APEC stunt makes Chaser most popular ABC comedy ever. The APEC stunt ep of The Chaser’s War on Everything delivered the highest ever audience for an ABC comedy and the broadcaster says it was the third highest rating program ever on the ABC (behind Seachange‘s Series 3 finale, 2.4 million on 10 December, 2000; Paralympics Opening Ceremony, 2.29 million on 18 October, 2000). An average of 2.245 million people watched, with 726,000 in Sydney; 699,000 in Melbourne; 341,000 in Brisbane; 250,000 in Adelaide and 228,000 in Perth. And in regional Australia, The Chaser scored an even rarer honour: it was the most watched program on the night with 736,000 people on average watching. That’s 2.981 million in total. It wasn’t the biggest audience for a program this year: that honour still belongs to Seven’s first ep of Kath & Kim with more than 3 million viewers across the country. The ABC’s most popular program of the year, Spicks and Specks, averaged an all time high of 1.653 million viewers at 8.30pm. And Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High lifted to 1.375 million thanks to The Chaser lead-in. But the ABC could still only finish fourth on the night. — Glenn Dyer

Nine “samples” the life out of new legal drama. Repeats are the bane of a TV viewer’s life and this year they have helped drive down free to air viewing audiences. Nine and Ten are the worst offenders by far but next week Chateau Willoughby goes further than any network has gone before. In the name of “sampling”, Nine will give viewers umpteen repeats of its new US legal drama, Damages. Seven has done it for the likes of Desperate Housewives, City Homicide and Lost but Nine is desperate to really make sure viewers see Damages, which debuts on Sunday at 9.30pm. If you live in Sydney you can watch the first episode of Damages five times: Sunday 9.30pm, Monday 10.30pm, Wednesday midnight, Thursday midnight and Friday at 10.40pm not to mention three gos at the second episode in the following week. The poor Melbourne viewer only gets four gos at the first episode. But when does “sampling” become a blatant repeat because you’ve nothing left in the tank. In this case we’ll give Nine the benefit of the doubt, at least for the first ep and maybe the second. Sampling should only be used by the networks to expose a promising new program to as many viewers as possible but only for the first week or two. Nothing sours a program more in the eyes of viewers than quick and early repeats — unless it’s The Simpsons. Nine has mixed, matched and CSI and its clones to the point where fresh eps have really struggled on Sunday nights. CSI Miami and CSI New York are underachieving because viewers have spotted them for poor quality clones. Nine’s repeated use of repeats has added to that feeling. — Glenn Dyer

ACCC worries over Southern Cross break-up. At the moment it’s not deal breaking, but the ACCC has some concerns about the takeover and dismemberment of South Cross Broadcasting. The Fairfax side of the deal which involves the purchase of SBC’s metropolitan radio stations (including 2UE in Sydney and 3AW in Melbourne) plus Southern Star, the big TV and film production house and distributor, has been approved. But the proposed sale of nine regional radio stations to Macquarie has raised some concerns for the ACCC:

The proposed acquisition of Fairfax’s regional radio stations by Macquarie raises concerns in relation to the supply advertising opportunities in Bundaberg, Port Lincoln and Spencer Gulf. The ACCC has also identified potential concerns in relation to the supply of content to consumers in these regions.

The ACCC has called for submissions on these issues by September 26 and expects to make a final decision on October 11. — Glenn Dyer

