SBS-Red Bee deal falls through: It promised so much but in the end, all those rosy suggestions of a brave new digital world came to nought as SBS and Red Bee of Britain went their separate ways after a year of negotiations that collapsed this week. It means an attempt by Macquarie Bank, through Red Bee, to grab the digital broadcasting facilities at SBS, and then use this as a stepping stone to other networks looking to cut costs (such as Nine) has bitten the dust. This is what SBS said last March:

SBS Corporation, Australia’s multicultural and multilingual public broadcaster, today announced that, subject to successful contract negotiations, it had selected Red Bee Media to provide outsourced services for elements of its television broadcast system, including digital media management and playout of its channels. This is the first time an Australian broadcaster has entered into negotiations to outsource these types of services…

Around 20 SBS staff will be affected by the move. SBS and Red Bee Media will work together to ensure that, where possible and appropriate, affected staff will be offered the opportunity to transfer to Red Bee Media’s new operation.

Yesterday it was a less effusive, much shorter bit of guff from SBS (why the “SBS Selects Red Bee” is still on the website in a prominent position is odd — The statement from yesterday still hasn’t been put up on the site). All yesterday’s statement said was that the deal will no longer proceed. According to some technical sources, the deal between the two was always a bit far-fetched because it would have meant SBS having to upgrade its facilities and broadcasting technology to a level compatible with what Red Bee was proposing. SBS still has a very costly upgrade to lift its complete studio, editing, recording and broadcast facilities to high definition quality so it can introduce a second HD channel like The ABC, Ten and Seven have already in operation (just what level of High Definition TV is another question). — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: 11 programs with a million or more viewers. RPA was tips for Nine with 1.459 million, with Seven News next with 1.372 million and Today Tonight 3rd with 1.258 million. Home And Away again won 7pm for Seven with 1.202 million and Law And Order SVU again did well for Ten at 8.30pm with 1.202 million. Nine News was next with 1.161 million, The Biggest Loser was 7th with 1.133 million and Getaway was 8th with 1.114 million. A Current Affair was 9th with 1.105 million and the 7pm ABC News was 10th with 1.042 million. Seven’s 7.30 to 8.30 program The Amazing Race was 11th with 1.031 million. Ten’s Medium averaged 937,000 at 9.30pm and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA averaged 923,000 without showing in Melbourne where Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares was shown with 451,000. So a total of 1.374 million watched Nine in that slot, which was actually the second most watched slot on the night after RPA.

The Losers: Losers? Quite a few on the list from last night. Two And A Half Men on Nine 893,000 at 7pm and 4th overall, Lost at 9.30pm for Seven, 780,000. Out Of The Question, 710,000 on Seven at 8.30pm. It has improved a lot but the slow start may have ruined it for viewers, as has the return of Good News Week on Monday nights to Ten. Saving Kids at 8pm for Ten, 762,000. Nice but no RPA. Family Guy at 9pm for Seven: 723,000. It’s not The Simpsons. You can get an hour of those tomorrow night at 6pm on Ten! Life On Mars on the ABC at 8.30pm: 784,000. It is not a second series program idea. Time Travel is meant to be brief, otherwise you get Lost!

News & CA: Seven news won all five metro markets for the fourth night in a row (a couple narrowly) and Today Tonight had the same sort of victory. Ten News At Five averaged 837,000; the Late News/Sports Tonight 462,000. Nine’s Nightline, 327,000. The 7.30 Report, 793,000. Lateline, 267,000; Lateline Business, 142,000. World News Australia on SBS, 168,000 at 6.30pm and 166,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise back over 400,000 at 414,000, 7am Today under 300,000 at 298,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 31.8% (29.0%) from Seven with 24.2% (26.0%), Ten with 23.1% (22.8%), the ABC with 15.5% (15.9%) and SBS with 5.4% (5.5%). Nine won all five metro markets but Seven leads with 28.4% from 28.0% for Nine. In regional areas a win to WIN/NBN for Nine with 30.7% from Southern cross (Ten) with 23.8%, Prime/7Qld with 23.5%, the ABC with 15.0% and SBS on 7.0%. According to figures from Fusion Strategy, in the 6pm to 10.30pm Zone 1 prime time battle Nine won with 25.73% of the audience (26.11% a week ago on the same night), from Seven with 20.92% (22.34), Ten was third with 19.85% (20.43%), Pay TV finished with 15.38% (13.44%), the ABC was on 13.75% (13.67%) and SBS was on 4.37% (4.00%).

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Thursday night and Seven has a nap; a little snooze and does the decent thing and allows Nine to catch up. I doubt it but that is the unintended consequence of the network’s weakest night of the week. It was a black spot for most of 2007 and for the sake of consistency Seven has decided to start 2008 in the same manner. RPA is going well for Nine and is its best performing program this year. And that was the night. Ten seemed stronger than Seven (or was it just that after 7pm Seven was average to poor?). Tonight there’s an ODI between Australia and Sri Lanka that may show good manners: Sunday afternoon and evening the ill-tempered adult males masquerading as the Australia and Indian cricket teams do battle in Sydney. There are a lot of repeats tomorrow night and other stuff Sunday. Ten has the movie The Constant Gardener, or John le Carre’s latest attempt to remain relevant as a modern thriller writer.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports

Peter Fray

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