Despite its improved showing in the ratings this year, the Nine Network is getting gun-shy at the number of flops it has produced.

The latest is the poorly performing Canal Road, which has been pushed back from 9.30pm Wednesdays (after Underbelly in all states bar Melbourne where is was screened at 8.30pm) to 10.30pm.

That’s the equivalent of TV death. 10.30pm is the end of the premium TV advertising slot, the so-called Zone 1 ratings period (6pm to 10.30pm) where the bulk of viewers and ad dollars can be found. After that, ad rates drop and audiences fall. Clever programming can delivery premium returns but Canal Road is too expensive for Nine to make any money on it after 10.30pm: it costs around $600,000 an ep. It started out with just over a million viewers but lost around 250,000 in the second week to average 831,000.

Canal Road was Nine’s chance to shine in prime time. Instead, it joins the likes of Monster House, The Power of 10, The Moment of Truth and the still on air My Kid’s A Star as 2008 flops for Nine, along with programs like The Sarah Connor Chronicles and  Cashmere Mafia, which have faded.

While Ten and Seven have had bombs this year, they have perservered with some programs. Seven has revamped a poorly performing Saturday night line-up and pushed the dying Lost to 10.30pm Thursday nights.

The replacement for Canal Road is more Gordon Ramsay.

Jane Nethercote writes:

Just as he swoops in to save shambolic restaurants from ruin, Channel Nine is hoping that Gordon “potty-mouth” Ramsay will work his magic for them too.

The demoted Canal Road will be replaced with Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen at 9:30pm (except Melbourne where it will show at 8:30pm). 

Ironically, Channel Nine last year  replaced Hell’s Kitchen with Comedy Inc because it wasn’t rating well enough. (Seriously, do Nine execs have worms?)

The latest manoeuvre means Ramsay now has Nine’s prime time slot from Tuesday to Thursday, filled with various incarnations of his TV franchise: Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (UK and US versions) and Hell’s Kitchen. (How long will it be before they add the latest Ramsay show, The F-Word, to the roster?)

“There’s wall-to-wall Gordon Ramsay,” a Nine source told The Australian. “We’ve got lots of Kitchen Nightmares still to go.” 

For Nine, it seems, Gordon Ramsay’s franchise is the new CSI. Diluted and set in an increasing number of locations, it has the ability to fill ever more air time, but perhaps with increasingly mixed results.

Since they realised Ramsay rates his socks off, Nine execs have been milking his popularity. The equation seems straightforward: if viewers like it, give ’em more. And more. Let’s just hope they don’t kill the golden goose in the process.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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