Is Stokes stalking Austar? The gossip around the Pay TV industry’s Logies, the ASTRA Awards, in Sydney last night was that you shouldn’t rule out interest in regional Pay TV group, Austar, from the Seven Media Group, the arm of Kerry Stokes’ empire with all the cash. It would make a lot of sense, more sense than owning Fairfax or West Australian Newspapers, and provoke a battle royal in Pay TV sport, which would probably force PBL into bidding or organising a counter offer from Foxtel (is that happening already?) to keep Austar out of Seven’s hands. Meanwhile the Stokes’ ambitions for Fairfax have gone, the network quietly pushing its stake of around three per cent, through the ASX yesterday. The decision to sell came after the merger between Fairfax and Rural Press was given final court approval and is now scheduled to take place on Thursday. — Glenn Dyer

Sportsworld out for the season. The Seven Network says Sportsworld won’t be seen in 2007, meaning the two hour edition of Weekend Sunrise will continue instead of being shortened to an ungainly 90 minutes to accommodate the sports program’s usual 9.30am start. Seven says it’s a question of resources with the network broadcasting the AFL and the V8 Supercars. Then there’s the ratings equation. Weekend Sunrise is now being watched by well over 400,000 viewers every Sunday morning from 8am. It clearly out rates Nine’s Sunday program, which has suffered in the absence of a reliable lead-in program since Nine canned Business Sunday. Seven will make more money from Weekend Sunrise than from adding the costs of Sportsworld and a lower advertising yield from its smaller audience (around 260,000 to just over 300,000 on a good morning). — Glenn Dyer

Seven didn’t order early V8 finish. Meanwhile, Seven says it didn’t decide to finish Sunday’s V8 Supercar race from NZ early to go to an AFL match. It was a decision taken by the motor sport regulator, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), and the organisers of the meeting. The V8 Supercars group wasn’t involved either. It seems the wrong information was given to the V8 teams about how the “timed race” rule would work — each race has to reach a certain number of laps and it has to finish by a set time (Bathurst works the same way). To the viewer at home, the race ended so quickly and unexpectedly as Seven switched to the AFL that it looked like a decision by the Network. But Seven sources say the network would have been happy to continue broadcasting the cars and were as surprised as anyone to get the news of an early finish. As for claims by the V8 Supercars that they would “talk” to Seven about avoiding a repeat of this situation, they’d be better off talking to CAMS and race organizers at each venue about applying the “timed race” rule. — Glenn Dyer

The Anzac Day hissy fit that wasn’t. There’s talk from Adelaide of a hissy fit from Seven over the Anzac Day coverage it shared with the ABC, but that’s not the situation. Seven wanted to broadcast the march from a different broadcast point this year, not one shared with the ABC. Seven’s Adelaide management wanted to make its coverage look different. The Adelaide Council made life difficult and Seven decided to let the ABC cover the march alone, as it does in Sydney and other capital cities. Rather than another Sunrise incident, the argument, for want of a better word, with the council happened months ago. Broadcasts like we will see tomorrow are planned months ahead. And after the Sunrise moment, which was engineered by the Federal Government, does anyone seriously think Seven would stand up and walk away from an Anzac Day related happening? They would stay to make the point. The network can’t reverse the march decision in Adelaide because it’s too late and the council’s inability to provide a point to Seven’s satisfaction. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: A close win to Seven last night and Nine will probably wonder, how did that happen? We almost had it in the bag. A baker’s dozen of programs with a million or more viewers. Seven News was tops with 1.487 million people, A Current Affair leapt into second place with 1.428 million, its rival, Today Tonight was third with 1.347 million and Ten’s Big Brother program was 4th with 1.324 million. Eddie McGuire’s 1 vs 100 at 8.30 pm, jumped nicely from last week and averaged 1.322 million and beat Desperate Housewives with 1.308 million; Nine News was 7th with 1.290 million, Seven’s Home And Away was next with 1.162 million and Seven’s 7.30 program, The Rich List fell back to average 1.162 million. Nine’s CSI New York averaged 1.144 million at 9.35 pm, Temptation averaged 1.131 million at 7 pm for Nine, What’s Good For You added 140,000 or so viewers to 1.025 million for Nine at 7.30 pm and the 7 pm ABC News averaged 1.023 million. Seven’s Brothers and Sisters averaged 971,000 at 9.30 pm, Ten’s Supernatural, 917,000 at 8.30 pm after BB. Mythbusters, 645,000 on SBS at 7.30 pm, Australian Story on the ABC at 8 pm, 908,000. That was the first part of the two part story on Foreign Minister Downer, next week’s program has material on the Garuda crash.

The Losers: No real losers but some worries. Brothers and Sisters again a bit weak for Seven. What’s Good For You stronger for Nine but was much higher last year.
 
News & CA: Seven News again won nationally by 197,000 viewers and won Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth but lost Melbourne. ACA beat TT by 81,000 with wins in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane but lost in Adelaide and Perth. A strong weekend promo of a truck and car coming into collision in a road tunnel obviously pricked viewer fears and interest. Ten News at Five was watched by a high 996,000 and the Late News/Sports Tonight averaged 474,000. Nine’s Nightline, 291,000. The 7.30 Report, 839,000, Four Corners 829,000, Media Watch, 735,000, Difference of Opinion, 433,000. SBS World News Australia, 261,000 at 6.30 pm, 162,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise 378,000, 7am Today, 259,000.
 
The Stats: Seven won with a share of 28.2% (29.5% a week ago) from Nine with 27.5% (24.9%), Ten with 22.9% (24.8%), the ABC with 14.0% (13.9%) and SBS with 7.5% (6.9%). Nine leads the week 27.3% (26.4%). Seven won Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Eddie’s program, 1 vs 100 averaged 482,000 in Melbourne and ACA 478,000 and were the top two programs in any market and help explain why Nine won well in Melbourne. In regional areas though a big win to Nine with a share of 31.5%  for WIN/NBN, 25.7% for Prime/7Qld, 23.3% for Southern Cross (Ten), 12.1% for the ABC and 8.4% for SBS. 

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Nine probably lost because of its 10.35 pm split of programming between a repeat of The Closer in Sydney and Brisbane with 190,000 and Footy Classified in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth with 348,000. While 209,000 watched the Eddie McGuire-inspired AFL program in Melbourne, 75,000 watched in Adelaide and 64,000 in Perth. That’s why Nightline‘s audience fell sharply at 11.35 pm to average 291,000, with just 74,000 watching it in Sydney and 121,000 in Melbourne. Seven’s Boston Legal and the Ten Late News/Cops beat The Closer and the Footy Classified Show, forcing Nine into third. Flawed programming and a losing strategy. That was despite better performances for Nine by What’s Good For You, ACA and 1 vs 100. Nine lost, but it closed the gap on the previous Monday night but died on its home run. Tonight it gets blown away by Seven’s Dancing With The Stars and All Saints. Ten has BB and NCIS; the ABC not much at all. A disappointing night tonight if you don’t like dancing because Nine goes the repeat with 20 to 1, CSI both backing up and the re-voiced Pay TV program, I Shouldn’t be Alive.

Peter Fray

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