After Seven’s successful Wednesday night, last night it was the turn of Nine and Ten to produce a string of prime time candidates for the official ratings battle. Ratings proper is still more than a week away but this week has seen the battle intensify with The Rich List, 1 vs 100 and Heroes starting and Prison Break back in harness.

Ten has already slipped NCIS into Tuesday nights where it has done well but it will find it tough going in a couple of weeks when Dancing With The Stars and All Saints reappear for Seven on Tuesday nights.

Last night Ten brought back the double act of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent, and kicked off the evening with Jamie At Home which underwhelmed and ended up a bit rare in the audience stakes with 857,000 viewers.

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Nine returned a trio: the old stager, Getaway and new formats for Missing Persons Unit and RPA. These proven performers are now an hour long instead of 30 minute programs as in previous years. So how did they go?

Not too bad, MPU averaged 1.313 million viewers at 8.30pm but was just beaten by Law and Order: SVU with 1.318 million. RPA averaged a very solid 1.308 million from 9.30pm against the 1.148 million for Law and Order: CI. It was a promising start for both programs in the hour long format.

But there’s another dilemma for Nine. If both programs continue in the range 1.2 to 1.3 million viewers, the arrival of the Footy Shows in late March (which will mean one program is rested) will produce a drop in audience numbers because the Footy Shows usually rate from around one million to a top of 1.2 million on a good night, though having Eddie on the AFL show would boost numbers.

The numbers for Getaway at 7.30pm would have been a disappointment for Nine: an average 1.127 million viewers across the hour.

A little better than in the dying days of the 2006 season but not the strongest of bases on which to build a good 2007. It’s still the same old, same old and there’s no freshness of approach which is what it really needs.

People in TV land have simply moved on: they travel more regularly and with greater confidence, Getaway and Seven’s The Great Outdoors are still rooted in the 90s to a large extent.

The second two hours of 24 were on Seven last night and it averaged a miserable 747,000 viewers from 8.30pm. It’s called The New Beginning. On these numbers it should be the end but it won’t be. It just doesn’t do it for Australian viewers – it is clearly too American.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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