Sunraysia TV takes a hit. They
are not going to like this at Willoughby or in Park Street, but the Nine
Network’s worst performing affiliate, STW in Perth, is going to lose money this
financial year. Sunraysia TV yesterday told the ASX that it was now expecting “an
after-tax loss in the range of $2.5m to $4m”. Directors blamed a loss of market share by the Nine
Network, a downturn in the ad market, the $1.5 million loss incurred from
broadcasting the Commonwealth Games and AFL matches and “the continued loss
incurred in broadcasting AFL Games”. Seeing
the company earned $4 million last year, and reported net earnings of $2 million
in the first half (which were down 38%), the Sunraysia
numbers are going to send the odd rattle through the
industry. STW is
an exception however – it is the worst performing capital city TV station in the
country. It
consistently runs third behind Seven and Ten in
Perth with
poor-rating news. A Current Affair doesn’t do well against Seven’s Today
Tonight
and the company has been unable to take any advantage from the biggest
boom in WA history. Despite that, Nine and the Packer Empire will not appreciate being
blamed for the loss: the “loss of market share by the Nine Network”
(amplified in Perth by STW’s ineptitude) and the losses from the
Commonwealth Games and the AFL. All are
directly attributable to decisions taken in Sydney at Willoughby and Park
Street. The
Games didn’t do as well in Perth for STW as in
Melbourne for
GTV 9 because of the time difference of three hours. That
the AFL is incurring losses for STW, despite the success of the Eagles and the
presence of the well performing Dockers, is quite odd. That
would be a worry to Seven ahead of its takeover of the
AFL in 2007. But it would argue that seeing it has the leading TV station in
Perth, it will
be able to make money, despite paying more for the rights. – Glenn Dyer

Peace at last in the racing TV brawl. It
was as well leaked as the Federal Budget but the settlement of the brawl between
the major racing clubs in Sydney and Melbourne and their TV
arm, TVN, Tabcorp and its Sky Channel business, begs
a few questions. According to the papers the deal
gives TVN a value of around $200 million based on these
terms; that there would be two channels – a
consolidated wagering channel controlled by Sky (horses, dogs, trots) and a thoroughbred channel owned by
TVN – and that TVN would be substantially funded
and resourced by Sky for about $3.5 million a year. Sky
will distribute both channels to pubs and clubs, which will be able to access
both channels for one price. The TVN channel will also be available on pay TV
subject to agreement (Foxtel, Austar). Sky
is expected to pay broadcast rights fees of $22 million a year for the Sydney
and Victorian races while Tabcorp’s wagering business
will add up to $2 million a year for additional free-to-air broadcasting of
racing. TVN
will also receive upfront payments of about $15 million for services. The
contract lasts until 2012. All
up, TVN will effectively receive around $30.5 million a year and yet 18 months or
so ago there was no value placed on the Sydney and Melbourne races at all by Sky
or its parent Tabcorp. Sky
made substantial profits, and it and Tabcorp ignored
the attempts by the Sydney and Melbourne race clubs to do a deal to give them
more value for their races, which are the major sources of interest for punters
each year, and the source of biggest wagering profits for Tabcorp (and for UniTab in
Queensland). TVN
chairman, Harold Mitchell, was the driving force and it wasn’t until James Packer
and PBL appeared bearing an offer of $25 million for a 25% stake in TVN that
Tabcorp started moving to try and keep Packer out of
wagering and to protect its monopolies in Victoria and
NSW. Tabcorp could have
resolved this far more cheaply and without the tens of millions of dollars of
wagering revenues lost or forgone over the past year or so. Shareholders should
take note of the money wasted and the revenue lost, and that Tabcorp has changed
the management of its wagering business. After all, six weeks ago TVN was on
its knees, facing crippling losses and on the verge of being forced to sue for
peace with Tabcorp. The
appearance of James Packer has effectively doubled the amount Tabcorp was prepared to pay to settle the transaction: so it
was an inspired bit of horse trading by Mitchell and the TVN
board. – Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV
ratings

The Winners: 15 programs with a million or more viewers: another
very even night with some interesting highlights. Seven’s Desperate Housewives
returned to the top of the pecking order with 1.715 million viewers, its highest
audience in a month or more. Second was Seven News with 1.677 million, then Cold
Case
, on Nine with 1.637 million. It had supplanted Housewives for several
weeks. Nine will have to change its promos for Cold Case. It had been calling
it “Monday night’s most popular drama”. Seven’s Today Tonight was next with
1.614 billion, Nine News was next on fifth spot with 1.505 million. Nine’s 20 to
1 averaged 1.458 million, A Current Affair was 7th with 1,345 million, then Home
and Away
with 1.327 million, 9th was Temptation with 1.312 million and the Big Brother Live Nominations was 10th with 1.305 million. Big Brother (7 pm) was next
with 1.186 million, Australian Story was 12th with 1.068 million, the 7pm ABC
News was 13th with 1.056 million, Deal or No Deal was 14th with 1.050 million
and 7.30 Report had probably its biggest audience of the year with 1.013 million
in 15th place.

The Losers:
Well, not Bert’s Family Feud – back up to 708,000 but
it still got beaten by Deal or No Deal. (Bert’s audience was 250,000 in Sydney, which
is why Nine News did well in that city last night ). Seven’s Commander in Chief
averaged 958,000 people: it beat Nine’s Hotel Babylon in its last episode with
900,000. Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope at 9.35pm averaged 990,000, The Big
Brother Adults Only
at 9.40pm with 962,000. Seven’s programming was
disturbed by running Home and Away for an hour from 7 pm to 8pm to make up for
an episode dropped last week.Seven’s The Great Outdoors audience averaged
962,000 – about 100,000 to 150,000 under what it has been getting in the past few
weeks. But that was due to it starting at 8pm and finishing early at 8.40pm to
allow Housewives to start on time at 8.40pm.Seven says Home and Away beat the
opposition from 7pm to 8pm.

News & CA:
Seven News again won nationally but depended on Perth
for the win after Nine won Sydney and Brisbane. Seven won Melbourne, Adelaide
and Perth. Today Tonight also won nationally and in all markets except Brisbane
where ACA won. The boost from Bert helped Nine in Sydney but not in Melbourne
because Deal or No Deal still managed a big Monday evening audience. Ten News at
Five was unusually down at 753,000 people: Monday evenings had been its best
night of the week and it had been averaging above 900,000 in recent weeks. The
performance of the ABC 7pm News and 7.30 Report was the best for months in
tandem. The exclusive on the female navy officer’s problems might have helped.
Four Corners’s story on teenage suicide deserved more than the 873,000 and more
than the 926,000 that watched Media Watch which wasn’t in the same class. Media
Watch
was once again boosted by the turn-on early for Denton’s
program.

The Stats:
Seven with 27.8% (26.8% a week earlier), Nine was second
with 27.4% (29.9%), Ten was third with 22.0% (21.6%), the ABC with 17.4% (17.3%)
and SBS with 5.4%(4.5%). Nine won Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Seven won
Adelaide and Perth. Nine will wonder why it lost after winning its East Coast
station-markets, but the bragging rights are Seven’s. Perth was the difference
and there’s nothing Nine and PBL can do about it short of taking over
STW.

Glenn Dyer’s comments:
Another solid, competitive night with viewers
having a good range of choices to argue over. Nine probably should have won, but
Seven did and besides Perth, it can also thank the 80,000 or so extra people who
tuned in to watch Desperate Housewives. The extra few thousand who watched Home
and Away
for an hour from 7pm also helped. The ABC was again strong on its best
night of the week. Tonight, no Dancing With The Stars on Seven. Instead
attention will be on how Border Security and Medical Emergency perform in its
place. They won’t pull a combined two million plus viewers but a year ago they
were up around the range of 1.5 million to 1.7 million.The ABC premieres Agony
Aunts
hosted by Clive Robertson at 8 pm. It will be either inspired TV or a bit
ordinary.

Peter Fray

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