NRL dominates regional GF ratings. The regional figures are in for the AFL and NRL grand finals and the Rugby League has more reason to smile. The NRL decider got to within 50,000 viewers of beating the AFL for the largest average audience across all markets. In fact the NRL can rue the inability of the PBL-owned part of the Nine Network to force its Adelaide and Perth affiliates to carry the game live in those markets. Both stations replayed the game later on Sunday night: it averaged 46,000 in Adelaide at 9.30pm and 21,000 in Perth at around 11.30pm. The ratings show that 1.409 million people watched the NRL grand final in regional areas. Add that to the 2.561 million who watched the game in the five metro markets and the total average was 3.969 million. For the AFL grand final, it was a different story — it was watched by more than 860,000 regional viewers to take its total national audience past the four million mark to 4.015 million. — Glenn Dyer

Fox News on the nose with US viewers. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel will celebrate its tenth anniversary this week with a major problem emerging: it’s in the middle of a nasty ratings slump. The network started on 7 October, 1996 and has supplanted CNN with its more conservative, and at times partisan, approach to news and current affairs. But with an absence of big news stories and the war in Iraq on the nose with many US viewers, overall viewing is off 5% in the eight months to the end of August, with prime time viewing down 13% in the same time. And new figures show that driving this decline was a 35% fall in Fox’s average prime-time viewing in the three months to the end of September, compared to last year, when Hurricane Katrina dominated the news. CNN’s audience fell 28%, and MSNBC dropped 22%, so it was mostly an industry wide trend but US reports say Fox has lost a lot of ground, more so than the competition. The fall in audience numbers is bad news for News Corp: Fox News Channel is in the middle of renegotiating new fee structures with cable and satellite providers. When it started in 1996 Fox agreed to low provider fees to win acceptance from cable companies and to grow the audience quickly. Now Fox is trying to charge those cable groups more and recover some of the money forgone over the past ten years. In some cases the network is asking for fee rises of up to 400%! Fox News Channel now draws an average of 840,000 viewers daily between 6am and 11pm — compared to CNN’s 448,000 and MSNBC’s 270,000. Perhaps the most important factor is the realisation that US cable TV coverage is nearly at saturation point and growth will only match the population and economic conditions at best. All the easy eyeballs have been won and the trick now is to retain them and control subscriber “churn”. Which is why the fee rises being asked for by Fox News represent a big gamble: they could turn out to be self-defeating by driving cable companies and their subscribers to cheaper services or to drop Fox all together. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Monday night and a failure for Nine and its new lineup. Seven’s Grey’s Anatomy with 1.580 million was number one followed by Ten’s Live Verdict edition of Australian Idol (1.481 million), Seven News (1.471 million), Today Tonight (1.451 million), Home and Away (1.392 million), A Current Affair (1.355 million), Nine News (1.325 million), Temptation (1.303 million) and Criminal Minds (1.242 million). Nine’s returning series, What’s Good For You, faded in its first outing with just 1.163 million, while the new and heavily advertised What a Year sagged with 1.029 million (it’s really 20 to 1 in a different package). Seven’s The Great Outdoors averaged 934,000: What’s Good For You and Idol beat it into third at 7.30pm. Time for a change in The Great Outdoors, it’s looking a bit toothy!

The Losers: Where to start with Nine? What a Year, the Money special, Body of Evidence. Bert’s Family Feud down at 526,000, Deal or No Deal on Seven on 855,000 and Ten News, 985,000, back to around the average. Ten News of course winning. Australian Story continues to fall short of a million people with 863,000.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Brisbane. It won Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth where the margin was 134,000 compared to the national margin of 147,000. Today Tonight beat ACA by 96,000 nationally and 107,000 in Perth. TT won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth and ACA won Melbourne and Brisbane. The 7pm ABC News was solid but The 7.30 Report was easier with 735,000 viewers. Four Corners averaged 734,000 last night for its greenies-loggers story, 300,000 down on the figures for the previous week on the Exclusive Brethren, Media Watch averaged 689,000. Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope averaged 833,000 which was lower than average this year. Sunrise beat Today.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 30.5% (30.1% a week earlier), Nine second with 24.5% (24.1%), Ten was third with 23.3% (22.5%), the ABC was next with 15.4%, (16.3%) and SBS was on 6.4% (7.0%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Nine leads the week 34.0% to 22.9%. In regional areas Nine was the most popular with WIN/NBN having a share of 28.2% from Prime/7Qld with 28.0%, Southern Cross (Ten), 21.7%, the ABC with 15.3% and SBS with 6.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: For the second time in three weeks the Nine Network produced a completely new line up in prime time and it bombed. The first was Wednesday night the week before last when only McLeod’s Daughters worked. Last night it was What’s Good For You (average), the new, highly promoted What a Year (below average at 8.30), the Money special at 9.35 (bombed) and Body of Evidence at 10.35pm, another bomb. What’s Good for You was returning, What a Year was new, as was the Money program and Body of Evidence was a series. A lot of money for a distant second place when more had been expected from What a Year and the return of What’s Good For You (clearly not the Nine Network on a Monday night). Seven’s The Great Outdoors is in need of a holiday judging by last night and Idol continues to do very well, holding up again last night. Mythbusters returned to SBS at 7.30pm last night with 719,000 viewers. Top Gear did a little better in the same slot but both programs are aimed at youngish males.

Peter Fray

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