Before it aired, it was over.

There was no happy ending for Blake Garvey and Sam Frost. It seems their relationship advanced only on the set of the recently concluded The Bachelor. When the cameras stopped rolling, it ended.

For Channel Ten, though, the program has continued to deliver female viewers, including through an interview with the unhappy former lovers on the network’s The Project last night. That show rarely breaks into the top 10 national programs, but last night it was the third most-viewed nationally, with 1.537 million viewers (1.192 million metro), or more than double its ratings from last Monday. Ten split The Project into two halves for ratings purposes earlier this year, and even its 6.30-7pm half benefited from the exclusive, with 1.068 million viewers nationally.

Indeed, Ten has gained a smorgasbord of free publicity over the breakup. It’s been messy, to be sure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean bad things for Ten. Fusion Strategy’s Steve Allen said the break-up, which occurred before the last episode aired would not damage Ten or the brand. The show has garnered the attention of the popular press, and that never hurts. It’s a sentiment shared by reality TV consultant and Reality Ravings blogger Emma Ashton, who told Crikey this morning that it put some much-needed positive spotlight on Ten.

“There’d be very few people in Australia, SBS and ABC watchers included, who aren’t aware of what The Bachelor is and who the bachelor was,” she said. “Every media organisation — from tabloid to broadsheet to Crikey — is writing about it. Ten’s been struggling for a few years with ratings, and The Bachelor has been one of the better-rating shows. All this publicity is turning it into a landmark show.”

Ten did its best to help the intrigue along. The day before the finale aired, it cancelled all interviews with the couple, a fact widely reported in the press that got everyone talking about what had happened. And when the break-up did come out, Ten obligingly offered access to the former couple to those most interested. As well as the exclusive interview on The ProjectDaily Mail Australia got an exclusive interview with Frost, while Woman’s Day spoke to Garvey. And, over the weekend, News Corp was trumpeting a statement “released exclusively by Ten to News Corp” giving more details about the split. This morning, Garvey hung on on Kyle and Jackie O’s Kiis’ breakfast show after they tried to get him to leave a message on Frost’s voicemail.

“The problem for Ten, Allen says, is that even its good shows don’t perform as well as they would on Channel’s Seven and Nine, no matter how well they’re promoted.”

Reality TV stars sign contracts promising the network and production company a share of the income they make from public appearances and the like for a number of months. The coverage will make Garvey and Frost more well known, and we can assume they’ll both try to leverage that somehow. But Ashton doesn’t think Garvey will benefit much from his new-found fame. “He’s mismanaged this totally. If he’d tried to stick [the relationship] out for a few more weeks, no one would care. But he looks like a cad now. This has all really damaged his ability leverage his Bachelor experience, through ongoing publicity for his businesses or other things.”

Frost’s star is brighter, and she may go on to make a nice bit of money for herself out of the experience, and by extension, for Channel Ten.

Of course, this can’t hurt the ratings for next year’s season. But Allen was sceptical about whether The Bachelor‘s success would feed through to Ten’s broad schedule. Yesterday, after The Project’s interview with Frost and Garvey aired, Ten premiered Party Tricks, a new highly anticipated drama starring Asher Keddie and Rodger Corser. Despite solid publicity, its ratings were disappointing — 945,000 viewers nationally and 710,000 in metro. “We had higher hopes for it,” Allen said. “But it was up against solid competition. When The Block ends in a few weeks and Big Brother moves into that time slot, it might increase its ratings to something more respectable.”

The problem for Ten, Allen says, is that even its good shows don’t perform as well as they would on Seven and Nine, no matter how well they’re promoted. “It’s the third or fourth choice for viewers,” he says. “Until they have a real hit on their hands, that’ll continue. The Bachelor was a minor hit. But until something is generating audiences above those of MasterChef, they’re not going to get out of that position.”