Where to start with Ten
Network’s faltering giant, Australian Idol? Let’s go positive.

People are still
watching it in sufficient numbers to give Ten Network good share figures in the
18-39 age group, its key target demographic.

On the negative, people
are NOT watching it in the numbers that Network Ten promised advertisers and
sponsors, so it is giving up freebie ads elsewhere to cover the shortfall in
ratings and keep those advertisers sweet. A year ago, when Idol
was riding high, so were ad revenues: it
was a seller’s market.

Time was short and
advertisers jumped on to the Idol bandwagon in such a way that Ten made money the easy way, and forgot that what goes up,
can come down. This year, audiences for
Idol have shrunk and so have ad revenues. No growth at all and Ten has already warned that it will not match its record
revenue and earnings for the first quarter of 2004, which covers the last three
months of Idol.

Take the
episodes last Sunday and Monday nights. Sunday night gathered a respectable 1.27
million viewers on average. Not to be sneezed at. But a year
ago, according to the Oztam Figures, the Sunday Live
performance episode in week 14 of Idol was watched by a massive 2.37 million
people. That’s Desperate Housewives/Dancing With The
Stars
sort of figures, no, bigger!

But the
situation was worse on the Live Verdict ep on Monday
night when the audience struggled to stay above a million viewers, the mark
considered break-even for a program like this (X-Factor rarely, if ever achieved
figures like that earlier this year).

Overall
the 2005 average for both nights is 1.26 million, down 29% on 2004’s 1.77
million. And the biggest factor is the loss of audience on Monday nights. The
winner doesn’t seem to matter as much as it did a year ago. That disconnect with
the audience is Ten’s biggest worry.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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