share to Nine’s 29.6%, Ten on 21.8%, the ABC on 14.3% and SBS on 4.5%

Seven won by more than three points in Sydney, lost by more than three in Melbourne, more than two in Brisbane, but narrowly won Adelaide and easily won Perth.

Housewives was the most popular program on the network, followed by Millionaire, Nine News, Home and Away, Cold Case, Today Tonight, Crossing Jordan, A Current Affair, Seven News and The Great Outdoors.

Joey was watched by 1.043 million people in its debut at 7.30pm on Nine, it finished third. Ten’s X Factor beat it with 1.13 million and Seven’s The Great Outdoors won the timeslot. At 8pm The Great Outdoors still led, but the ABC’s Australian Story was second and the X Factor was third and Nine’s Two and a Half Men was fourth!

So Nine needed a big effort from ‘Fast’ Eddie McGuire and his celebrity charity players on Millionaire, led by Shane Warne. He settled for a half a million donation to his charity.

But the fact that the program dragged, and dragged, played for Nine.

The 1.5 million people was less than Housewives between 8.30 and 9.30pm, but from 9.30pm to 11pm, more people watched the lingering Millionaire antics and then Cold Case (1.28 million) than watched Seven (Crossing Jordan, 1.22 million). But when Cold Case, Crossing Jordan and Ten’s The Biggest Loser went head to head sometime after 10pm, Crossing Jordan outrated the other two for Seven.

Nine News had its first Monday to Friday night win for a week or so, the Mark Ferguson read news beating the Ian Ross read news on Seven by around 23,500 viewers, a good comeback. The Ray Martin fronted ACA closed to within 14,000 or so of Seven’s Today Tonight nationally and 29,000 in Sydney.

That meant the winning margin of Nine News in Sydney was completely reversed and then some by the time ACA had finished.

Nine’s Today show in its new set and new presenters boosted its audience to 269,000 people nationally between 7am and 9am Monday, but fell well short of Seven’s Sunrise which continues to grow its audience past the 350,000 mark.

The 6am to 7am news on Nine, co-hosted by the shunted aside Sharyn Gihdella and the returning prodigal, Chris Smith, was watched by 134,344, but bombed against Sunrise on Seven with its 215,576 audience.

Nine will take heart from the lift in the 7am-9am audience, but the lift from the early news of around 135,000 was the same as the lift in the Sunrise audience over on Seven.

It is going to be tough for Nine in this timeslot.

Re-working the figures shows that Millionaire was watched by an average 1.6 million over its 90 minutes and not 1.536 million, but Cold Case (which was due to start around 9.40pm) was watched by one million people from 10pm to 11pm, instead of the 1.280 million, which included Millionaire’s last 20 minutes.)

Peter Fray

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