Foxtel enjoys its big day. Foxtel had a good day out yesterday at the pay TV conference in Sydney. It should have; after all it is the pay TV monopoly, a word which James Packer and others never got round to mentioning. (I know Austar is there but it wouldn’t exist without Foxtel and its programming. Austar is merely a retransmitting business for regional Australia). Foxtel also had a bit of fun at the expense of its free to air cousins as this AAP story suggests:

The major free-to-air networks who have dismissed the success of Foxtel and Austar have now turned to the subscription TV suppliers for original Australian content. An offer has been tabled to Foxtel by one of Australia’s three commercial networks to bring the reality series Australia’s Next Top Model to free-to-air, Foxtel executive director of television and marketing Brian Walsh told AAP. While he wouldn’t single out which network had made the offer, the program, now in its third season on Fox8, would be a perfect fit for Network Ten, the home of successful youth-oriented brands such as Australian Idol and Big Brother.

Ten says its not them and there’s no chance of Seven dealing with Foxtel due to the C7 case, so that only leaves Nine, which is already in bed with Foxtel through the latter’s sponsorship of the AFL Footy Show, Fox Sports (through ownership and sports programming Nine couldn’t afford) and through program ideas such as the Concert for Diana in July. — Glenn Dyer

Cricket final falls victim to Fox Sports hypocrisy. James Packer told the pay TV conference yesterday that:

I note my colleagues from Foxtel and FOX Sports will maintain the established practice of broadcasting their recently acquired AFL rights with live play uninterrupted by advertising. This is a real point of difference for consumers and is clearly popular as evidenced by the consistent growth in subscribers and viewing shares.

So does this mean NRL fans will get all the games on Nine this year broadcast without ads? Somehow I don’t think so, James Packer isn’t that silly. One rule for FTA fans, another for pay TV. There’s a piece of Foxtel programming which shows the underlying hypocrisy of its anti-siphoning campaigns on sports rights. Monday sees the start of the national domestic cricket final in Hobart. The final has in the past usually started on Thursday and gone through the weekend, finishing on Monday. But Foxtel has NRL broadcasts starting this weekend, and next weekend it has its AFL games starting, so it had no room for the cricket. In its campaign against the anti-siphoning rules Foxtel accuses the free To air networks (including Nine) of hoarding sporting rights and scheduling sports to suit themselves (including not broadcasting them live). The cricket will be live, but it won’t be shown to suit fans or maximise viewing audiences: weekends do that. The cricket final will be shown to suit Foxtel. The NRL is by far the most popular programming on Foxtel and its audiences will jump sharply from this week. There are now three Fox Sports Channels, but Foxtel, News and PBL didn’t want any competition for the NRL this weekend. And Foxtel is a monopoly and the FTA networks are not. — Glenn Dyer

Pressure growing on ABC legal head? Sources inside the ABC continue to suggest that there is a campaign to undermine the head of ABC Legal Services, Stephen Collins. There was a small story in The Australian last month which mentioned that Collins was under pressure and from talking to a couple of well placed people at the ABC it would seem that there is a concerted effort being made to eject Collins. If that happens, it will upset executive producers and many journalists in news and current affairs, ABC TV people and people in ABC radio where Collins is something of a hero for programs like Media Watch, where Collins has aggressively fought injunctions and other moves to stop stories from going to air. However, he does have critics at The 7.30 Report and it’s thought some of the pressure on him is coming from this area. The campaign to force him out will be a test for the ABC’s activist CEO, Mark Scott, who has made no secret of the fact that he wants ABC executives to “play together” and to be more proactive (and active) rather than just sitting in silos and not co-operating. — Glenn Dyer

More of the same as the Footy Shows return. Eddie McGuire appeared briefly, Sam Newman put his foot in his mouth with the boot still on and boredom reigned in Sydney. It was the first night back for both the AFL and NRL Footy Shows last night and on this basis it looks like it’s going to be more of the same. The AFL Footy Show out-rated its NRL counterpart and everything else in Melbourne where it was the top show with 392,000 viewers. It was also the eighth most watched show in Adelaide but down around number 21 in Perth. The NRL Footy Show averaged 314,000 in Sydney and finished a solid sixth. But in Brisbane it bombed, averaging a low 121,000 and finished 23rd. That’s what happened last year and the NRL program was dragged down as the year went on before a recovery as the winning prospects of Brisbane improved (they won the premiership). A total of 1.036 million viewers between them last night and that pushed Nine to victory, though Nine’s share on the night still fell and Seven and Ten both picked up viewers. The Footy Shows were only the ninth most watched program nationally but the million plus average from 9.30pm to 11pm or so was enough to make up for the half a million drop in viewing numbers for the last ep of RPA from 9.30 to 10.30pm the previous week. Nine has rationalised the hostings on the NRL program with Paul Vautin still lead host, along with two other hosts and a rotation of active players. Compared to the AFL program, the NRL version is still flat and very one dimensional. — Glenn Dyer

SMH betting on the Form.

