Judging by what went to air last evening in Sydney, you’d have to give the ABC top marks for covering the bushfire disaster — News24 during the afternoon and simulcast on ABC1 from 5pm. Seven and Nine had OK coverage in their late afternoon news, but then their performance fell away as both networks exhibited surprising inflexibility in covering a fast moving news story on their doorstep. At 5pm, Seven went to Deal or No Deal then Million Dollar Minute while the Blue Mountains continued burning, Nine had coverage at 5pm and then went to other news rather than stay with the fire, and then went to Hot Seat at 5.30 pm. Ten started its news in Sydney with solid coverage, then went to other stories, and then returned to the fires later in the bulletin. Why didn’t Seven and Nine just continue their late afternoon news bulletins until 6pm, or continue going until 7?

Nine and Seven both went to an hour long news at 6 pm and did OK, but Nine missed a live cross to the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell and others because they had a sports report (and then tried to make it up with a live cross later). Seven and the ABC had a live cross with the Premier’s press conference (which Seven abandoned early). Ten had The Simpsons at 6pm and then The Project from 6.30pm (it’s in Melbourne, so that’s understandable). Why not continue with Eyewitness News? Seven’s 7pm news on 7TWO had good live coverage.

You’d have to give the kudos to Scott Bevan and others (Nick Dole) on ABC1 and News24 because the ABC realised it was a big story and pre-empted scheduled material and kept broadcasting. Nine and Seven were and clearly forgot the lessons of previous big stories. If it was good enough to cover the floods in Queensland and the earthquakes in Christchurch with rolling coverage, why not the bushfires in their backyard? Sky News also covered the fires well and Paul Murray Live at 9 pm had more than 63,000 viewers, which is a very high figure for the program.

News24 had a metro average last night of 2.5% in prime time last night and 4.5% in Sydney, one of its highest reported. In regional areas, News24 had a 4.1% share, thanks to shares of 5.2% in northern NSW and 5.7% in southern regional parts, and 3.6% in Victoria. Overall, Nine won metro and regional markets from Seven, with the ABC a clear third ahead of Ten. But the fire coverage found Nine, Seven and Ten a little wanting when it mattered.

Network channel share:

  1. Nine (28.9%)
  2. Seven (25.6%)
  3. ABC (22.2%)
  4. Ten (17.4%)
  5. SBS (5.9%)

Network main channels:

  1. Nine (19.4%)
  2. Seven (19.0%)
  3. ABC1 (15.0%)
  4. Ten (12.3%)
  5. SBS ONE (5.1%)

Top digital channels: 

  1. GO (5.8%)
  2. Gem (3.7%)
  3. ABC 2 (3.6%)
  4. Eleven (3.4%)
  5. 7TWO, 7mate (3.3%)

Top 10 national programs:

  1. Nine News — 1.694 million*
  2. Seven News — 1.669 million*
  3. ABC News — 1.466 million
  4. Home and Away (Seven) – 1.376 million
  5. 7.30 (ABC1) — 1.289 million
  6. Today Tonight (Seven) — 1.210 million**
  7. Redesign My Brain (ABC1) — 1.188 million
  8. Big Brother (Nine) — 1.158 million
  9. A Current Affair (Nine) — 1.115 million **
  10. Catalyst (ABC1) — 1.086 million

*Hour long news in Sydney alone / ** Not broadcast in Sydney

Top metro programs:

  1. Nine News — 1.125 million*
  2. Seven News — 1.079 million

* Hour news in Sydney

Losers: A weak night of TV all round.Metro news and current affairs:

  1. Nine News — 1.125 million*
  2. Seven News — 1.079 million*
  3. ABC News — 953,000
  4. Today Tonight (Seven) — 951,000**
  5. A Current Affair (Nine) – 929,000**
  6. 7.30 (ABC1) — 810,000
  7. Ten Eyewitness News — 644,000
  8. The Project (Ten) – 457,000
  9. Revealed (Ten) — 309,000
  10. Lateline (ABC1) — 194,000

*Hour long news in Sydney alone

** Not broadcast in Sydney

Metro morning TV:

  1. Sunrise (Seven) – 352,000
  2. Today (Nine) – 335,000
  3. News Breakfast (ABC1, 68,000 + 40,000 on News24) — 108,000

Top five pay TV channels:

  1. LifeStyle (3.0%)
  2. TV1 (2.9%)
  3. Fox 8 (2.8%)
  4. Sky News (2.2%)
  5. UK TV  (1.7%)

Top five pay TV programs:

  1. Grand Designs Australia  (LifeStyle) – 112,000
  2. The Simpsons (Fox 8 ) – 65,000
  3. Family Guy (Fox 8 ) – 64,000
  4. Paul Murray Live (Sky News) — 63,000
  5. Grand Designs (LifeStyle) – 57,000

*Data © OzTAM Pty Limited 2013. The data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of OzTAM. (All shares on the basis of combined overnight 6pm to midnight all people.) and network reports.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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