If you had to pick the winners of the 2008 TV ratings battle they would be the ABC and SBS. The two taxpayer funded broadcasters had their best figures since Oztam ratings started in 2001. Among the commercial networks, it was Seven’s year. Excluding Easter and the Olympics, Seven won the All People in Free To Air for the year with 28.5% from Nine with 27.3%, Ten with 20.7%, the ABC on 17.5% and SBS with 5.6%. Nine, the ABC and SBS all lifted their share. When Pay TV is included, Seven is still the winner.  Excluding Easter and the Olympics Seven won the 6 pm to 10.30 pm battle with 24.32% in All People, from Nine with 22.79%, Ten with 17.67%, The ABC and Pay TV tied on 15.32% and SBS with 4.57%.  Ten has its worst performance in a decade as the year started strongly, but was crippled by the flop that was Big Brother, and the trend downhill continued. It was only partly redeemed by the final two eps of Australian Idol which rated well. But the ABC and SBS hit records, a surprising achievement for the ABC given that 2007 contained two of the most popular programs the broadcaster has ever had: The Chaser and Summer Heights High.  SBS’s lift was driven by the UK version of Top Gear on Monday nights which provided a significant boost in viewer share. The Australian version wasn’t as popular but rated well compared to what SBS had been showing in the same timeslot (up to three times better). Continuing to broadcast repeats of poor old Inspector Rex at 7.30 pm Thursdays also boosted audience numbers and share but was the most cynical bit of TV programming this year.  The ABC had its best year in history thanks to Spicks and Specks, The Gruen Transfer, Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope and the imported Midsomer Murders. With Denton leaving the screen and a big hole on Monday nights, the ABC will do it harder next year, even with the Chaser returning. SBS’s performance is a rebuttal of the moans and groans from mostly ABC refugees who don’t like the ad islands SBS has inserted into its programs. Viewers again didn’t care and tuned in for the programming, not the ads, despite what the luvvies might think. In the 40-week survey period, which ended on Saturday, Seven won 28 weeks, Nine won 11 and tied on another. Nine’s performance was vastly better than 2007 when it only won two weeks. Seven won the rest. Seven had two very successful new programs: Packed To The Rafters and Find My Family, with The Zoo a close third. All appeared after the Olympics and drove the Network’s recovery from the early year stumbles. Packed To the Rafters was the only regular program to attract audiences above the 2 million mark. The rest were sports programs such as the Olympics, AFL and NRL Grand Finals, the Rugby League State of Origins and 20/20 cricket. Nine improved from a disastrous 2007 thanks to popular shows such as gangland crime drama Underbelly, the various kitchens and swear words of Gordon Ramsay and Two and a Half Men plus solid Sunday night figures for 60 Minutes and CSI.  While Nine improved, it still has a long way to go to recover from the black hole known as Eddie McGuire. 

Peter Fray

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