Official TV ratings don’t start until early next month, but for the embattled Ten Network and its fleet of mogul shareholders and new CEO James Warburton the campaign starts on Sunday night. Ten is no doubt hoping that Bernard Tomic loses his Australian Open third-round match tonight in Melbourne: a win would see him play Roger Federer on Sunday at 7pm, blowing the network’s new ratings line-up out of the water.

From Sunday, Ten starts a new half-hour episode of The Project at 6pm (it runs an hour Monday to Friday from 6pm, a big ask). At 6.30pm, Ten returns a revamped Young Talent Time for an hour (Ten’s summer revamp of the ’80s program It’s a Knockout has bombed, so the omens are clouded). At 7.30pm it has new episodes of Modern Family followed by new US series New Girl and big US hit Homeland at 8.30.

On Monday, Ten starts its old standby, The Biggest Loser, at 7pm. It has a singles focus this year (with the hint of romance; that’s how desperate Ten is). The following Monday, Nine starts its look-a-like weight-reducing program called Excess Baggage at 7pm. It’s based on Nine’s old standby method: celebrities. Hopefully it’s not a program whose name is self-descriptive for the 7pm timeslot. The Biggest Loser will have to take on Seven’s very successful 7pm giant Home and Away, which starts this Monday at 7pm. It has the core audience Loser has to seduce away: females from around 15 to 30.

Excess Baggage is aimed more at the 25 to 54 age group. Nine has to try and weaken Loser because its 2012 ratings plans are built on stripping programs at 7pm for 30 minutes or an hour. If Ten wins by having more viewers, Nine’s plans will be under pressure. Excess Baggage has to attract 800,000 to a million viewers every night to be a success — as does Ten.

Ten will also strip programming with MasterChef and other franchises. Only one will win, because Home and Away will retain most of its million viewers Monday to Friday and the 7pm ABC News will keep most of its 800,000 to 900,000 viewers. The 7pm timeslot is the toughest in the business and the key to the evening for the three commercial networks. Last year Home and Away had well over a million viewers and won 7-7.30pm strongly. Nine, Ten, the ABC and SBS had 2.5 million to 3 million between them. Nine or Ten will have to attract audiences away from digital channels, especially their own in GO/GEM (Nine) and ONE/Eleven (Ten). 

Peter Fray

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