Bidding war for Big Brother. Difficult negotiations between Ten and Endermol Southern Star has opened a window for Nine to lodge a $35 million-plus offer. That’s a lot more than the $30 million a year Ten is thought to pay. The negoitiations between Ten and Endermol Southern Star have become protracted as Ten wants to make changes in the program and its cost because of a sharp fall in audience numbers over the past two series, especially this year. Seven has also reserved its right to make a bid, but it would seems unlikely to be serious as it already has a full slate of material. Nine made a huge offer after the first series of Big Brother in 2001 but it stayed with Ten. BB is a key program in Ten’s strategy of appealing to the 16 to 39 and 18 to 49 demographics, but viewers want the raunchier Uncut and Adults Only episodes restored. Their non-appearance this year was one of the reasons why the program’s audiences declined. Would Nine really want that with its over 50-skewing audience? If Ten loses BB it would have quite an impact on valuations for the break up of Southern Cross, especially the sale of its Ten Network regional stations to Macquarie Media. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Seven still managed to finish second despite running dead again! The Chaser topped the most watched list with 2.245 million people, well in front of Ten’s Thank God You’re Here with 1.785 million, and Spicks and Specks averaged a high 1.653 million at 8.30pm. Nine’s RPA was very solid at 8.30pm with 1.448 million, followed by Seven News (1.442 million), Today Tonight (1.396 million), Home And Away (1.394 million), Summer Heights High (1.375 million) and McLeod’s Daughters (1.181 million). There’s now only two weeks to go before Thank God finishes and McLeod’s audience will rise. The 7pm ABC News was next with 1.175 million, ahead of Nine News with 1.172 million and A Current Affair with 1.170 million. Temptation averaged 1.107 million; Seven’s Most Shocking had 1.106 million and the final ep for this series of Without A Trace averaged 1.056 million. The 7pm repeat of Futurama averaged 882,000 for Ten and its 8.30pm program Just For Laughs had 879,000. The ABC’s New Inventors averaged 859,000 at 8pm.

The Losers: The big surprise was that Seven managed to hang in from 7.30pm with a decidedly third rate line-up. Some TV viewers will watch anything that certain networks give them without exercising any judgment. Most Shocking, Las Vegas (819,000) and Air Crash Investigations (732,000), which at least has the virtue of being interesting! At The Movies at 10pm couldn’t hold many viewers from Chris Lilley’s program: just 447,000. It’s been higher.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne and Today Tonight won everywhere bar Brisbane. The fact that the 7pm ABC News pipped Nine News by 3,000 viewers nationally is again a reminder of the work John Westacott has to do at Nine. Nothing matters more than fixing the 6pm News and ACA. It’s what Peter Meakin tackled first when he joined Seven. Nine News should be ahead of the ABC every night. Ten News averaged 777,000 (that’s a bit low) and the Late News/Sports Tonight, 386,000. The 7.30 Report averaged 869,000; Lateline, 305,000; Lateline Business, 159,000. Nightline, 274,000. SBS Dateline, just 99,000! SBS News, down to 138,000 at 6.30pm and 129,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise, 403,000; 7am Today, 255,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 27.1% (27.4% last week) from Seven with 24.0% (unchanged), Ten with 23.8% (24.6%), the ABC was 4th with 21.7% (20.7%) and SBS was on 3.4% (3.7%). Nine won everywhere bar Perth where Seven won with that poor line-up. Bruce Gordon has his work cut out there. The payoff from that $163 million buy will be a long time coming. Seven leads the week 29.2% to 25.5%. In regional areas a win to WIN/NBN with 28.6% for Nine, ahead of Prime/7Qld with 25.4%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 24.2%, The ABC with 17.9% and SBS with 3.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Seven’s Today Tonight gave Bec Hewitt and hubbie Lleyton a good sledge over the Cambodian kids orphanage story. So what will the Hewitts do? Go on A Current Affair? After all there is a contract with ACP and Woman’s Day magazine and that seems to have been the subtext to the TT story. ACA had an interview with Lindy Chamberlain about the Maddie McCann case and then interviewed the Prime Minister: two days late. It’s interesting how Today Tonight and A Current Affair have been quiet on The Chaser since trying to monster them in the wake of their APEC stunt last week. It seems they misread the feeling of viewers and then realised their mistake. Last night’s audience numbers showed clearly that The Chaser was closer to public taste than either TT or ACA. There’s a lesson there. I can remember people like Gerry Henderson and other conservatives carping about This Day Tonight on the ABC in the late 1960s and 1970s. We (and Australian TV) are all that better off for the ABC’s experiment with that program. Nihilists, anarchists, anti-christs, iconoclasts… whatever. The Chaser mob are different and they are having a go: if they entertain and make a point, so much the better.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports