Desperate Nine recycles Dino TV. So how desperate is the Nine Network for new product next year? Very. We have already seen how Nine is using cheap New Zealand taxpayer financed programming — Outrageous Fortune on Monday nights — simply to gain drama points for Australian content (up to 20% of its 2006-07 quota). That will save spending money on a new Australian drama in 2007. Nine has now picked up two new programs from BBC Worldwide and ITV in Britain: dinosaur drama series Primeval and docudrama Superstorm. Superstorm is three 50 minute eps from the same people who produced Supervolcano, in which a group of scientists plan to control the weather. Primeval is six 50 minute eps in which an evolutionary zoologist, played Douglas Henshall, discovers that prehistoric creatures are alive and well and roaming Britain. It is an Impossible Pictures production for ITV. Nine showed the ITV series Pre-Historic Park earlier this year and obviously liked the ratings it achieved. Impossible Pictures produced the first of these dinosaur programs with Walking With Dinosaurs. It has also been re-licensed to Nine as part of the BBC Worldwide package and that’s where Nine’s cost consciousness comes in because Walking With Dinosaurs has already been to air in Australia on the ABC. In the past Nine re-licenced programs to other networks (such as The OC to Ten and West Wing to the ABC), but it very, very rarely picked up programs which had already aired in Australia on other networks. That’s the clearest sign so far of the new spending constraints at Nine under the reign of John Alexander, James Packer, Ian Law and Pat O’Sullivan. Programming for profit means just that. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Once again the lack of the high rating Ashes cricket has hurt Nine and exposed its lack of programming strength for summer, apart from News and A Current Affair. Seven was a very easy winner last night, Nine was second and Ten was beaten into a distant fourth by the ABC. From 7.30pm onwards Nine was third for most of the night behind Seven and the ABC. Serious Crash Unit (a docudrama buy-in from NZ) on Seven at 7.30pm averaged 1.438 million, Seven News was second with 1.316 million, followed by Border Patrol NZ at 8pm on Seven (1.274 million), A Current Affair (1.227 million), Today Tonight (1.213 million), ABC News at 7 pm (1.205 million, Life Begins (1.165 million) and Nine News (1.094 million). The ABC’s 8pm program, The Queen’s Cavalry, averaged 936,000, The Bill had 987,000 but Parkie’s Christmas Special was a turn-off with just 720,000.

The Losers: Nine’s schedule after 7pm: The King of Queens at 7pm (893,000, beaten by the ABC News), Two and A Half Men at 7.30pm (851,000 beaten by Seven and the ABC), The New Adventures Of Old Christine at 8pm (834,000, beaten by Seven and the ABC), Third Watch at 8.30pm (776,000, beaten by the ABCSeven and The OC on Ten). Weeds at 9.30pm (779,000, beaten by Seven). Ten’s entire evening schedule, except for The OC (sort of). Ten slipped another ep of the appalling Celebrity Joker Poker into the 9.30pm timeslot and it tanked, averaging just 418,000.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne. Seven won by 225,000 nationally and 119,000 in Perth. A Current Affair turned the tables on Today Tonight last night winning nationally by 14,000. ACA won Sydney and Melbourne (by over 100,000): TT won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The ABC News had significantly more viewers at 7pm than did Nine News which spends a fortune on promotion and production. The ABC News in Sydney did better than Nine in Sydney but not Seven. The 7.30 Report averaged 989,000. Ten News, 895,000. Sunrise in the morning averaged 449,000, Today with Sarah Murdoch, 267,000, up 4,000 on Monday, Sunrise up 19,000.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 31.1% (29.6%), from Nine with 25.0% (24.3%), the ABC with 20.0% (21.4%), Ten with 16.8% (17.6%) and SBS with 7.0% (unchanged). Nine leads the week 30.2% to 25.8% for Seven. Seven won all five metro markets. In the bush Prime/7Qld won with a share of 30.3% to Nine’s WIN/NBN with 27.4%, the ABC with 18.3%, Southern Cross (Ten), with 17.4% and SBS with 6.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Nine will argue that it doesn’t have to program strongly at the moment because its summer, its got the Test cricket which is raking in millions of dollars in revenues and profits and it is the week before Christmas and the ad market is a lot stronger than a few months ago. And all of that is true, but when you are struggling, as Nine has been all year, it pays to send viewers a message of confidence, which Nine isn’t. Ten is sort of following Nine in a way but that’s more to do with its shortage of product and the need merely to concentrate if it can on 16 to 39s. Seven is running dead in that there are few dodgy programs, such as Border Parol and Serious Crash Unit. Is NZ that worried about crashes and borders (and Highway Patrols on Nine) to support three similar programs? But it has started Life Begins which is the most interesting new program so far this summer.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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