Stokes tightens grip on Seven board. The Seven Network looks like cutting its number of directors by at least one following the second resignation from the board in two months. Veteran TV industry figure, Bill Rayner retired on his 75th birthday according to an announcement from Seven late Friday. His departure follows that of director Gordon Cairns, who stepped down in February because he joined the board of advice for private buyout group, CVC, PBL’s partner in PBL Media. The upshot is that Seven will now be even more firmly controlled by Stokes and his management team. Kerry Stokes is executive chairman and owns 43% and CEO, David Leckie; commercial director, Bruce McWilliam and Chief Financial Officer, Peter Wells, are also on the board. Long time independent director, Peter Ritchie is deputy chairman and he would now be considered to be an “insider” given his length of service on the board. Another independent director is listed as Peter Gemmell. He works in Stokes’ private company, Australian Capital Equity and has been a long time employee. So at the moment Stokes and other “insiders” have a majority on the nine person board. — Glenn Dyer

AFL finally returns to Seven. The AFL appeared on Seven for the first time in five years on Friday night. It did OK with 709,000 viewers for the Melbourne-St Kilda game (385,000 in Melbourne). Nine’s double header of NRL games back to back averaged 764,000 for the 7.30pm game and 378,000 for the 9.30pm game. The Sydney audience for the Friday night game Parramatta-Balmain averaged 462,000 viewers which was the highest audience in any market on the night. On Saturday, Ten’s AFL coverage averaged 716,000 for the afternoon game between Collingwood and North Melbourne, with 254,000 watching in Melbourne. The night game between the Swans and the Weagles averaged 829,000 with 118,000 watching in Sydney (poor), 258,000 in Melbourne and 244,000 in Perth. Yesterday Seven’s afternoon broadcast of the AFL just pipped Nine’s NRL match: the Footscray-Geelong game averaged 591,000 viewers (270,000 in Melbourne) and the NRL game between Easts and Manly averaged 487,000 (317,000 in Sydney). The new twilight game on Foxtel yesterday averaged 213,000 across the entire pay TV platform and that was the second most watched program on the day. On this basis the experimental program worked and would have worked on Ten had the negotiations with Foxtel failed.  — Glenn Dyer

Swimming flop gives Seven another ratings week. As expected last week was another win to the Seven Network in the 2007 ratings battle. Seven won easily because the swimming just didn’t do it for Nine, except on Thursday night. Seven won with a share of 31.1% (28.9% a week earlier) from Nine with 25.6% (27.7%), Ten with 21.9% (unchanged), the ABC with 15.6% (16.3%) and SBS with 5.8% (5.3%). From that it is clear that Seven was the major beneficiary from Nine’s weakness due to the world swimming titles; Ten just didn’t get any lift at all, while the ABC faded! Seven won all five metro markets and the regional markets. The official ratings battle is on a break for the next two weeks so some programs are being rested: Australia’s Got Talent and Ugly Betty on Seven last night and Bert’s Family Feud for the next fortnight. In the case of Bert, it’s a cost saving and nothing else. Ugly Betty is being rested again next week but 60 Minutes returns. Seven’s policy is that it is so far ahead it can afford to “rest” programs to extend their run in full on ratings periods. — Glenn Dyer

What We Call The News. The latest effort from hilarious internet jokesters, JibJab, is well worth a look:

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Nine would be entitled to have a quiet curse. The swimming finally breaks through for a solid number last night and it was on the first night of the Easter break in official ratings. Ten also would be having a quiet curse; last night was its best night of the year so far. Still it was the absence of Australia’s Got TalentUgly Betty and a fresh ep of Grey’s Anatomy which helped produce viewers for the swimming, and to a lesser extent Ten. Having Ian Thorpe back in the news, however unwelcome, probably also played a part. So Nine won the night but there were only eight programs with a million or more viewers, a reflection of what viewers thought of the offering. Rove’s return to TV at 8.30pm averaged 1.693 million and he won the sympathy vote from viewers. The Biggest Loser also had a 2007 high with 1.562 million, boosted as it was at the end by people turning over for Rove. Nine News did well with 1.501 million while Nine’s final night of the World Swimming Titles averaged 1.393 million from 6.30pm. Seven News was next with 1.273 million, followed by Ten’s  Thank God You’re Here repeat (1.196 million), the repeat of CSI  (1.138 million) and the final Miss Marple program on the ABC (1.070 million). Seven’s non-rating Cirque Du Soleil program averaged 972,000 from 6.30pm and the repeat of Grey’s Anatomy (down as fresh eps in some guides last week) averaged 827,000. CSI Miami in repeat at 10pm averaged 963,000 for Nine and The Pussycat Dolls on Ten around 9.30pm averaged 925,000.

The Losers: What About Brian at 9.30pm for Seven, 616,000. Down because of the weak lead-in but it’s one of several 9.30pm black spots Seven has to fix. The Einstein Factor on the ABC at 6.30pm only had 652,000 and feeling tired. Even the repeats of Thank God on Ten seem fresher at times. The final of Constructing Australia , Wire Through The Heart, averaged 849,000 from 7.30pm for the ABC. That was the lowest of the trio and it reflected a strangely-made doco with lots of beards glued on to male faces and funny re-enactments — it was almost a dud.

News & CA: Nine News won thanks to boosts from the NRL game as the lead-in in Sydney where Nine averaged 514,000 to 339,000 for Seven News. In Brisbane the NRL didn’t help with Seven winning, 293,000 to 290,000. In Melbourne the AFL boosted Seven to a 421,000 to 350,000 viewer win. Seven’s audience would have been much higher but its news didn’t air in Adelaide. The 7pm ABC News was solid with 924,000 while Ten News averaged 844,000 over the half hour. SBS News on the at 6.30pm, 214,000 viewers. In the morning Sunrise averaged 461,000; Landline on the ABC at Noon, 282,000; Sunday , 250,000 (a nice rise); Insiders , 154,000 from 9am; Inside Business, 98,000 and Offsiders at 10.30pm, 108,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 30.2% (22.0% a week earlier) to Ten with 28.4% (20.4%). Seven was third with just 20.3% (32.2%). The figure for Seven last night was normal for much of 2006! The ABC finished with 16.8% (18.4%) and SBS finished with 4.3% (5.6%). Nine won Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Ten won Adelaide and Perth. Seven would have expected a belting like that last night. It was a deliberate ploy to rest high rating programs. In regional areas a similar result with Nine affiliates WIN/NBN winning with 29.2% from Southern Cross (Ten) with 26.3%, Prime/7Qld with 21.2%, the ABC on 18.1% and SBS with 5.2%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Even though its non-ratings, a couple of important shifts have emerged. Rove’s figures will ease on Sunday night once full ratings are back on but public sympathy is so behind him that he will stay there for as long as he wants. He would have got similar figures no matter the night he came back to TV. Ten will be happy, it has filled the yawning black hole that was in the schedule from when ratings started. This morning Kellie Connolly slotted into the chair on Nine’s Today show and you have to wonder where she has been and why they tried Sarah Murdoch. Connolly is a professional TV journo so she knows the full bag of reporting tricks and she’s done her share of newsreading. She’s much warmer than both Jessica Rowe and Sarah Murdoch, there’s no giggle and she’s the right age for Karl Stefanovic (just as Mel Doyle is the right age and look to offset David Koch on Sunrise ). Will Nine play it clever or will they be silly and replace her when Rowe returns from maternity leave? I’d leave her there and let her develop and take the axe to the 6am to 7am early edition which is stuffed full of talking heads who don’t matter. Tonight there’s no official ratings. There are some repeats. Eddie’s 1 vs 100 is real, as is The Rich List , Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters on Seven. On Nine after Eddie its repeats of What’s Good For You and CSI New York . Ten has TBL and Bondi Rescue . The ABC has its normal Monday night line up.

Peter Fray

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