Gyngell goes back to Millionaire to fill ratings black hole. David Gyngell’s first major programming decision since returning to Nine is nothing radical, just a stop gap attempt to fix the black hole for the network known as Monday night. The best that can be said about the decision to program a live 90 minute $5 million edition of Who Wants To be A Millionaire for the six weeks until the end of ratings, is that he is trying something. It also kills off the silly idea to run a stripped down Millionaire in place of Temptation at 7pm. Confusingly, Temptation will continue to run Tuesdays to Fridays, but that won’t help because its audience figures will take a hit that will cost Nine money. It’s not the first time Gyngell has used Millionaire to try and solve a rating problem: he got two weeks of half hour eps back in 2004 and ran them at 5.30pm to try and boost the lead in to the 6pm news. That failed and Nine went back to The Price Is Right. And boosting the prize money from $1 million to $5 million, is an old Nine Network-Packer trick of throwing money at a problem to con viewers, but it only last so long before the novelty wears off. This is a very expensive fix to a ratings black hole, and I don’t mean the $5 million prize: that can be arranged through insurance. The production costs of a live program in prime time will mean Nine won’t get much change from a $100,000 per ep. However, Nine needs something like this: it’s trying to boost its audience share in the last six weeks to impress media buyers in rate negotiations. Nine wants to make sure that its share of ad revenue doesn’t dip too far below the 32.7% it was in the first half of 2007. Anything under 32% would be a problem for Gyngell next year and would probably mean more cost cuts.

TT won’t lay off Hillsong and Australian Idol. Not content with its bash on Wednesday night and ignoring the nicely aimed rebuttal on Sunrise yesterday, Today Tonight last night returned to Hillsong’s alleged domination of Australian Idol by interviewing two former church members who “came forward”. Big deal, it’s all a bit tiresome and Seven and Sunrise had better not turn around and try to gather support from viewers for Mark Baretta on the current series of Dancing With The Stars. There’s something along the lines of people in glasshouses; not that that would worry TT. The program should have been wondering why it didn’t get the interview with Tracey Wickham on the tragic death of her 19-year-daughter. It was poignant and well done by Tracy Grimshaw over on ACA. Far more class than a crude bashing of Australian Idol

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: The last ep of Nine’s expensive Sea Patrol for the year was swamped by the off the satellite debut of Bionic Woman on Seven. Bionic Woman averaged 1.59 million. Today Tonight was second with 1.311 million and Seven News was next with 1.290 million. Home And Away won 7pm with 1.286 million and Heroes joined BW off the satellite and won the 9.30pm slot for Seven with 1.223 million. Sea Patrol sagged to 1.204 million at 8.30pm, but that was not a true indicator: Nine ran the final ep in Melbourne and Perth at 9.30pm after running the pre-empted penultimate ep at 8.30pm. It averaged 529,000 for the final ep in Melbourne and Perth. A TV network that can’t work out when to program its biggest budget, highest profile drama for the year is pretty dumb. Seven’s Ghost Whisperer won 7.30pm with 1.201 million, followed by A Current Affair (1.096 million), Getaway (1.088 million), So You Think You Can Dance (1.084 million), the 7pm ABC News (1.077 million) and Temptation (1.073 million). Nine News only had 1.063 million. Law And Order at 9.30pm averaged 908,000 for Ten. The repeat of Rex on SBS at 7.30pm averaged 424,000. Dynasties on the ABC at 8.30pm, 652,000.

The Losers: It was an OK sort of night: no real disasters. There was an atrocity on Seven called Famous Presents Hollywood Uncensored. It was watched by 586,000 from around 10.45pm: a pastiche of pap and rubbish from the US designed to promote Seven’s Famous magazine (through its offshoot, Pacific Magazines).

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Sydney. Today Tonight won everywhere. The 7pm ABC News had more viewers than Nine. Nine’s Nightline averaged 289,000. Ten News averaged 743,000; the Late News/Sports Tonight, 485,000. The 7.30 Report, a low 787,000; Lateline, 249,000; Lateline Business, 126,000. SBS News, 137,000 at 6.30pm; 154,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise 412,000 (without the technical problems); 7am Today back to 260,000.

The Stats: Seven won with 32.5% (25.6%) from Nine with 27.2% (34.7%), Ten with 22.0% (21.0%), the ABC with 13.8% (13.4%) and SBS with 4.5% (5.2%). Seven won all five metro markets and leads the week 31.2% to 27.2% for Nine. In regional areas a win also for Prime/7Qld with 31.6%, from WIN/NBN for Nine with 29.4%, Southern Cross (Ten), 19.5%, the ABC with 14.2% and SBS with 5.3%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: The Nine Network had its best night of the week apart from the NRL boosted Sunday, but that wasn’t good enough. It still ran second. Sea Patrol exited in a mild eruption of foam: there had better be some panelbeating on series two. The 1.2 million average for the last ep showed there wasn’t much enthusiasm among viewers for the finale, and the doubling of eps in Melbourne and Perth didn’t help. Tonight its Better Homes And Gardens versus the rest. Movies on Seven, Ten and Nine: its late spring and there’s not much left in the vault to shove into a low rating Friday, let along Saturday nights. Sunday night K&K are back, 60 Minutes and Nine starts its new talent show, Singing Bee.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports