Crisis talks for Seven News and Today Tonight. The Seven Network has convened a meeting of News Directors and senior producers from Today Tonight to discuss the sharp slump in viewing levels for the news and TT in Melbourne and Brisbane. While Seven News and TT had struggled in both markets over the past three years, they had caught and passed Nine this year, at least until July-August when Nine started coming back. Since then, the situation has slowly worsened for Seven. In Melbourne, viewers seem to be continuing to punish the network for broadcasting details about two AFL players in drug rehab, but in Brisbane no-one knows what sparked the turnaround. The performance of the news in both markets compares poorly with Seven in Sydney, where it wins most nights. Today Tonight is also much stronger in Sydney than in Melbourne and Brisbane. The fall in TT‘s audience has seen A Current Affair beat it on three of the past eight weeknights, something that rarely occurred earlier this year. TT is now depending on its usual big winning margin in Perth to help it past ACA nationally. Seven News has also become more reliant on its dominance in Perth as the national margin has narrowed. — Glenn Dyer

Chris Bath gets a glossy publicity push. Seven newsreader, Chris Bath, grabbed some great publicity with a glossy cover story in the SMH‘s Sydney Magazine today. The story pitched the line that she was ready to takeover from 2009 when Ian Ross quits/retires, though it failed to mention that Bath has just resigned to Seven with a new multi-year contract that will see her there until at least the end of 2009. It was the sort of branding that Nine has used for years through its ACP Magazines offshoot, and Seven uses New Idea through its Pacific Magazines arm, but the cover of the SMH‘s Sydney Magazine (aimed at the paper’s high-income readers) is a real coup. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
 The Chaser was first with 1.378 million, followed by Nine’s The Farmer Wants A Wife with 1.349 million and Seven News with 1.336 million. Home And Away was next with 1.228 million, followed by Nine’s repeat of Cold Case (1.225 million), Today Tonight (1.155 million), A Current Affair (1.1 million), Nine News (1.098 million), Medical Emergency (1.097 million), The New Inventors (1.072 million) and the 7pm ABC News (1.044 million). The Librarians turned really dark in the second last ep at 9.30pm and averaged 988,000.

The Losers: Ten … its post-Idol summer blues are back in force – not a program within cooee of a million viewers. No wonder it finished fourth nationally behind the ABC. Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader had 859,000 at 7.30pm and it’s back again tonight. At least Neighbours is doing solid numbers at 6.30pm – 800,000 isn’t to be sneezed at. Seven’s Surf Patrol: 940,000. Needs a much stronger lead-in program than Medical Emergency. Mondays it had Border Security: 1.6-1.8 million vs 1.1 million for ME last night.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally but lost Melbourne heavily. Today Tonight needed its Perth margin to win nationally. It won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, but lost Melbourne and Brisbane. Ten News, 767,000; the Late News/Sports Tonight, 343,000. Lateline, 353,000; Lateline Business, 146,000. Nightline, 240,000. SBS News, 144,000 at 6.30pm; 171,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise, 448,000; 7am Today up to 300,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 28.9% (27.2%) from Seven with 27.9% (25.7%), ABC was third with 20.6% (20.3%), Ten was fourth with 18.7% (23.9%), SBS was on 3.9% (5.5%). Nine won everywhere bar Perth where Seven won. Seven leads the week 30.0% to 26.7%. In regional areas, a big win to WIN/NBN with 31.2% from Prime/7Qld with 28.4%, the ABC third with 19.1%, Southern Cross (Ten) next with 17.0% and SBS on 4.2%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: The last Wednesday night of ratings for 2007 was still competitive. But only two programs were watched by more than 400,000 viewers in Sydney and Melbourne — The Chaser with 496,000 in Sydney and The Farmer Wants A Wife with 405,000 in Melbourne. Wednesdays used to get the highest number of 400,000+ audiences and occasionally over half a million. No longer as everyone heads towards the ennui of summer. Today Tonight‘s weakness in Melbourne and Brisbane continued and Seven News was weak in Melbourne but stronger in Brisbane. Nine News and A Current Affair are worsening in Sydney and remain the network’s most pressing problems. Tonight sees finals for Getaway, Missing Persons Unit, The Gift and RPA: Where Are They Now? on Nine and Bionic Woman, Heroes and Ghost Whisperer on Seven. The final for Difference of Opinion on the ABC at 9.30pm.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports