Australians watched The Great Escape
on Nine last night in droves, but it won’t be the most watched program
on Australian TV this year. That’s already quite likely to be the AFL
Grand Final, which should top Nine’s broadcast of the Commonwealth
Games Opening ceremony. When it comes to a choice between sport and
news, it seems Australians always choose sport.

The Brad ‘n’ Todd show slots in at number five on the current 2006 list between the final of Dancing With The Stars on Seven two weeks ago and the final of Ten’s The Biggest Loser.
The final of the Australian Open Tennis in late January attracted more
viewers, as did the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

The
program peaked at 3.037 million. The audience in Melbourne averaged
883,000 compared to Sydney’s 786,000. That was understandable: the
story has greater resonance in Melbourne because it’s closer to
Northern Tasmania. A common interest in AFL also cements the link.

In
Perth, the 6pm Seven News outrated the miners special 259,000 to
247,000; in the smaller Adelaide market the special and Nine News tied
with an average 242,000 viewers; in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney it
was clearly tops.

Nine put out an early statement this morning
boasting about the audience peaks, which is fair enough, but the
important figures for the industry are the averages.

A look at
the quarter hour breakdown shows the broadcast started with an average
of 2.697 million viewers between 8.30pm and 8.45pm, then rose to a peak
3.013 million between 8.45pm and 9pm, held at around 2.7-2.9 million
for the next hour, then viewers started turning off and it finished
with 2.270 million between 10.15pm and 10.30pm. Still good numbers by
any measurement.

The broadcast gained Nine a commercial share of
around 49%, compared to Seven’s 60% share for the Stuart Diver interview on Witness back in 1997. But that was on a Wednesday night – only two million
people watched against the 2.58 million last night.

Here are the current top 10 most watched programs of 2006 (before last night):

1. Commonwealth Games – Opening Ceremony (Nine): 3.561 million
2. Tennis – Australian Open Men’s Final (Seven): 2.748 million
3. Commonwealth Games – Closing Ceremony (Nine): 2.736 million
4. Dancing with the Stars – Final (Seven): 2.665 million
5. The Biggest Loser – Final (Ten): 2.310 million
6. TV Week Logie Awards – Arrivals (Nine): 2.260 million
7. Desperate Housewives – Episode 1 (Seven): 2.246 million
8. Commonwealth Games – Opening Countdown (Nine): 2.229 million
9. Cricket – Australia v South Africa 20/20 (Nine): 2.179 million
10. Lost – Episode 1 (Seven): 2.125 million