The winner on the first night of the second ratings period was the Nine Network, in its strongest showing of the year so far. Viewers tuned in to watch the news of the Kanimbla helicopter tragedy and the death of the Pope. Nine News scored its biggest audience for some time with 1.981 million people tuning in to watch at 6pm. It was the most watched program in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, but not Perth, where Seven News was number one with a much higher audience than is normal on Sunday nights.

It’s no wonder Nine’s Sydney news boss, Max Uechtritz, sent out a herogram to staff late yesterday congratulating them on their efforts. His put down of the ABC was backed up by the lack of effort by the national broadcaster which showed its first coverage of the Pope and the Kanimbla deaths on Insiders at 9am.

Nine and Seven had both been to air more than an hour earlier. It would seem no-one in the ABC is game to take decisions on pre-empting Sandra Levy’s TV schedule!

The strong turn-on factor was best shown however at 8am when Business Sunday was pre-empted for an hour of Today style news from Karl Stefanovic and Leila McKinnon. Despite the lack of on-air warmth, the special broadcast was a winner, doubling Business Sunday’s normal audience to 323,000 people. The Sunday program, which followed straight afterwards saw a 50% jump in its recent audience size with a massive 493,000 people national. That earned it a top 30 slot at No. 23 (and the special Today show news slotted in at No. 29).

The efforts from rivals Seven and the ABC were not in the running, likewise the Ten Network’s Meet The Press. Nine won the night easily with a 32.8% share to Seven on 24.1%, Ten with 22.5%, the ABC with 17.6% and SBS down, on 3.0%.

The ABC’s efforts were boosted by good audience figures for the second of the series of Battlefield Detectives, with 1.215 million people and 8th spot and the 7pm ABC News in 11th spot. Its audience was not impacted as much as Nine’s was, nor Seven News which ended in 5th spot with 1.352 million, a higher than normal figure for a Sunday night.

The new episode of CSI did well for Nine, with second place nationally and 1.964 million people, while 60 Minutes also did well, with 1.6 million. Backyard Blitz returned with 4th spot nationally for Nine and 1.527 million people.

Ten’s X-Factor saw a lift in audience numbers to 936,000, but that was a distant fourth behind 60 Minutes, My Restaurant Rules on Seven and Battlefield Detectives on the ABC. The end of X-Factor can’t come quick enough for Ten.

Tonight Desperate Housewives returns on Seven. Will viewers still be there after its two-week break for Easter?