Figures for the first five weeks of 2007 ratings show the ABC to be the best performed TV network in the timeslot it shouldn’t be paying attention to, the so-called zone 1 commercial share period of 6pm to 10.30pm.

But pay TV is also doing very well, despite not supposed to be worried about the evening prime time fixation of the free to air TV networks.

That’s when competition is at its peak each night (well, except Saturdays for the commercials) because it is the heart of prime time. Ad rates and audience numbers are at their highest, so any loss of audience and share to Seven, while not directly damaging, does hurt when talking to clients and ad agencies.

The performance from the ABC is made a bit better by the absence of its most popular program, Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope on Monday nights at 9.35pm, where it has averaged more than 900,000 to over a million viewers in the past couple of years.

An analysis of Oztam figures shows that the ABC has lifted its share of All People 1.2% to a 16.2% share in 2007, compared to last year. Its share of All Households is up as well by 1.2% to 17.4%.

That’s better than the Seven Network which lifted its share of All People by 0.3% to a 30.0% share and All Households by 0.5% to a 29.5% share. SBS is marginally higher with increases of 0.5% for All People and 0.4% in All Households.

Ten is off, with All People down marginally by 0.2% and All Households off 0.6%. The Nine Network is the big loser with its share of All People down 1.8% to 27.8% and All Households down 1.6% to 27.5%.

Last year was something of a low point for the ABC: its audiences were a bit higher in 2004 and 2005 because of the troubles Seven had in getting ratings traction.

But now both the ABC and Seven have lifted share in the opening weeks of the ratings year. Seven’s audience gains have tended to come in 16 to 39s and 18 to 49s and from Ten.

The ABC’s gains have come mainly from Nine. Some of Nine’s losses appear to have gone to Foxtel.

The ABC’s figures would be a bit better it if it hadn’t been for the programming blunder a fortnight ago which saw the Kylie special dropped into the 8.30pm timeslot and the network’s share collapse.

Looking at the number of viewers, the ABC, SBS and pay TV have done the best, according to figures from Fusion Strategy.

From the start of ratings in February, to last Saturday night, the ABC’s audience in that 6pm to 10.30pm timeslot has risen from 650,000 in 2006 to 670,000 this year.

SBS’s audience rose to 201,000 from 191,000 while subscription TV (mostly Foxtel) saw its audience rise to 697,000 from 621,000 and exceed the ABC for the first time.

Ten’s audience has dropped from 867,000 to 820,000, Seven’s audience is down to 1.197 million from 1.232 million and Nine’s audience has plunged from 1.211 million to 1.073 million.

The comparisons for Seven’s audience are a bit misleading because they include the Winter Olympics in the first five weeks of 2006 while Nine’s audience will fall even more in this survey (compared to 2006) because of the absence of the Commonwealth games this year.

So Seven’s losses might not be as large but Nine’s will be, even after accounting for the impact of the Games last year. But the ABC is higher, as is pay TV.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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