First blood to Seven. Seven won the first week of official ratings by the narrowest of margins piping Nine by just 0.1%, thanks to Nine’s inability to do well across all demographics. Nine only dominated its now core strength of the over 55 group, while Ten and Seven fought for control of the younger demographics, especially 16 to 39 and 18 to 49. Seven won the key 6pm to 10.30pm zone one battle with Nine and Ten, and won the 25 to 54 (the core viewing audience), the 18 to 49 demographics (and a couple of others). Ten won its core 16 to 39 and Nine won the over 55 group. The result wasn’t as close as it seems: Nine won Sunday night with the second final of the one day cricket, (35.3% to 24.3%) and started the week with a big lead. Ten was third with 20.6%, the ABC was on 16.1% and SBS was on 5.4%. Seven lost Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide to Nine, but Sydney and Perth by a big margin, which is what kept the network on top. — Glenn Dyer

Big audience for A-League final. The grand final of the A-League Soccer on Foxtel last night was watched by what is though to be the second biggest audience ever to watch a Pay TV program in Australia. More than 234,000 people tuned in. Melbourne viewers watched the soccer in greatest numbers, 101,500, with almost 73,000 watching in Sydney, over 41,500 in Adelaide and just 3,300 in Perth. Last year around 197,000 viewers watched Sydney win the inaugural competition. The record audience for Pay TV is the 248,000 generated on the first broadcast (not including the time-shifted broadcast) of the Michael Parkinson interview with Shane Warne last month. — Glenn Dyer

Do TV viewers actually like ads? It has long been part of TV folklore than viewers hate the ads and suffer in silence, or switch channels and that when a device came along that would eliminate them in some way commercial TV and its clients were in trouble. First there was the threat posed by the VCR around 30 years ago. Now there’s the digital version, the PVR, or personal video recorder (such as TiVo in the US), which has promised to undermine the ad-driven commercial TV market by giving viewers the freedom to record and view what they like, when they like, without the ads. Nirvana loomed, viewers would be freed from the tyranny of advertising. And yet the commercial Free-To-Air TV industry is still in business and has boomed over the past two years, especially in the US. Now US research from AC Nielsen, which is the company running the ratings system in that country, has undermined the idea that viewers hate ads, as this story from The New York Times reveals: “It turns out that a lot of people with digital video recorders are not fast-forwarding and time-shifting as much as advertisers feared. According to new data released yesterday by the Nielsen Company, people who own digital video recorders, or DVRs, still watch, on average, two-thirds of the ads…” And that’s the crucial part of the story for advertisers and TV networks – whether viewers actually watch the ads, how many, what time, when and where. That’s where the changes are going to come from and there are some revolutionary ideas about. — Glenn Dyer

Digitial leg-up for Community TV. Australia’s struggling community TV channels might be thrown a lifeline by the Howard Government, one that will enable them to move into the digital world. There was a little-noticed report from the House of Reps Standing Committee on Communications, IT and the Arts, last week with a series of recommendations which then quietly received a cautious tick from Media Minister, Senator Helen Coonan. The Committee recommended community TV be carried in a digital simulcast on the new A digital channel which could be sold off this year. More importantly the Committee recommended that whoever buys Channel A be obligated to carry the Community TV simulcast, with a subsidy from Canberra. Now that’s likely to be a little controversial because it is not clear just who would want Channel A. So far the demand has been hard to identify because of the restrictions on ownership and material (no existing broadcasters or services are allowed to buy it). The issue got an airing in last week’s Senate estimates hearing with Labor Senator Stephen Conroy pressing Media Minister, Senator Helen Coonan on just how the government intended helping the sector (which is struggling in Sydney in particular). Senator Coonan said in the Senate hearings that “I have to say that this (community TV) is a fluid situation and we have committed in the digital action plan to looking after community TV at an appropriate time”:

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Senator CONROY: The point that I am trying to get to is that their business model collapses long before the final switch-off point. Is that a reasonable proposition?

Senator Coonan: There is a point at which they need to be taken—or at least someone needs to carry them—on digital space.

Senator CONROY: The digital action plan states that the sector is being encouraged to explore options for a simulcast arrangement with a digital platform operator. They are basically being told to seek a commercial arrangement with the purchaser of channel A. Is that what you are intending?

Senator Coonan: No. Any carrier. It does not have to be just channel A.

Senator CONROY: Is the government aware that the community broadcasters have already made inquiries to broadcasters and potential bidders for the new digital licences about the possibility of a simulcast and reported that the costs are prohibitive?

