Rupert bails on BSkyB: Trust Rupert Murdoch; when someone like the British Government calls his bluff, he looks to take the easy route of selling rather than justifying a controversial decision. So with the British Government’s Competition Commission set to probe his BSkyB purchase of a blocking 17.9 per cent stake in terrestrial free to air TV group, ITV, Rupe and son James, the anointed one, look to bail: at a profit of course and hand the problem to someone else. According to London reports, the Murdoch parcel of shares in ITV, or rather the ITV shares held by BSkyB could be bound for another trouble spot, the big European media group Bertlesmann and its RTL arm which controls Channel Five, the smallest of the terrestrial FTA TV Networks in Britain. London stockmarket reports said that ITV shares rose almost four per cent on Friday on rumours that British Sky Broadcasting was preparing to sell its 17.9 per cent stake in the television broadcaster to RTL, the owner of Channel 5. Almost 98m ITV shares changed hands, more than twice this year’s daily average, encouraged by the chat that RTL, rather than Virgin Media, would buy the shares. Murdoch’s purchase of the ITV shares late last year blocked ambitions NTL (now Virgin Media) had of doing a merger deal with Britain’s biggest commercial TV network. Sky’s sale of the shares would remove it from the Competition Commission’s sights and probably switch them to RTL. A sale and a possible small profit would be preferable to having to withstand a full blown and at times public Competition Commission probe which could be dangerous to Murdoch’s ambitions with the Dow Jones company and in other media markets, such as Australia and Italy. — Glenn Dyer

Nine’s first ratings win of the year: Thanks to the Rugby League State of Origin game on Wednesday night and the game being shown live into Melbourne, the Nine Network scored its first ratings win of the year with the narrowest of wins over Seven.  Nine won 28.3% to 28.2%. A week earlier Seven had won with 30.2% to 25.4%. That left the score so far in 2007 at 12 official weeks for Seven (and two unofficial) to one for Nine. The difference last week was that Nine won because of the State of Original NRL game on Wednesday night which saw a big win, 36.5% to 23.5%. Ten was a distant third with 21.2% (20.9%), the ABC with 16.4% (16.9%) and SBS with 5.9% (6.6%). Nine will take the win, even though Seven got very close in what used to be a strong week for Nine with the hugely popular State of Origin. Because it was shown live into Melbourne and had its biggest audience there of well over 350,000 viewers, you could argue that that was the difference between winning and losing. Seven won Friday night, 29.2% to 27.4% for Nine as the AFL did a bit better than the NRL, but Seven news and Today Tonight were gain popular, as was Better Homes And Gardens. Nine reversed the Friday night result Saturday night with a 25.8% to 25.1% to win. Seven’s broadcast of the poor Australia-Wales Rugby Union test on Saturday night probably cost it the week. It did help Seven win Sydney but the network lost Brisbane badly to Nine even though the Queensland capital is supposed to be a rugby stronghold. The union averaged 252,000 in Sydney and just 144,000 in Brisbane where it was beaten by Nine’s Daredevil (The Rugby won its timeslot in Sydney and helped the overall win in the city that night where it was the fifth most watched program). Ten’s Saturday night AFL game between Essendon and Richmond averaged 384,000 viewers in Melbourne and was the most watched program in that market. Seven News and Today Tonight were big winners over Nine News and A Current Affair last week. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Another strong start to the week for the Nine Network as its older skewing programs, 60 Minutes and CSI dragged in the viewers. 60 Minutes was tops with a strong 1.700 million with the story on the former wife of David Hicks and her children. And there she was outside of the jail in Adelaide, talking on the Seven Network Seven News was second with 1.642 million, CSI was third with 1.630 million with Seven’s Grey’s Anatomy next with 1.559 million viewers on average. CSI Miami was 5th with 1.490 million, Nine News was 6th with 1.462 million, Where Are They Now wasn’t shown in Adelaide but still averaged 1.40 million. Ugly Betty perked up to averaged 1.305 million at 7.30 for Seven, Ten’s Big Brother Live Eviction averaged 1.131 million from 7.30 pm. Nine. 6.30 program The Lost Tribes averaged 1.107 million and the 7 pm ABC news 1.089 million and was the 11th and final program with a million or more viewers last night. The 6.30 pm Big Brother averaged 999,000, Robin Hood on the ABC at 7.30 pm, 995,000, Rove on ten at 8.30 pm, 971,000.

The Losers: Seven’s 9.30 program, What About Brian 843,000. It’s dead in the US, it can’t be too long here. Survivor is still alive and on Fiji at 10.30 pm on Nine with 625,000. That’s a win Seven had Sexiest Action Heroes in the same slot with just 325,000 people.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally by 200,000 viewers despite losing Sydney by 126,000 to Nine whose audience was perked up by the NRL game. But in Brisbane the NRL isn’t having an impact and Seven News continues to win which it did by 128,000 last night. That’s an odd reaction in Brisbane to the popular NRL games. Seven won by 101,000 in Perth, where it usually has its biggest audience. In Adelaide Seven News was boosted by the lead in, the Geelong-Port Adelaide Game and it won comfortably. In the morning Seven’s Weekend Sunrise averaged 405,000, down from the week before, while Nine’s Sunday rose to average 221,000 from 9 am. Landline on the ABC at Midday averaged 227,000, Insiders on the ABC, 175,000, Offsiders (Barry Cassidy without a coat), a solid 143,000 people at 10.30 am and Inside Business at 10 am, 98,000. Meet The Press on Ten at 8 am, 87,000. And a footnote. Was that John Howard wearing a trendy leather jacket I spied on the 7 pm ABC news on Saturday night? Sure was. A new look perhaps? No Akubra, no sports coat or grey flannels and no Australian jogging suit. A blouse style leather jacket. Did Janette buy it for him (at David Jones?). Another example of the younger look of Kevin Rudd, forcing the PM to change?

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 31.4% (29.2% last week) from Seven with 28.2% (28.5%), Ten was third with 19,7% (unchanged), the ABC was on 16.0% (16.5%) and SBS was non 4.7% (6.24%). Nine won all major metro markets bar Perth where Seven snuck home. In regional areas a win for WIN/NBN for Nine with 34.1% from Prime/7Qld with 26.8%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 16.5%, the ABC with 15.5% and SBS with 7.1%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: 60 Minutes, CSI and CSI Miami did it for Nine again but they do draw in older viewers, especially 60 Minutes and CSI. Ten’s Big Brother Live Eviction hardly set the world on fire last night and didn’t provide much spark for Rove at 8.30 pm. 60 Minutes had 60 per cent of all viewers over 50 watching commercial TV between 7.30 and 8.30 last night. But Seven’s Where Are They Now had 58 per cent of the over 50 commercial TV audience watching between 6.30 to 7.30. Robin Hood on the ABC at 7.30 pm is becoming very arch and very modern: for a loosely based version of the story it had a very modern joke about ‘Public Private Partnerships’ that would have only drawn a chuckle in Britain (think Macquarie Bank deals for public infrastructure or Transurban in Melbourne). Tonight its Nine’s vs 100 against Desperate Housewives on Seven; Nine’s What’s Good For You at 7.30 pm up against The Rich List on Seven and Brothers and Sisters up against a repeat of CSI on Nine. The ABC has Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope at 9.35 pm with the first of several recut interviews using outtakes. Ten has Big Brother from 7 pm to 8.40 pm. SBS has Mythbusters.