NRL returns to bolster Nine. The highlight of last week was the return of the NRL for 2007 on Nine. Nine will be happy with the results for the games and the Footy Shows in Sydney and Melbourne. Nine sports reporter, Danny Wielder, said in his Sun Herald column yesterday that Nine was “happy” with the 30% lift in the NRL Footy Show‘s audience but that was in Sydney, not Brisbane where the first night back was flat. It’s clear that with three NRL teams out of Queensland (the Brisbane Broncos, the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans) that the game could do with a Brisbane-based program concentrating on the game there, but that’s not in the Nine script. Friday night saw 332,000 people watch the Broncos get beaten by the Cowboys. In Sydney 421,000 watched the Tigers get beaten by the Melbourne Storm live from Melbourne and 238,000 people watched the Storm live in Melbourne. The Melbourne audience was OK but nothing to get too enthused about. Will Nine keep going when the AFL starts on Seven on Friday nights? Seven’s broadcast of the NAB Cup final on Saturday night averaged 830,000, 357,000 in Melbourne, the biggest audience on the night in any market. 185,000 watched in Brisbane as the Lions went down to Carlton. On this basis the League won hands down. A total of 991,000 people watched the League on Friday from 7.30pm to 11.30pm (one live, one delayed broadcast in Sydney and Brisbane). It was a good first up audience. Yesterday Nine broadcast the St George-Gold Coast Titans game, the first for the Titans in the NRL. It was only shown in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth and a total of 647,000 people watched in the three cities, with 363,000 in Sydney and 266,000 in Brisbane. Not as high as the Friday night figures, but solid. The F1 Grand Prix race on Ten averaged 1.036 million in mid afternoon and was well and truly over by the time the League kicked off on Nine.  — Glenn Dyer

Ten tarts up Neighbours but did anybody notice? When a TV program is facing ratings problems, producers reach for a trusty bombing, bringing back an old character; producing a wedding, baby, or a combination; or maybe the engineer a murder or disappearance. They are all tried and trusted storylines that can pep up a floundering program. Programs like Seven’s Home and Away are serial offenders. So it comes as not much of a surprise that Ten’s ratings-challenged soap Neighbours has had the eggbeater out and is whipping up a series of stunts to try and lift viewing. To no avail: audiences are stuck around 700,000, give or take 20,000 or so each night. That’s up a fraction from the mid 600,000 figures at the start of ratings in early February but nowhere near the high 800,000 to around a million the program was getting consistently last year. This week Ten will be showing London-based episodes, filmed last year and featuring cameos by Michael Parkinson, Spice Girl Emma Bunton, actor Neil Morrissey and former Ramsay Streeter, Natalie Bassingthwaighte. The coming months will see other changes with guest appearances by actors Rowena Wallace and Penny Cook, while actress Jane Hall will join the cast. Neighbours has been in this territory before, back in the early 1990s, but its real importance is in the UK where it screens on the BBC. Ratings there are not hot either. But to drop it Ten would have to have something to put in its place at 6.30pm Monday to Friday, something other than repeats of The Simpsons (at 6pm already), Futurama, Seinfeld or Everybody Loves Ray (or The Nanny). It’s more costly for Ten to drop Neighbours at the moment than to keep it there and spend money tarting up storylines, characters and sets. — Glenn Dyer