Senator Coonan: No, that has not been conveyed.

Senator CONROY: Again, I am not trying to start out on a false premise. I am just trying to work my way through what you said before. If community TV cannot reach a deal for a simulcast, the digital action plan states, as you have said, that the government will consider allocating analog Channel 31 for digital services and that the new channel would be subject to a must-carry requirement for community TV. That is what I think you were describing. Do you think this option would be an extremely disruptive option for community TV? Would they not actually have to make a decision about whether they were going to have a digital or an analog; there would be no simulcast-type arrangement like everybody else has? It is a tough choice if they are not able to get a commercial settlement.

SENATOR COONAN: Basically, what we are trying to do is, at no cost to the community sector, accommodate them on a digital platform with an obligation on another operator to so carry them. There are lots of different ways of doing it. There are ways in which you could look at the national broadcasters taking some of that spectrum, for instance, and carrying. There are lots of different ways. That is really what I am saying. I do not intend to have the community TV sector substantially disadvantaged. They will get onto a digital platform in an appropriate way. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: No matter how you spin it, slice it or dice it, the 2007 ratings battle moved firmly towards a Seven win after last night and there’s nothing rivals Nine or Ten can do about it. Seven dominated Sunday night in a way it had done for years, and gave itself a chance of winning the week from the first night, instead of playing catch up like last year. Ugly Betty was the most watched program with 2.031 million, Grey’s Anatomy was next with 1.705 million, followed by Australia’s Got Talent (Seven, 6.30 pm – 1.629 million), Seven News (1.430 million), the second ep of CSI (after 9.30pm – 1.352 million), the first ep at around 8.40pm (1.319 million), Nine News (1.190 million), Foyle’s War on the ABC at 8.30pm (1.140 million), 60 Minutes (1.101 million), 20 to 1 (1.030 million) and the ABC News with 1.001 million. Planet Earth on the ABC at 7.30 pm averaged 977,000. Seven’s new 9.30pm US program, What About Brian, had 941,000, Ten’s last ep of So You Think You Can Dance at 8.30pm, 939,000. The second weigh-in ep of The Biggest Loser from 7.30pm, 898,000.

The Losers: Ten last night, squashed between Seven and Nine. It finished fourth behind the ABC. It is finishing The OC this week rather than drag it out and will replace it with repeats of NCIS. Ten doesn’t seem to have much in reserve. No US dramas to speak of apart from House. Celebrity Dog School started last night on Ten from 6.30pm: just 527,000 but it was up against Australia’s Got Talent‘s first ep on Seven. The Einstein Factor on the ABC with 639,000, did better though at 6.30pm. The Celebrity program needs the Pommie dog program, Its Me Or The Dog that Ten was showing late last year, to be partnered with the celebs.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally by 240,000 and in every market but Adelaide.The 7pm ABC News with a million viewers did well, up against the Talent quest on Seven. Ten News 680,000. In the morning chat battle, Weekend Sunrise on Seven with 393,000 was the clear leader. Sunday on Nine at 9am lost 20,000 to average 214,000 compared to the week before. The Ray Martin story on David Hicks was better than the pre-publicity and didn’t need Ray Martin’s comments in that press release last week. Insiders on the ABC rose to 142,000, Inside Business was up as well, averaging 123,000 and Offsiders at 10.30am was also higher with 94,000. Landline on the ABC at noon averaged 335,000. Meet the Press on Ten averaged 51,000 for the interview with Federal Treasurer Costello.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 33.3% (24.3% a week earlier) from Nine with 26.2% (35.3%), the ABC with 18.5% (15.9%), Ten with 16.8% (19.7%) and SBS with 5.3% (4.9%). Seven won all five metro markets but the win in Adelaide was narrow, only 0.5%. Perth was huge, almost 10 points. In regional areas a win for Prime/7Qld with 31.5% from Win/NBN with 28.4%, The ABC with 19.3%, Southern Cross with 15.0% and SBS with 5.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Tonight its Seven with The Rich List, Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters. Nine has 1 vs 100, The Code (at 7.30pm) and CSI New York at 9.35pm. Ten has an hour of The Biggest Loser, Bondi Rescue and Supernatural. SBS has Top Gear at 7.30pm and the ABC has Four Corners and A Difference of Opinion at 9.30pm, which is on water and therefore quite topical: can Jeff McMullen at least make this a spirited and entertaining discussion? Seven to move further ahead, Ten to be squeezed even further.