Printing 40 newspaper pages, even tabloid ones, is an expensive business and especially so when advertisements cover less than two of them. But that is what the Sydney Morning Herald has done this morning with its new lift-out racing guide “the form”. Clearly Granny is having a shot at stealing a little of the Daily Telegraph’s thunder with this comprehensive coverage of the weekend’s betting activity. For the next five weeks the well produced insert will be put in all copies of the SMH. From 20 April it will be available as a free supplement to those who ask for it to be included in their home delivery or picked up from any newsstand or newsagent. It is certainly an innovative way of trying to stop the slide in the Herald’s circulation. — Richard Farmer

The brain drain from the Fin Review continues. Latest of a string of big names to walk out the door headed for The Australian is senior writer Jennifer Hewett, the woman once trumpeted by AFR editor Glen Burge as one of his proudest aquisitions. Hewett’s resignation continues a sequence that has also included Helen Trinca, Chris Merritt, Rowan and Callick, all gone to the Oz. Which is such a depletion, you have to wonder whether the dimunition will be reflected in the paper’s subscription price, now a snip at $792 per annum if you take a monthly buy. — Jonathan Green

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Thursday night the Footy Shows were back, no RPA for Nine but it still scored a solid win. Some things don’t change on a Thursday night in autumn and winter. Just ten programs with a million or more viewers. Missing Persons Unit was the most watched at 8.30pm with 1.240 million. Seven News was second with 1.236 million, Law And Order SVU was third with 1.208 million and My Name Is Earl was fourth with 1.149 million. Lost was fifth with 1.148 million, Today Tonight was sixth with 1.139 million, just in front of A Current Affair with 1.108 million. Nine News was eighth with 1.106 million, the Footy Shows averaged 1.036 million and Getaway was tenth with 1.029 million. Home and Away on Seven at 7pm won the battle there with 981,000, from Nine’s Temptation with 974,000 and The Biggest Loser with 972,000. Law and Order CI, 912,000 at 9.30 pm. Jamie At Home at 7.30 on Ten, 878,000, Saving Babies on Ten at 8, 942,000. The Inspector Rex repeat on SBS at 7.30, 403,000. Apart from the News and 7.30 Report, it was a quiet night for the ABC.

Losers: Bones (909,000) and How I Met Your Mother (956,000) again improved for Seven at 9.30pm and 7.30pm respectively but still not performing. It was again a night where there were no real losers except for Lost on Seven at 8.30pm, languishing in third place behind Missing Persons Unit and Law and Order SVU.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally by 130,000 and 65,000 in Perth. Seven won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, lost Melbourne and lost Sydney by 2,000. Today Tonight won by 31,000 nationally and 54,000 in Perth. TT won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. ACA won Melbourne and Brisbane. The 7pm ABC News averaged 958,000 with The 7.30 Report averaging 816,000. Lateline, 251,000, Lateline Business a high 149,000. Ten News averaged 827.000, the Late News/Sports Tonight, 406,000. SBS News averaged 179,000 at 6.30pm and 203,000 at 9.30pm (it is the only news service where the later, shorter bulletin quite often beats the longer earlier edition). 7am Sunrise, 393,000, 7 am Today 221,000 (it has been a weak week for the program) and The Catch Up, 151,000 at 1pm, beaten by Oprah and the Seven movie. Nine has lost viewers for no appreciable gain at the moment.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 30.5% (32.5% a week earlier) from Seven with 27.0 (25.7%), Ten with 23.8% (22.9%), the ABC with 13.1% (14.6%) and SBS with 5.6% (4.3%). Nine won Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth but lost Brisbane where the NRL Footy Show bombed. Seven leads the week 30.1% to 27.5%. In regional areas a win to Nine through WIN/NBN with 30.3% from Prime/7Qld with 28.2%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 22.7%, the ABC on 12.8% and SBS with 5.9%. Nine won the 6 pm to 10.30 pm commercial battle from Seven and Ten.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: A competitive night with good choice for viewers. The Footy Shows did OK for Nine but the half million viewers who tuned into RPA last week went elsewhere except the ABC. Tonight the NRL returns for Nine, Seven leads by more than it did a week ago, will the League see Nine surge? Sunday afternoon there’s League for the first time on Nine this year, the news in Sydney and Brisbane will benefit but elsewhere? Seven has the NAB Cup Final, Brisbane (live) vs. Carlton. That will be enough to make sure Seven wins. Apart from the footy, not much else on. Sunday night is the usual fare of Talent, Betty, Greys and Brian on Seven, 20 to 1, 60 Minutes, CSI and CSI Miami. Will Ten do any better? Well it should with Joanne Lees: Murder in the Outback, unfortunately followed by My Best Friend’s Wedding (someone with a sense of humour at Ten?). The ABC has the bridge doco and then Miss Marple. And finally with more than 200,000 people walking over the bridge and doing other things on Sunday, will viewing that night in the Emerald city be down? After all it’s a tiring thing riding the rails and walking the bridge. Although a few thousand people got some timely practice the other night when the entire Sydney rail system stopped because of a breakdown of one train near the bridge.