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TV & Radio

Oct 20, 2011

Bye George (Negus), it wasn’t that bad, just not enough viewers

6:30 with George Negus died a slow death by viewer indifference. Negus, however, said that at least Ten had a go and the product he fronted most nights wasn't that bad.

On ABC 702 yesterday afternoon after 4pm, host Richard Glover tried to get a discussion going about good journalism versus bad journalism. The context was the decision by the Ten Network to axe 6.30 with George Negus. Glover tried and tried and then could only get two rather weak contributions from the audience, and he then let the topic die — which about sums up what happened to the Negus program: slow death by viewer indifference.

George Negus phoned Glover in the next half hour (while Glover was talking to Annabel Crabb about politicians and the media) and George was upbeat. At least Ten had a go, he said, and the product he fronted most nights wasn’t that bad. Which it wasn’t.

All three agreed that Negus’ competition, Today Tonight and A Current Affair, weren’t much chop and weren’t current affairs, which is also true. Negus and Glover also said viewers for TT and ACA were “rusted” on. Well they are, compared to Ten viewers, but that’s not quite the case overall.

So let’s look at the performance of 6.30 with George Negus, TT and ACA this year.

According to figures from Fusion Strategy in Sydney, 6.30 with George Negus averaged 420,000 in the first month it was on air from mid-January. It lost 11.7% of its audience from then to average 372,000 in the past month. Today Tonight has actually lifted its audience slightly, only 5000, but that’s enough: it averaged 1.153 million in January and February and 1.158 million in September and October (up to Tuesday night).

ACA has lost 62,000 viewers or 6.7% of its audience. Its average audience has fallen from 925,000 in January/February down to 873,000 in September and October so far. Last year it averaged 1.138 million, so the loss this year is quite substantial.

But it is not so clear: all news and current affairs programs have lost ground this year, even though total FTA TV viewing is actually up on last year. (That’s partly because of the rise of the new digital channels, especially Ten’s Eleven, which is now the third most-watched some nights. Eleven started in January and has attracted viewers who might have been watching the main channels, especially Seven and Nine, as well as taking people from Ten.)

That brings another factor into play: last year Ten was broadcasting Neighbours at 6.30pm on its main channel, but Neighbours was slowly dying much in the way 6.30 with George Negus did this year. When Ten shifted Neighbours to Eleven at 6.30pm and started 6.30 with George Negus, Neighbours’ audience decamped to Eleven (roughly 320,000 to 380,000 a night, depending on what night of the week it is). 6.30 with George Negus picked up its audience from the residual older Ten viewers who stated around after the News, or those from other channels who didn’t much like TT or ACA.

From the audience figures, especially in the past two months, 6.30 with George Negus and ACA have been fading away as viewers deserted both, but not for TT or the ABC. They have gone to the digital channels, besides Eleven. In fact between 600,000 and 800,000 people watched the digital channels from 6pm to 7pm, depending on the night.

ABC2 dominates some nights with over 200,000 viewers for its kids programs, with Eleven next and Go or 7TWO third. A year ago, the average audience for 6pm to 7pm would have been more than 300,000 fewer.

A final factor is Ten doesn’t have the same “buzz” about it this year for viewers. The 7pm Project has faded once MasterChef finished (it helped The 7pm Project with a late boost after 7.20pm with viewers switching channels early). Ten has failed with The Renovators. Ten has had a rough year and the overall image is one of a network floundering and broadcasting programs that on the whole viewers watched in declining numbers. That doesn’t help programs such as 6.30 with George Negus.

Now, all the news and current affairs experiments of the old Ten management have gone, as well as the long-established Late News/Sports Tonight at 10.30pm. Local weekend news broadcasts have been axed as well and a single national program of 90 minutes replaced it.

And to replace them, a breakfast program from early next year that will struggle to get viewers, just as the ABC’s Breakfast program has struggled (as has Ten’s early news at 6am). The trade-off between the axed programs and the new Breakfast program is unequal and odd, especially if Ten remains under profit and cost pressures.

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25 comments

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25 thoughts on “Bye George (Negus), it wasn’t that bad, just not enough viewers

  1. Jim Reiher

    They are axing Negus but keeping Bolt’s show? Unbelievable. I would like to see the month by month stats on that other horrible show! Surely less and less people are watching it.

  2. zut alors

    Perchance do we sense the cold hand of Lachlan?

  3. klewso

    “They” haven’t “all gone” from TEN, have they -what about “Blott on the (Political) Landscape”? What do you call that?

  4. leone

    It’s obvious isn’t it – George wouldn’t say whatever Gina wanted him to say. Her lapdog Bolt still has his show and still parrots the Rinehart line as ordered.

    Channel 10’s viewers probably wouldn’t have understood anything Negus said anyway, he tends to use words of more than one syllable.

  5. Tom McLoughlin

    Right or wrong my feel is that Ten had an indy underdog fiesty spirit about it, seriously.

    Then with that success it attracted a billionaire takeover.

    Theoretically this shouldn’t affect the viewer product but somehow I think it has damaged it’s character.

    Did the spivs cruel the creative momentum there? I wonder.

  6. Daemon

    Over the past couple of years I have watched a little bit of 10, a very little bit of seven, a middling amount of nine and lots of ABC

    The thing that sticks in my craw as far as particularly 10 is concerned is the amount they spend on “reality” television. I don’t expect the people who will be reading this to do much other than nod but I believe that all of the commercial channels aim at what I term the dumbed down idiot which is a normal commercial television viewer who really sits in front of the television with their brain well and truly turned off, because the media has been successfully dumbing down the point where they ask no questions.

    I don’t suppose this will change in the short term, because there are more of them than there are of us which is a sad reflection on the human condition as far as I’m concerned but at least as long as there are people who read crikey and get their news that way there is hope for humanity because as long as people continue to read the Telegraph, get their news from Channel 7 and watch the goings-on in Summer Bay, the politicians remain safe in their partnership with the media by having dumbed the average punter down to the point where they ask no questions, and accept whatever rubbish the politicians and the media hand them as being their just due.

  7. david

    A chance for ABC boss Scott to show he does have the guts and spine to be a leader in media and replace the wet rag, Liberal cuddling Yuilmann with George Negus. That would be substituting lame, no talented, useless, unprofessional, with talented, professional, experienced no nonsense George.
    C’mon Scott you know you should, bite the bullet.

  8. Archer

    david Posted Thursday, 20 October 2011 at 5:20 pm

    “A chance for ABC boss Scott to show he does have the guts and spine to be a leader in media and replace the wet rag, Liberal cuddling Yuilmann with George Negus.”

    What did you think of Kerry O’brien? Just a thought.

    George has worked for the ABC, SBS, channel 9 and he has written for The Australian so he has been around. He was Lionel Murphy’s press secretary during the Whitlam government.

    Who else would you have replaced in the ABC?

  9. Archer

    One more thing. Negus’ show was not axed because it was bad but because it needs to pull in high numbers to set up the audience for the following programs, to keep the momentum going. It’s a crucial time slot. If Bolts show maintains 120,000 that’s fine because it’s a Sunday mid morning show. People are out to breakfast, off to church or whatever else people do on a Sunday morning.

  10. Rena Zurawel

    TV programs and their channels are more and more stupid. I hardly ever watch TV nowadays. Soon, the only viewers would be sports fans and bound to bed miserables.