Ten dances for ratings, revenue. Australian Idol kicks off Sunday night for Ten, just as the network is looking for a bit of ratings insurance after the underwhelming performance of Big Brother. From the folk who have brought you Idol, the Beckhams and The Spice Girls, a competitor on the Ten Network for Seven’s megahit, Dancing With the Stars. It’s So You Think You Can Dance, a more up tempo competitor for dancing, or so the Ten Network thinks/hopes/wishes. In fact it’s more like ratings insurance. But will it? Ten has already screened the US version of the program late in 2006 and in summer. It started well but faded to less than a million viewers. Ten starts series three of the US program late next month and then starts the local version early in 2008 to try and complement The Biggest Loser. But the network has been down this route once before, in 2005 when it was horribly disappointed by the failure known as the X Factor. Simon Fuller, one of the people involved in So You Think You Can Dance, was intimately involved in the X Factor here (and had a big fight with Idol’s Simon Cowell over it). X Factor destroyed Ten’s early 2005 ratings after the network had done so well in 2004 with Big Brother and Idol powering their way to the top of Ten’s most watched programs during the year. Ten is now retrying the multi-pronged approach with four or five big programs, or “franchises”. This sounds a lot like the strategy at the back end of 2004 and early 2005 when X Factor was in the frame. But Ten is now looking for a bit of insurance as it needs a new ‘franchise’ in the wings in case BB, TBL or Idol suffer further losses of viewers in the next year. Ten also wants So You Think You Can Dance in the schedule early in 2008 to guard against TBL losing more ground in series 3, and to bolster ratings ahead of BB. Because Ten didn’t have Thank God You’re Here available in the first half of the year, its share in 18 to 49s and 16 to 39s fell as Seven made up ground. That’s cost Ten ratings and revenues and with the pressure on to boost them as the sale process remains an issue, CEO Grant Blackley can’t afford a repeat of that next year.

Last night’s TV ratings

The winners. Thursday night and another voyage on the Sea Patrol, at full bore with storylines dropping all over the side of the patrol boat in question, the green-eyed monster in Lisa McCune and “militants” in a rubber ducky. There was almost everything to feed the prejudices and demand of most viewers last night. A “mothership”, poachers, more love interests than propellers. And speaking of propellers, how many times are we going to see the blasted propeller in the greenwater chugging away shot? We know its a patrol boat with a motor and propellers, not galley slaves! Sorry. Just 13 programs with a million or more viewers last night. Getaway continues its winter revival with 1.455 million people, with Seven News on 1.444 million. Home and Away 7pm for Seven with 1.384 million and Today Tonight averaged 1.362 million. A Current Affair got 1.212 million, Nine News was next with 1.199 million (a bit low), Temptation at Seven for Nine averaged 1.170 million and the 7pm ABC News was just behind with 1.162 million. That ’70s Show on Seven from 7.30pm to 8.30pm averaged 1.086 million (and it was all downhill from there for Seven). The Footy Shows averaged 1.056 million for Nine; the fresh Law And Order Criminal Intent on Ten at 8.30 pm, 1.052 million and the repeat, 1.008 million, and that was the final million viewer program on the night.

The Losers. Seven and Las Vegas: two hours, 844,000 average. That’s Nine-like! Las Vegas hasn’t changed, it’s still arch, meaningless and with little redeeming entertainment value. But it’s probably a good thing that the Packers are out of Nine. Can you imagine a TV series called Crown, or Macau. Las Vegas is still a PR exercise designed to polish the image of what is a nasty clip joint where people lose money. The NRL Footy Show in Sydney, 235,000: 15th in the market, and Brisbane, 102,000, 26th in the market. Compare that to the AFL show in Melbourne, 448,000 and second. And which sport does Nine telecast Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, at a cost of millions of dollars a year? Not the AFL. And where is the best performed NRL team and the best growth prospects for new viewers? In Melbourne! And don’t forget The Poo. His love problems at 10.20 attracted 466,000 viewers. It was a real toss up between it and Las Vegas last night. But the NRL Footy Show was a competitor.

News & CA. Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Today Tonight won nationally but lost Melbourne and Brisbane to ACA. Nine’s Nightline aired around 11.30 pm and averaged just 179,000. Why bother? Ten News At Five averaged 869,000, the Late News/Sports Tonight, 476,000. The 7.30 Report (and Red Kerry interviewing Smiler Rudd!), 838,000. Lateline, 274,000, Lateline Business, a high 171,000. World News Australia, 151,000 at 6.30 pm, 188,000 for the 9.30pm edition. 7am Sunrise 413,000, 7am Today, 259,000, 9am Mornings on Seven, 183,000; KAK on Nine at 9 am, 96,000 and 9AM with David and Kim on Ten, 90,000.

The Stats. Nine won with a share of 32.6% (31.4%), from Seven with 25.5% (27.0%), Ten with 21.6% (20.0%), the ABC with 14.9% (14.0%) and SBS got 5.3% (7.6%). Nine won all five metro markets. Seven still leads with 27.5% from Nine and Ten equal on 25.3%. In regional areas a win to Nine through WIN/NBN with 33.0%, from Prime/7Qld with 24.9%, Southern Cross (Ten), with 21.5%, the ABC on 12.7% and SBS with 6.0%. Rexy averaged 472,000 last night on SBS at 7.30pm for yet another repeat.

Glenn Dyers’ comments. Ten won’t hold on to second and Nine will go past tonight with the NRL on in Sydney and Brisbane. It could be a bit closer tomorrow night but Nine will finish second behind Seven, again. Will Seven continue to serve up La Vegas on Thursday night’s after last night? Tonight it’s the combination of Better Homes plus the AFL in the south that will get Seven home against the NRL on Nine in Brisbane and Sydney.The ABC has Silent Witness tonight and when I watch it I feel like one of the stiffs on the slab: It must be where all the bodies from Midsomer Murders end up. That’s why the ABC hasn’t put Midsomer Murders on tonight, it would give the game away. Actually Friday nights needs a program like The Glasshouse back to send up the week and amuse us (hint, hint!). Tomorrow night it’s a good night to go out, nothing interesting at all. Apart from Dr Who and The Bill on the ABC and Inspector Linley on Seven at 8.30 pm, it’s a collection of repeats tomorrow night, almost everywhere, although Nerds, Kick and the new program on albums on SBS are new. Sunday Nine has a movie (anything to eke out CSI) up against Greys Anatomy and the last What About Brian, and the first of Idol on Ten (which is the real reason for the movie on Nine). There’s an axeman on Misnomer Murders (Oh, I am scared! How about hacking into the script?) but The Circuit is tops on SBS at 9.30pm. And finally, more is reaching my ears about the changes in the Ten sales department. Not nice. I don’t think Shaun James will be there for the rest of his life, somehow.