Murdoch to stay on at Today; Nine concedes the morning battle. The way the Seven and Nine Networks filled two important hosting roles over the Australia Day weekend says a lot about the management of both networks. Despite the childish sniping from Nine News and Current Affairs “sources”, Seven appointed journalist Anna Coren to succeed Naomi Robson as host of Today Tonight. But over at Nine, the network was forced to admit that Sarah Murdoch would continue as co-host of Today show for another two months or so, despite the Network putting out the line back in early December that she would only fill in over Christmas/New Year. Murdoch said she was “loving it” but still having to adjust to the early morning starts. A look at the ratings show that viewers are also still adjusting to Ms Murdoch and will continue to do so until Jessica Rowe returns from maternity leave in April. It’s an admission from Nine that it has no-one from its own staff capable of filling in for Rowe and that it is ceding the morning battle to Seven for 2007. Sarah Murdoch has little screen presence or authority, a point seen with increasing emphasis since the New Year. Rowe might aggravate viewers but Murdoch has not improved on her numbers except for the first day when 315,000 viewers tuned in. Last Friday was Australia Day and Today averaged just 172,000 viewers, despite all the song and dance of a live broadcast from Tamworth where the nasal drawl of country and western music was heard. Rival Sunrise averaged 399,000: down on the normal 400,000 plus, but it was a national holiday. Nine will welcome Rowe’s return in April: she should be able to do better than Murdoch and there might just be a change in attitude to her from viewers with her being a mother and surviving the “boning” debacle of 2006. Meanwhile figures for last Thursday’s 6.30pm battle between TT and ACA again showed that the Seven program with Coren hosting has a big lead on ACA with Tracy Grimshaw. TT averaged 1.344 million on Thursday evening, ACA just 928,000, its lowest audience for a year or more. No wonder the Nine camp was doing its hardest to undermine Coren by leaking rubbishy stories to TV writers and gossip columns. — Glenn Dyer

Tennis does it again for Seven, but what else have they got? After another good audience for the men’s final at the Australian Open, once again the question in TV will be: has the Seven Network has peaked too early in the year? Sunday night is Seven’s most troubled night in the weekly schedule and the network has struggled to find high rating programming for the various timeslots. More than 2.442 million people watched Roger Federer win in straight sets over Fernando Gonzalez. That’s down on the 2.7 million who watched Federer win last year, beating Marco Baghdatis, and down on the huge 4.04 million from the start of 2005 when our Lleyton Hewitt was beaten by Federer. Nine will of course say tennis is not as popular but neither was the ODI cricket which last night couldn’t get near the men’s final, even though Federer was a strong favourite to retain his title against the aggressive Chilean. More than 647,000 people watched the men’s final in Sydney and a huge 923,000 in Melbourne. The first session of the cricket yesterday averaged 1.543 million for the Australian innings and 1.312 million for the night session when New Zealand chased but came up eight runs short. — Glenn Dyer

England’s inept cricketers cost Nine the week. Surprisingly Seven pipped the Nine in last week’s ratings, thanks to the appalling performance of the English cricket team on Friday night. A normally high rating Australian v England ODI was a failure for Nine as the Poms folded. In TV terms it was the worst performance of the summer for Nine. The loss on Friday night and poor performances by both Seven and Nine on Saturday night meant that Seven just got home after being beaten 42.6% to 20.4% on Sunday, quite a turnaround. Seven ended the week with a share of 28.4% from Nine with 28.2%, Ten with 19.8%, the ABC with 17.5% and SBS with 6.1%. The win also meant that Seven won both weeks of the Australian Open tennis, which is the name of the game for the network at this time of year. Seven easily won Friday night, 32.5% to 23.2% for Nine, but Saturday was a completely different result. With the one-sided women’s tennis final in the afternoon (average 906,000), there was nothing to appeal on the commercial networks on Saturday night. As a result the ABC was an easy winner, 29.2% to 23.3% for Ten, 23.1% for Nine and just 20.1% for Seven. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Tennis did it for Seven last night in a surprising fashion. The straight sets win to Roger Federer averaged 2.442 million, ahead of Nine News with 2.059 million, Nine’s “Sneak Peak” (a preview of its 2007 line up) with 1.694 million and the first session of the ODI between Australia and New Zealand with 1.543 million. Seven News was 5th with 1.429 million people, then the night session (NZ’s run chase) with 1.312 million and that was it: six programs with a million or more viewers on a very sporty night. Ten’s So You Think You Can Dance averaged 800,000 viewers and was the only other program to do well last night. The rest were battered by the tennis and the cricket.

The Losers: None really: the orgy of sport on Seven and Nine meant it was hard to call anything else a loser last night. That starts tonight. From the program guides Bert’s Family Feud and Seven’s Deal or No Deal are new eps tonight. Nine also returns that 7pm stalwart, Temptation. Nine has gone all Old Testament in promoting the return of Temptation with that naughty Eve offering Adam an apple. Ed Phillips as Adam? Spare Me Dayz! And Andrew O’Keefe will be Mr Everywhere on Seven: on Deal at 5.30pm and Rich List at 7.30pm (and Weekend Sunrise on Sunday)

News & CA: Nine News was an easy winner thanks to the boost from the cricket finishing as a lead-in and on Perth time. The 1.429 million who watched Seven News was boosted by the 432,000 who were watching (on average) the Mixed Doubles from the tennis titles from 4pm. Ten News at Five suffered because of the cricket and the tennis and averaged a low 619,000. Likewise the 7pm News on the ABC which averaged 685,000 and was hurt by the cricket on Nine which lead into Nine News at 7pm. In the morning Weekend Sunrise averaged 372,000 viewers.

The Stats: Seven won with 37.1% (20.4% a week earlier) from Nine with 33.1% (42.6%) with Ten third with 16.7% (20.6%), the ABC on just 8.6% (13.6%) and SBS with 4.4% (5.6%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane but Nine won Adelaide and Perth. In regional areas Seven won with prime/7Qld getting a share of 35.4% from Nine through affiliates WIN/NBN with 32.5%, Ten through Southern Cross with 16.6%, the ABC with 9.8% and SBS with 5.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: A big night of sport, won by Seven and tennis and won comprehensively, despite the close and at times thrilling Australia NZ ODI from Perth on Nine. The tennis clearly outpointed Nine’s cricket, especially with the Australians batting first and up against no opposition on other networks. The evening run chase by the Kiwis didn’t attract as many viewers (230,000 less on average) with the tennis on Seven from 7.30pm. But the summer sports fest is all but over, except for Nine’s remaining ODIs and the Alan Border medal awards next Monday night. From tonight the ratings skirmishes start with Eddie up against Seven, Ten, the ABC and SBS. One Man against many: tonight on a screen near you. 1 vs 100 should do well but one program doesn’t win a year.

Peter Fray

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