If the US is any guide (and usually it is), Channel Nine is in for a torrid year, with Seven set to show almost every successful new US hit this year, along with some returning hits.
Seven’s lineup includes Heroes, the NBC drama about ordinary people who wake up to realise they have extraordinary (comic book type) abilities. The Golden Globe-nominated Heroes is the number one new series in the US this year in the key 18-49 demographic, collecting around ten million-plus total viewers each week.
Seven also has the hit Brothers and Sisters, starring Sally Field, Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths. The one hour drama has performed well in the sought-after timeslot directly after Grey’s Anatomy, garnering more than 12 million viewers, and holding most of Grey’s 18-49 demographic.
Despite tepid initial reviews, What About Brian struck a chord with viewers, after debuting mid-season last April (similar to Grey’s Anatomy the previous year). What About Brian has been a surprise packet for ABC and was renewed for a full second season. Brian has pulled around ten million viewers each week.
The most hyped show of 2007 is the multi-Golden Globe winning, Salma Hayek-produced Ugly Betty. While Globes aren’t always a perfect indicator of success (Commander in Chief won one last year and was soon after cancelled), Betty’s ratings are solid and it has remained in the US top 20, regularly garnering more than 14 million viewers. As it did in the last few years with Lost, Desperate Housewives and Prison Break, Seven has been promoting Betty very heavily during its high-rating Australian Open broadcasts.
Meanwhile, Desperate Housewives’s third series has rebounded strongly this year in the US to draw around 20 million viewers, up from the disappointing season two, while Lost and Prison Break should also return strongly.
As for Nine, it has the fading Cold Case and CSI franchises, which are still performing well overseas but have been overdone in Australia, with softer ratings during 2006. Of Nine’s new shows, the one-hour legal drama, Justice, has already been removed from screens in the US while Nine’s other new hope, Kidnapped, was cancelled by NBC after only five episodes.
With no AFL, no new shows and a rampaging competitor, the timing of James Packer’s sale of 50% of Nine (and various other media assets) to CVC Asia Pacific for $4.5 billion in October last year is looking shrewder by the day.