Croc Hunter’s death a boon to ratings. Steve Irwin’s death certainly dominated the news. The newspapers today are full of stories about him, with the usual cultural cringe about reaction overseas. But it was on TV on Monday night that we saw quite a dramatic reaction. Ratings for Nine News and A Current Affair audiences jumped by around 400,000 to 500,000 compared to a normal Monday nigh for both programs. ACA was the most watched program with 1.878 million; Nine News was next with 1.783 million. Seven News was close behind with 1.712 million and Today Tonight also added around 200,000 on its normal Monday evening audience figures to average 1.605 million. ABC News at 7pm added around 100,000 viewers while The 7.30 Report bounced over the million viewer mark (up around 200,000 or so on normal Monday nights) to an average 1.009 million people. Even Ten News At Five saw its audience soar to the highest level for a long time: it averaged 1.295 million viewers for the hour from 5pm. Half a million people deserted Ten at 6pm (The Simpsons averaged 733,000 at 6pm), and went to Nine or Seven. Tonight Seven is putting a tribute to Irwin to air at 8pm after Border Security, beating the Nine Network by a day. Nine told the media last night that it would be showing an hour long special Wednesday night at 7.30pm. It pulled a program which pitted mothers-in-law against each other in some strange contest. The Irwin special will rate a lot better. The big audiences for the News and ACA didn’t help Nine one bit: its audience later in the night collapsed; Seven won. – Glenn Dyer

High noon in regional TV. This is regional TV week on the stockmarket. Prime Television, the Seven affiliate, releases its profit later today and on Friday it’s the turn of Southern Cross Broadcasting, the Nine affiliate in Adelaide and the Ten affiliate in regional Australia. Prime will do well thanks to the Seven Network link while Southern Cross’s Nine and Ten links have done it no favours – both networks have reported lower revenues and earnings already in 2006. But Prime and Southern Cross won’t be as bad as the Perth Nine affiliate, STW9, which is owned and operated by the listed Sunraysia TV. In something of a standoff, Sunraysia is nearly 49% controlled by interests associated with Eva Presser and Nine regional affiliate WIN, owned by Bruce Gordon, has almost 44% but no board representation. Relations between the two are not good and relations with the PBL-owned Nine Network in Sydney are even worse. You see, Eva Presser and the company blame the Nine Network for causing STW to incur a loss in the year to June. The company announced it suffered a loss of $3.1 million for the June year, down from the net profit of $4.2 million earned in 2005. The loss wasn’t a surprise as the company told the market in May that a dip into the red was expected. It earned a profit in the better first half of $2 million, down 38%. However the reasons advanced by Sunraysia for the loss won’t go down well at PBL or the Nine Network for these comments: “The loss of market share by the Nine Network, the downturn in the advertising market, a $1.5 million loss incurred in broadcasting the Commonwealth Games and the continued loss incurred in broadcasting AFL Games.” Like Southern Cross, Sunraysia is trying to renegotiate a new affiliate agreement with Nine. That is proving difficult: Sunraysia wants the costs plus nature changed to take account of the loss of the AFL by Nine. That will cost Nine and PBL lost earnings, which will be painful. The loss on the Commonwealth Games is interesting as Nine slashed its costs back in the 2005 year, as did Southern Cross and Sunraysia, and it seems a loss was still incurred. – Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Steve Irwin’s surprise death overshadowed last night’s viewing and the news and current affairs figures reflected that. Nine’s A Current Affair was the most watched program with 1.878 million, followed by Nine News with 1.783 million, then Grey’s Anatomy on Seven at 8.30pm with 1.775 million, Seven news was fourth with 1.712 million viewers on average; Today Tonight with 1.605 million, Temptation (Nine 7pm), 1.468 million and Home And Away (Seven, 7 pm) with 1.413 million. Ten’s Australian Idol verdict program averaged 1.398 million in 8th place. Next was Ten News At Five with 1.295 million, Seven’s The Great Outdoors was 10th with 1.244 million (that’s around 100,000 or so more than normal), the 7pm ABC News averaged 1.139 million and Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope averaged 1.135 million (it featured interviews from the past with Steve Irwin and Don Chipp). Seven’s Criminal Minds (9.30pm) averaged 1.128 million and the repeat of Cold Case on Nine at 8.30 pm averaged 1.090 million. Australian Story on the ABC averaged 1.039 million, Swarms on Nine at 7.30 pm averaged 1.024 million and The 7.30 Report averaged 1.009 million viewers. It was the 17th and final program with a million or more viewers last night.

The Losers: Two Twisted on Nine 658,000 might soon star in its own departure. Bert’s Family Feud 653,000, Deal or No Deal, 924,000 (its highest for some weeks) but both had no influence on the figures for the news and current affairs shows from 6pm to 7pm. Ten News At Five blitzed the 5pm to 6pm timeslot. Nine’s post 7.30pm programming was the biggest loser on the night; Bert did very well in comparison.

News & CA: Nine News and ACA did very well as viewers turned to Nine for the Steve Irwin story: they also turned to Seven, Ten and the ABC but not in the same numbers. Even The 7.30 Report got a boost. This morning’s figures for Today and Sunrise will be interesting. ACA won everywhere bar Perth. Nine News won Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Seven won Adelaide and Perth but Nine News in Perth had its highest figures for quite a while, as did ACA, even though they ran second. Four Corners averaged 893,000 with a good program on dietary fads and Media Watch averaged 707,000 and featured a very good “get” of Piers Akerman over his silly Play School Baa Baa Black Sheep column last week which showed he didn’t watch the program but shot off his mouth. So typical, and yet he fronts up every now and then on ABC’s The Insiders on Sunday morning at 9am.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 30.7% (31.1%) from Nine with 24.4% (25.1%), Ten with 20.6% (21.5%), the ABC with 17.8% (16.9%) and SBS with 6.4% (6.3%). Seven won all five metro markets but in the bush, Nine affiliates, WIN/NBN won with a share of 28.7% from Prime/7Qld just behind with 28.3%. Sthn Cross (Ten) was on 20.9%, ABC with 15.8% and SBS with 6.2%. Top Gear was SBS’s best with 702,000 viewers from 7.30 pm.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: For all the “turn on” to Nine News and A Current Affair and then the carry over into Temptation, Nine’s night last night in fact collapsed from 7.30pm. Nine went from leading the night to second and then third and fourth place: the lack of strong programming from 7.30pm onwards was amazing. Swarms wasn’t wanted on WIN: it programmed a Funniest Home Video blooper program: Win/NBN won the night in the bush, I might point out. The repeat of Cold Case, poor old Two Twisted and then something called The Dead Zone. Sounds very much like scraping the bottom of the barrel, and yet Nine still has new programs in its inventory. It’s obviously going to be trying to push hard in October and November till ratings end to convince media buyers not to cut its rates and revenue shares for 2007. Tonight it’s Border Security with Seven putting a Steve Irwin tribute to air at 8pm instead of Medical Emergency. Nine has 20 to 1 back for yet another hack at nostalgia, and then a repeat of CSI and then The Closer: Seven has All Saints and Crossing Jordan as well: Ten has The Splodge (Wedge) at 8.30pm and then Real Stories at 9pm and two episodes of Futurama at 7pm and 8pm. The ABC highlight is Rolf Harris and his Star Portraits. So poorly did Nine perform last night that it has allowed Seven to pull level in the week’s battle for the first time in over a month. They both have a share of 28.1%

Peter Fray

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