SMH campaigns for a more traditional NRL Grand Final. Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald has decided to take on the News Ltd dominated National Rugby League, and the now private equity owned Nine Network over the timing of the 2008 Grand Final. The paper’s campaign kicked off today and it was timed to coincide with a NRL conference on changes to the game next year. In stories and an editorial on the main sports page, the SMH urged the return of the game to a 3pm kick off. The reason the Grand Final is in the evening is the ratings, pure and simple. There could be more than half a million fewer viewers in the afternoon. The 2007 Grand Final actually beat the AFL Grand Final across the country because there’s more interest in Rugby League in the heavily populated regional areas of NSW and Queensland than there is in AFL. Considering PBL Media now owns NBN, which is the network’s second regional outlet, it has a lot at stake if the game is pushed back to a traditional 3pm start. — Glenn Dyer

Cricket’s scheduling shake-up all about ratings. Cricket Australia has announced plans to shelve the usual tri-nations one day competition next summer in favour of a series of games between Australia and each of the touring nations, New Zealand and South Africa. Cricket writers claiming the decision means the game is in trouble in Australia don’t understand the financial and ratings dynamics. The financially draining (for Cricket Australia, the state associations and Nine) non-Australian games will disappear but there will still be 10 very profitable and attractive games involving Australia, the same number as under the existing format. That means no potential loss of revenue and lower costs. It’s a win for the game and a win for Nine. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
A better night than Sunday with nine programs averaging a million or more viewers. Seven News was tops with 1.405 million, Surf Patrol was next with 1.343 million and Today Tonight averaged 1.317 million. Borderline (from New Zealand) averaged 1.314 million on Seven at 7.30 pm (the Border Security slot) and the 7pm ABC News was strong with 1.268 million. A repeat of Criminal Minds at 8.30pm averaged 1.240 million (probably better than it did first up), followed by Nine News (1.233 million), A Current Affair (1.204 million) and That 70s Show (1.005 million) at 7pm. Enough Rope averaged 890,000; The King of Queens, back on Nine at 7pm, 839,000; America’s Next Top Model, 865,000; Friends, now on Ten at 7pm, 827,000. Mythbusters, 536,000. 30 Rock on Seven at 10.30pm, 431,000.

The Losers: Monday night has been Seven’s night all year and that’s the way it went again last night. Nine had just two programs above a million viewers, Ten had none and the ABC had one.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally — it lost Melbourne and Brisbane but was very strong in Sydney, Adelaide and of course Perth. Likewise Today Tonight was weak in Melbourne and Brisbane, but very strong in Sydney (ACA fell to 299,000 viewers there). The 7pm ABC News beat Nine nationally and was easily the most watched news in Sydney last night with 424,000, but it was unusually weak in Melbourne. The 7.30 Report averaged 948,000, which made it a top ten program nationally. Lateline, 397,000; Lateline Business, 197,000. Ten News, 811,000; the Late News/Sports Tonight, 429,000. Nightline, 187,000. SBS News, 219,000 at 6.30pm; 222,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise, 422,000; 7am Today, 264,000.

The Stats: Seven won with 29.6% from Nine with 23.1%, Ten with 20.6%, the ABC with 18.8% and SBS with 8.0%. Seven won all five metro markets. Seven leads the week 28.8% to 23.8%. The ABC is still third with 19.7% and Ten fourth with 19.5%. In regional areas a strong win to Prime/7Qld with 31.1% from WIN/NBN with 24.7%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 18.1%, the ABC with 17.4% and SBS with 8.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: The official ratings season may have ended, but based on the first two nights of summer not much has changed. It’s Seven, then a gap, then Nine and Ten (which is being challenged by the ABC). The absurd cricket schedule this year is already showing up in Nine’s figures. No wonder they want to junk the tri-nations series in 2008-09 season. This year’s ODI competition will finish next March, back in ratings. But we have already seen Nine and David Gyngell’s great dilemma: Nine has no second or third tier programming with which to shore up the summer schedule, which does account for a solid 20% or so of revenue due to the next three weeks of advertising leading up to Christmas. Viewers still overwhelming prefer Seven, which is a habit that Nine has to break. But Seven will not be giving away any free kicks like it got from Nine. Nine has to start its 2008 ratings battle in mid-January and keep going at full pace to make an impression on viewer habits as early as possible — it’s what Seven did in 2005 and 2006 and what it will aim to do again in 2008.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports.