sonia kruger
Big Brother host Sonia Kruger (Image: Seven)

It just hasn’t been Seven West Media’s year.

Near penury, more write-offs, a major shareholder also playing in other sectors — the declining energy sector (Beach Energy) and building products (Boral, which will suffer more as the building downturn deepens).

It has sold off assets — magazines, overseas production assets, its Perth head office, cut hundreds of jobs, a chief executive officer, all to keep its shrinking head above a sea of debt.

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Seven’s programming has been littered with duds — My Kitchen Rules, House Rules, First Dates Australia — which have allowed Nine to overtake it in the ratings to easily lead at half time in the 2020 battle.

Only its 6pm to 7pm news and Sunrise have dominated the ratings. The leads soon vanish, thanks to the duds.

But who would have thought fate would have been so cruel after all those trials and tribulations?

This week was to be the finale of Big Brother — Seven’s retread of what was once a ratings powerhouse (on other networks). It died on Ten after huge ratings collapsed, and on Nine, where it never got going.

Big Brother’s adoption by Seven was a sign of desperation and its ratings have been modest at best.

But this week was meant to to be the payoff with the final three rounds culminating in the final eliminations and winner announced last night.

A bonanza, hopefully (though not at MasterChef’s 2 million level on Monday night). With Nine’s The Voice ending on Sunday and Ten’s MasterChef on Monday, Seven had clear air for the final two episodes. 

But cruel fate intervened and ate the audience ratings data from Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Nielsen, the company that runs the data collection was hacked and its techs from here and offshore have been working to restore the service and try and extract the ratings figures.

Oztam, the ratings service jointly owned by Seven, Nine and Ten issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon giving more details, saying the ratings wouldn’t be released for today, either:

As you are aware, Nielsen TAM recently became aware of an unexpected disruption relating to the Australian TV Audience Measurement (TAM) data centre environment. Our team is continuing to investigate this matter and has taken immediate remedial steps to fix the issue … due to the complex nature of the problem, Nielsen TAM remains unable to process data.

Ratings have been delayed by a day in the past because of collection or internet hiccups, but not by what industry sources say is a cyber attack that has completely prevented the collation and issuing of ratings data, and not by more than one day.

Nielsen confirmed on Thursday morning that that all households (with ratings meters) were still collecting viewing data and that referencing sites (used to collate and measure the data) had not been impacted. This means that when the problems are overcome, the data for Tuesday and Wednesday can be retrieved, referenced and then crunched to produce the ratings

So poor Seven Network, having spent millions of dollars to use the format, produce and broadcast Big Brother, has been left without any chance of the immediate reaction to how the final two episodes went so far as audience appeal.

Seven has already committed to a 2021 series without knowing the final figures.

The situation recalls the old philosophical test of the tree falling. If Big Brother is broadcast and no one rates it, did it succeed?

But there’s a good chance the data will finally be extracted and released on Friday and will be overtaken by the AFL and NRL ratings. All a bit anti-climatic.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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