As Jelena Dokic’s Fairy Tale ended Seven will be hoping their’s has begun again. Last year Seven had a disappointing Australian Open with an unappealing Djokovic vs. Tsonga final. Ratings fell for the third year in a row to 2.44 million viewers in metro markets from a peak of over 4 million to watch Lleyton Hewitt lose to Marat Safin in 2005.

The Hewitt final provided Seven the cross promotional launch pad for Desperate Housewives, Lost and Dancing With The Stars though it took Seven another two years to finally beat Nine in 2007.

Last year Seven took their foot off the pedal and back end loaded the year by saving some of their best programming to be cross promoted by the Olympics. The lower rating Australian Open combined with fewer big programs in the front half of the year resulted in Nine matching Seven right up to the Olympics in August. This was not a great look for the advertising industry and despite Seven’s dominance in the post Olympics period enabled Nine to argue for an increased advertising share in 2009 which partly has to come from Seven.

This year Seven have not made the same mistake and have come out with all guns blazing heavily promoting the new nightly line up. Jelena Dokic has provided the Lleyton impetus of 2005 with extraordinary ratings for her quarter loss on Tuesday night. What Seven would have paid to keep her winning through to Saturday.

The promo that Seven produced and ran for the Dokic match was highly emotive with swelling music and the great tag line of “this was the week that completely changed her life”. This was real US TV shmoltz, that again separates Seven from Nine, and what a result.

Glenn Dyer outlined some interesting comparisons yesterday in Crikey of Jelena’s average audience of 2.441 million topping all Olympic nights except the Opening Ceremony and beating State of Origin, Twenty20 cricket, the Melbourne Cup and it will probably be Seven’s top rating program for 2009.

I also found the numbers of advertisements shown during the match to be of interest. The match ran for two and a half hours in which time Seven were entitled to show an average of 37 minutes of non-programming material — advertising and promos. In that time Seven actually only screened 13 minutes of ads, three minutes of promos and unbelievably a public service ad for Drinkwise. Even if you add in the three minutes of ads after the match, during which 900,000 people started to turn off rather than watch Federer, still resulting in a total of only 16 minutes of ads or less than 50% of the legal limit.

I appreciate that Seven can “make good” these missed ads in other prime time slots. Perhaps Seven needs to introduce artificially long breaks as they do in AFL football to fit in more ads and certainly the players would have appreciated it in this tournament. Nine would probably have got over the problem by delaying the telecast as they often do with Rugby League. Hopefully Seven got a premium for the ads as it certainly made for greater viewer enjoyment of the Fairy Tale.

Peter Fray

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