Foxtel’s self-proclaimed strength soon to be tested. While Foxtel is boasting of the strongest half in its history in the six months to December, the next six months will be tougher. The pay TV group earned EBITDA of $102 million in the December half, which was up $47 million on the same period of 2006. Foxtel said that it recorded a $22m profit at the EBIT level (before tax and refinancing charges, after depreciation and interest and including joint ventures) representing a $45m turnaround on the previous year. It said that at the end of 2006 it had 1,204,000 direct subscribers (including installation queue) an increase of 10% since the end of December 2005. Foxtel’s total subscriber base, including wholesale customers, grew by 8.6% to 1,325,000 from 1,220,000 a year ago (excluding installation queues). Foxtel’s said subscription revenue rose 15% to $591 million in the half year. Total revenue rose 14% to $687 million (including ad and other revenues). Foxtel said it “continued to deliver improvements in viewer ratings over the year. For the year to 31 December 2006, subscription television in homes with the service achieved a 56.6% share of viewing, compared with a 55.7% share in the corresponding period in 2005. “Throughout the half Foxtel regularly attracted a greater share of viewing than each of the commercial networks and national broadcasters measured across all television homes in Sydney.” But how will this half go? Not so well with the strains on its finances as it meets the interest payments on the digital rollout, new set top boxes and the cost of the new AFL contract. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Well, apart from the Oscars and the odd way viewing divided across the country (watched in Sydney, ignored elsewhere) what happened last night? Well, Seven News was the most watched program with 1.443 million people. Desperate Housewives was second with 1.367 million (it averaged 405,000 in Sydney, the same as the Oscars, but for four hours!). Today Tonight was fourth (thanks to Perth) with 1.326 million from A Current Affair with 1.325 million (so nothing really in it). Nine News was fifth with 1.241 million people on average; Seven’s 7.30pm program, The Rich List averaged 1.186 million and Temptation had its best night for weeks with 1.141 million viewers and won the 7pm timeslot (helped by the turn on in the last quarter hour for the start of the Oscars coverage). The Biggest Loser was Ten’s best from 7 pm to 8 pm with an average of 1.111 million for another elimination ep. Then came Bondi Rescue at 8pm with 1.107 million in 9th slot, just ahead of the Oscars Awards with 1.087 million from 8pm to midnight. The Biggest Loser actually beat the Red Carpet and the first half hour of The Rich List. Home and Away next with 1.071 million and the Oscars Red Carpet averaged 1.031 million. Australian Story on the ABC at 8pm perked up to average 1.0008 million people. Seven’s Brothers and Sisters at 9.30pm, 981,000; Supernatural on Ten, 875,000. SBS’s best was a new Top Gear with 554,000 at 7.30pm.

The Losers: Difference of Opinion on the ABC at 9.35pm, 427,000, its lowest so far. Even the Oscars made a difference it would seem, and they were flat and tedious.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally by 201,000 and didn’t need Perth. Today Tonight had a 1,000 extra viewers than ACA but ACA claimed the night with three wins (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) while TT won Adelaide and by 61,000 in Perth. The 7pm ABC News was solid with 993,000 viewers and likewise The 7.30 Report with 961,000: no Red Carpet viewing there. Four Corners was also solid with 811,000 while Media Watch had a low 671,000. But it was the first night back. Lateline averaged 237,000, Lateline Business, 112,000. Nightline averaged 558,000 but that was really the dying embers of the Oscars broadcast which ran til midnight. Nightline was down to start at 11.35pm. Ten News averaged 874,000 and Late News/Sports Tonight averaged 364,000. SBS News, 234,000. 7am Sunrise, 403,000, 7am Today, 258,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 30.1% (26.0% a week ago) from Seven with 28.7% (30.1%), ten with 20.3% 921.1%), the ABC with 14.7% (15.5%) and SBS with 6.3% (7.3%) Nine won Sydney, 35.4% to 25.6% because of the Oscars and nothing else. Seven won all four other metro markets and still leads the week 30.4% to 28.6%. Now that was in the 6 pm to midnight battle. In the 6 pm to 10.30 pm all networks battle Seven prevailed from Nine, 28.6% to 28.3% and in the commercial network battle, Seven won narrowly from Nine 36.8% to 36.4% in the 6 pm to 10.30 pm. No regional figures again today. Sorry.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: As the Eagles sang a long time ago, “One of These Nights” and it was. Sydney’s affinity for the Oscars broadcast belies its reputation as an edgy, fast moving city. it was a boringly done program all up with only a couple of highlights: Jerry Seinfeld and Helen Mirren. Tonight it’s Dancing with the Stars on Seven. Now yesterday The Catch-Up started on Nine at 1pm and did well (although some publicity had it starting at 1.30pm). It averaged 244,000 people, which would please Nine, but it was still beaten by Seven. TCU did well in Melbourne where it won the hour but was runner up in the four other metro markets. Perhaps it was the Oscars updates. Today onwards will tell. Having Dr Phil in front helps with his repeats grabbing 282,000 from midday. That ends soon when Phil is exhausted.

Peter Fray

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