Australia’s Idol fatigue

After the first four weeks of the 2005 season of Australian idol, it’s clear that the Ten Network has a problem. Australians are tuning in, but not in the numbers they did last year.

Call it fatigue, a surfeit of Big Brother and don’t mention the X-Factor failure, but Idol is no longer as cool as it once was with the 16 to 39 target age group (and all other age groups for that matter).

Perhaps some of the sniping from Seven on Today Tonight and A Current Affair on Nine (and in magazines and papers) is having an impact. And unlike BB,
where Ten simply reached for a raunchy solution to boost ailing 2005 ratings,
it’s hard to see how the network can boost interest except to promote
it harder and to play up nasty judge, Sydney radio announcer, Kyle
Sandilands. He’s already had a bagging from Seven’s Today Tonight and is retaliating with legal action.

Just like when it started in 2003, Australian Idol is down
year in the first four weeks on air: 2004 saw a very sharp rise in the
audience numbers from the opening week. Oztam figures show that the
average audience last week (week four) was 350,000 lower than the
average audience in week one: 1.212 million versus 1.560 million. 2003
saw a decline from 1.638 million down to 1.161 million in that period;
however saw the audience rise from 1.702 million to 1.852 million.
Sunday night’s audience of 1.156 million indicates another drop
this week and the 1.055 million for Monday night’s half hour verdict
wasn’t encouraging either.

Ten will be hoping that viewers hang in there and then return in
November as the competition heads towards its climax: like it did in
2003. But it won’t be the huge hit it was in 2004.

Seven ignores its own advice and wounds 24

A few years back, Seven commissioned some
research into why the ratings of drama (particularly crime drama)
were dropping over the course of long series which had continuous
storylines. It showed that if a viewer misses two episodes of series,
they’re unlikely
to return to it, believing they’ve missed too much
of the story.

So why did Seven break this rule with its US series, 24? Even allowing for the disruptive nature of the Big Brother final night just over a week ago, 24
has lost a truckload of viewers in the past two to three weeks, turning it
from a revived hit into a wobbler. The numbers are down from around one
million when it started to a low of 698,000 last week, and back up to
898,000 last night, and it’s now running behind Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope on the ABC and Cold Case on Nine.

Three Sundays ago, Seven showed two episodes of 24
on Sunday night. Not only was this an unsuccessful experiment,
because the audience presumably didn’t know about the temporary switch
of timeslot from Monday to Sunday, but it seems to have wounded the
show. So by ignoring their own research and playing two episodes
on a “special” different night, Seven sabotaged the show. All the fans
who missed the double episode are now “unlikely” to come back to 24.

Last night’s TV

The Winners

Nine won but Seven will probably wonder how they didn’t. After all they had the four top shows and
Grey’s Anatomy (1.489 million) won the 8.30pm battle against Ten’s
Numb3rs (1.135 million) and Eddie’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (1.290
million people). Seven’s Home and Away (1.566 million) was the second
most watched program, easily beating Nine’s Temptation (1.466
The Losers

With 17 programs attracting a million
or more viewers, it was a competitive night with no real losers. Nine’s The
settled back just above a million viewers after the disruption caused by the Big Brother finale a
week ago. Its average audience of
1.042 million was the same as a fortnight ago. So not a loser, but not the Monday evening powerhouse once hoped
for by the Network. Even Ten’s Celebrity Ready Steady Cook saw its
audience rise to 718,000

News & CA

Seven News and Today
won nationally, with huge wins in Sydney by 90,000 or so for
both the News and TT last night. Nine won the news battle in
Melbourne but lost the 6.30pm arm wrestle to TT. It was the same story in
Brisbane, but Nine won Adelaide but lost Perth, as it always does. TT
was the most watched program – beating ACA by 271,000 nationally. The ABC’s
Four Corners and Media Watch were moderate performers with 834,000 and
827,000 respectively, while Enough Rope’s audience eased back
from its high of the previous Monday tonight to average 955,000

The Stats

Nine won 27.3% to Seven on 26.9, a narrow victory,
but a win nevertheless. Ten was third on 21.2%. The ABC had another good
night with 17.1% and SBS finished with 7.5% thanks to Mythbusters at 7.30pm. Nine won Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Seven won Brisbane and
Glenn Dyer’s

Grey’s Anatomy
clearly isn’t Desperate Housewives,
but around Seven today there’d be a sign of relief that it held its
audience from its opening night when it followed the final ep of the
Housewives. That was what would have cheered Seven most. Likewise at Nine
The Alice recovering to its level of a fortnight ago would have been
encouraging. But it’s really slow. Does anything happen? Tonight it’s Border Security and True Stories on Seven. Will Seven gamble by
commissioning another series of True Stories? Or is there a split between
programming and the program

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey