last week of pre-official ratings jostling saw a confident win for the Seven
Network, with the opening ceremony of the Turin Winter Olympics providing a nice
end to a week Seven had already won by Saturday night.

won the week with a 31.5% share to 27.2% for Nine,
20.9% for Ten, 14.9% for the ABC and 5.5% for SBS.

move to repeat 2005’s bumper start by running new episodes of ratings biggies, Lost,
Desperate Housewives
and Prison Break was followed by Ten’s move to pop a few new
programs into the schedule. Nine followed tentatively and paid the price,
winning only Sunday and Tuesday nights.

week will be different as more old stagers return, as well as Nine’s surprise
weapon, Bert Newton (ha!). But
Saturday night’s effort won’t go well at Willoughby or make pleasant reading for new
boss Eddie McGuire.

Nine finished fourth on Saturday night with a prime time share of
15.8%, beating SBS on 5.4%. Ten was ahead on 19.6%, the ABC on 20.3%
and Seven out in front thanks to the performance of the Winter Olympics
Opening Ceremony re-broadcast. Seven finished with a share of 38.8%,
and also had good performances by the News, Heartbeat and The World Around Us.

However Nine was first out of the blocks when 2006’s official ratings season kicked off last night:

The Winners

First night of official ratings last night and so many
winners. Nine won the night; Seven won after 8.30pm when its Winter Olympics
coverage started (just as the cricket ended on Nine). Ten’s Brainiest special (1.215 million) and a new episode of Law and Order
Criminal Intent
(1.20 million) also did well. Doing
even better was a new episode of Law and Order SVU with 1.395 million. The ABC
isn’t interested in ratings, but the 7pm news was hurt by the cricket with a
low audience figure for a Sunday night. The Einstein Factor
returned, but how would have you have known? It’s the ABC, so you were
lucky to catch it at 6.30pm. And SBS? Well, who was watching? The ODI
cricket averaged 1.551 million and Nine is no doubt thankful of an
Aussie win because tomorrow’s match in Brisbane should do very well.
But the price it pays is that it can’t run the second week of Missing
Persons Unit
, the first episode of Magda’s Funny Bits and new episodes of CSI New York and
CSI, as well the second episode of Temptation..
The Losers

Nine would have you believe that with 1.191
million viewers on average from 8.30pm to 11.30pm Seven’s evening telecast of
the Winter Olympics was a failure. Seven says no, because “we won from 8.30pm
onwards” – which they did – and this enabled Seven to stay close to Nine on the
night. But the Winter Olympics doesn’t seem to be big in Melbourne, where Seven
was nearly beaten to third by Ten.
News & CA

A big win for Nine, after all it is Sunday night and the
audience of 1.862 million nationally was helped by the cricket and the
Aussie rebound and great batting from Ponting and Symonds. Seven News wasn’t in
the hunt (1.271 million) and the ABC News fell well behind with 798,000. Sunday
morning saw a fleet of chat shows return, while some changes were obvious. Seven’s Weekend Sunrise jumped out of the blocks and won the morning
with 359,000, well ahead of Sunday on Nine with 298,000. Business Sunday(9)
which goes head to head with Weekend Sunrise, had a slow return, watched by only
an average of 122,000. Insiders on the ABC in a new hour format from 9am did
better, with an average 123,000. Having news in Insiders during the
morning helps and means Nine and Seven have competition in straight news. Inside
on the ABC averaged 95,000 in its new time slot of 10am to 10.30am.
Barrie Cassidy’s new sports vehicle, Offsiders, did very well, averaging
122,000 from 10.30 am to 11am, which meant there was a turn on by viewers – and that’s encouraging. Insiders needs a new segment now that it’s
an hour. Loved Barrie Cassidy’s ‘coat on’ approach on Insiders and coat-off approach on
The Stats

Nine won the night with 32.4% to 28.6% for Seven, 23.1%
for Ten, 12.3% for the ABC and 3.7% for SBS. Nine won Sydney and Melbourne (where
Seven was second 25.4% to Ten with 25.1%). But Nine surprisingly lost in Brisbane
to Seven, 32.6% to 27.2%. It’s odd that the cricket would be beaten by skiing and
other programs on Seven. And Nine won Adelaide and even
Glenn Dyer’s comments

Night one last night of what will be a very long ratings battle. Tonight there’s Bert at 5.30pm with Family Feud and at
7.30pm hosting the return of 20 to 1. Bert’s actually younger than the 2005
host of that program Bud Tingwell. Nothing like promising young talent, is
there? Even though there are other programs that should attract interest
tonight, such as Desperate Housewives on Seven and the first episode of The Biggest
on Ten at 7pm, the return Bert will be the one the TV
and advertising industry will be watching closely. Will he work? Certainly Nine’s
predicament is shown in the speed they’ve rushed the second series
of 20 to 1 to air, after it finished the 2005 ratings doing very well for Nine back in
late November.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey