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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 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.

  11. klewso

    Pulling Negus – another example of the media’s “dumbing down democracy”? Who hogs that remote, controlling how (and when) we get to see “news” (as they deem fits their definition of it), but the media companies, controlling our “intake” – to a drip feed :- on the whole, we’re “fed by drips”!

  12. david

    KLEWSO talking of examples, today was yet another showing the complete lack of professionalism throughout the MSM

  13. david

    con)…when the major talking point, including the ABC as one of the main offenders, was about the PM and did she bow when meeting HM , should she have curtsied, was she rude, her attire was not appropriate and on it went, in blogs, online comments, talkback, what the devil is going on?
    ARCHER re Kerry O’Brien, yes I did enjoy his cut and thrust interviews, there is not one person in the ABC in my opinion who come close to him as an interviewer, a couple are good, but only good, DUILMANN is not one of them.
    As for the list you mentioned, it would be too long to even contemplate. As for Bolt, he is a +*&#+@

  14. Daemon

    @ Archer, if you had asked me 2 weeks ago I would have said the voice of News Ltd in Brisbane, Madonna King, speaking of sloppy dish-cloth liberal sycophants but she is already going, from tomorrow. Good riddance.

    I agree with you about Negus though. He would be good to see back on the ABC and Uhlmann could stay in Canberra cuddling up to Tony and his chums, while Negus forces him to ask hard questions. That would force Abbott out of the forest of western Sydney voters he likes to play with because they sing “send back the boats” in harmony with him.

    I would love to see the majority (64%) of voters who want asylum seekers treated properly heard above the din of the electo-morons of St Marys, that Abbott and the Ranga love so much. Those folks shouldn’t even be allowed to vote, let alone breed. Non contributory, non productive useless high breeding rate losers, all of them.

  15. AR

    I can’t understand what possessed TEN in the first instance to try Negus and a serious news show. Look at their demographic, esp since the end of the Simpsons – nobody with measurable IQ.
    I also can’t understand why Negus left SBS where he could reach a sentient audience.
    Can it be that he simply wanted the money? Now what? Burning bridges/boats spring to mind.

  16. Noseyknows

    It’s quite obvious why ten axed George, not once did he present the stories that mattered. There wasn’t a single story on Coles and Woolies charging too much for their goods. How was I supposed to know I was being ripped off when purchasing reconstituted meat that was conveyed to me not once but numerous times on both the other current affairs programs, but not on yours George, you let me down.
    Shame on you George for not trying to pass off product endorsements that were thinly disguised as good journalism.
    I watched and listened with intent to hear George prattle on about another bad tenant trashing a poor property owners investment property but to no avail.
    I used to wait to hear how much money the government was ripping off motorists from speed cameras. Did the vital information come from the speakers of my TV? No not at all.
    Not once did I see George running down the street hounding an over zealous car salesman. You call yourself a journo George. I have my doubts.
    Instead I had to put up with thought provoking in depth stories that were relevant in today’s society. I’m surprised you lasted as long as you did.
    Oops gotta go or I’ll miss the latest diet fad that’s about to come on ACA.

  17. monkeywrench

    It’s clear that Ten prefer a talking piece of wood in the vague shape of Andrew Bolt to someone who actually sounds like he’s engaged with his audience. Well done, Ten! You’ve put your money on a complete loser.

  18. klewso

    I remember reading Madonna King’s columns some years ago, and they were quite good – then for some reason she started thinking she was a “political correspondent” and that her opinions and interpretations, influenced by her preconceptions and prejudices, were more important than the subject, losing her impartial perspective. Another “op-ed political purveyor, trained in journalism”?

  19. JimDocker

    There appears to be a consensus that 6 30 with George Negus was a quality show. It wasn’t.

    It was marginally above the quality of it’s competitors, TT and ACA but a long way short of what one would expect from a journalist of Negus’ experience and reputation.

    Channel ten’s shows tend to move at 100 mile an hour with no depth and this fit the bill. There was never an attempt at in depth analysis. I turned off after about 2 or 3 weeks.

    As for David’s comments, re: Chris Uhlmann. I have found him to be a very balanced and professional presenter. I cannot stand Tony Abbott and his right wing narrow minded followers, but it is not Uhllman’s job to take sides.

  20. Daemon

    @Monkeywrench, as long as the “lowest common denominator” remains in the ascendancy, 10 will continue to present trite rubbish as “news”, with blowsy, brain-dead reporters to relieve the tedium of the “News-which isn’t”, daily. Likewise 7 and 9, simply because they can.

    I remember the days of having Australian Drama on TV regularly, now we have Rush, and we had Patrol Boat, but now little else, to manage the monotony of “free to air”.

    Perhaps one day we will have another go at producing something that resembles good television, in the mean-time, I will happily spend my 8 cents per day.

  21. Archer

    david Posted Thursday, 20 October 2011 at 7:21 pm

    “Kerry O’Brien, yes I did enjoy his cut and thrust interviews, there is not one person in the ABC in my opinion who come close to him as an interviewer,”

    No favouritism there,



    Have a look at the faces of the other panelists.

  22. Archer


    “I would love to see the majority (64%) of voters who want asylum seekers treated properly heard above the din of the electo-morons of St Marys, that Abbott and the Ranga love so much. Those folks shouldn’t even be allowed to vote, let alone breed. Non contributory, non productive useless high breeding rate losers, all of them.”

    You assume we don’t want to see them treated humanely, we do. What I don’t want is for them to be released into the general population until we know who they are, where they’re from and what their backgrounds are. Listening to Sarah Hanson Young is laughable. Her solution is simplistic, naive and dangerous.

    And it was nice of her to accept no responsibility for Asher having to resign. It was an interesting interview on Lateline last night.

  23. Daniel

    More people watch Insiders on the ABC than Bolt’s Report. Clearly this is market failure. #bailoutbolt.

  24. Daemon

    @Archer, sorry, I mis-spoke, as politicians like to say, but I am using it properly, not as a euphemism for a bare-faced lie.

    The non-contributory folks I was addressing, were the denizens of Western Sydney, not the refugees. I agree, not directly into the community, never even contemplated that as an option. Bring them on-shore and put them in a facility where they can have health, ID and security checks, then release them into the community with some sort of financial assistance.

    Put the children into communities of care, as many are now.
    Don’t leave them behind razor-wire for months, losing their minds.
    Give a specific time for the checks to be completed.
    If the checks are not able to be completed, put them into the community until they are finished.
    Don’t make Australians all look like arse-holes; that’s just the “dear leaders” of both parties and their sycophants.

    Train the ASIO monkeys to do the security checks in a more open and transparent way, and encourage them not to lie about the results of their findings as is currently the case.

    Get rid of that contract jailer. Let the Government employ the jailers directly, and train them prtoperly, unlike Sert or whatever, who appear to be spending a lot of time telling lies.

    Notice I never mentioned The Greens once?

  25. david

    (Jim Docker says ..”Chris Uhlmann. I have found him to be a very balanced and professional presenter”. )

    I take it you are his mother then.


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