Seven makes it five weeks on the trot. Another win to the Seven Network last week: that’s five weeks in a row, which is the best start Seven has had for decades, possibly since the days of the Bruce Gyngell induced Seven Revolution after colour TV started in 1975. And, more importantly, it came with Nine having the NRL and AFL Footy Shows returning and the NRL double header game on Friday night. Seven only had the NAB Cup final on Saturday night which did well but not as well as the NRL for Nine. Seven won the week with a share of 30.1% (30.2% a week earlier) from Nine with 27.7% (28.7%), Ten with 20.9% (20.2%), the ABC with 15.8% (16.0%) and SBS with 5.4% (5.0%). Nine’s share was a touch lower than the week before despite having the Footy Shows and NRL push it to wins on Thursday and Friday nights: its only winning nights. Nine did get to within 0.1% on Sunday night. Seven won Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. This week Seven has no AFL (it starts Friday week) and Nine will have the NRL on Friday night. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: “Thank God the NRL has arrived!” would be the call around the Nine with the network looking a little more competitive. 13 programs with a million or more viewers: a night no viewer could say “There’s nothing on the box!” Grey’s Anatomy was tops for Seven with 1.599 million, Nine News was second with 1.577 million, followed by the first semi-final of Seven’s Australia’s Got Talent with 1.432 million at 6.30pm, Ugly Betty tops at 7.30pm with 1.413 million, Nine’s 20 to 1 with 1.396 million, while 60 Minutes was sixth with 1.386 million. CSI was next with 1.347 million at 8.30pm and Seven News had 1.318 million. CSI Miami averaged 1.276 million at 9.30pm while the very good special on the ABC, Constructing Australia: The Bridge, averaged 1.245 million at 7.30pm. Ten’s The Biggest Loser at 7.30pm averaged 1.218 million (and fourth in the slot!), while the Joanne Lees telemovie averaged 1.069 million. Miss Marple on the ABC at 8.30pm had a touch of Foyle’s War about it last night. it averaged 981,000 for one of Ms Christie’s best known stories, “By The Pricking of My Thumbs”. Thank God You’re Here repeat on Ten at 6.30pm averaged 856,000. Nine had True CSI at 10.30pm with 635,000. What About Brian averaged 886,000 for Seven at 9.30pm, that and Cheaters (407,000) handed Nine victory on the night.

The Losers: Nothing really, although Ten would have been disappointed with the 1.06 million the Joanne Lees telemovie achieved. They were hoping for a few more. But it did give Ten its best Sunday night so far for the year, along with The Biggest Loser. Viewers were winners last night. Now last night the Harbour Bridge program at 7.30pm did well, but in Sydney it won the timeslot beating everything else with 455,000, which is understandable. It was the fourth most watched program in the city last night.

News & CA: Thanks to the Rugby League, Nine News won the night with big wins in Sydney (537,000 viewers) and Brisbane (322,000) for the St George-Gold Coast game. Nine also won Melbourne and Adelaide, Seven won Perth. Ten News averaged 932,000, the 7pm ABC News averaged 967,000. Earlier Seven’s Weekend Sunrise averaged 442,000 at 8am, Landline on the ABC at Noon, 231,000, Sunday on Nine at 9am, 218,000. Insiders on the ABC, 142,000, Meet The Press on Ten at 8am, 103,000, Offsiders on the ABC at 10.30pm, 84,000, Inside Business at 10am, 80,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 29.5% (28.7% last week) with Seven on 27.3% (28.8%), Ten was third with 21.5% (20.1%), the ABC on 17.2% (17.5%) and SBS with 4.4% (4.9%). Nine won all markets bar Perth. It has its best chance so far this year to win the week if it can do well tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday. In regional areas a win to Nine through WIN/NBN with 30.4%, from Prime/7Qld with 26.2%, Southern Cross (Ten with 19.4%), the ABC with 17.9% and SBS with 5.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: The 7.30pm Sunday evening timeslot last night was the most competitive on TV so far this year. All four programs from Seven, Nine, the ABC and Ten averaged 1.2 million or more viewers: very hard for pay TV and its cheer squad to get 5.2 million people or more watching their multitude of channels. That’s what television is all about, and of the programs, The Bridge, stood out for reminding us about an essential part of history especially in Sydney. It was done well: the re-enactments were solid. We will see more of this form of documentary making later in the year and in 2008 with the Film Australia series on Australian history. The ABC once again showed up the commercial networks which had gone overboard with newscasts and anchoring from and around the Harbour Bridge in recent days. But they failed to give the anniversary any context whatsoever, especially in Sydney except for brief news stories. Tonight Mythbusters is back on SBS at 7.30pm, replacing Top Gear, and it’s the usual lineup of The Rich List on Seven, 1 vs 100 on Nine, What’s Good For You, also on Nine at 7.30 (Will it rise?), Desperate Housewives on Seven at 8.30, The Biggest Loser, Bondi Rescue and Supernatural on Ten, Four Corners, Media Watch and Difference of Opinion on the ABC after Australian Story.

Peter Fray

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