Friday, October 31, 2008

No use trucking when they've all trucked off - Friday 31 October 2008

You know we're headed for summertime when everyone struggles to stay over 900,000 (let alone a million) and last night was a clear example with the old skewing Seven commanding the biggest audience, although many of the Better Homes Devotees must've stayed out in the garden last night as the show experienced a deflated turnout.

Harry Potter's second week was well in line with his first and Nine can expect this sort of turnout for the next several weeks as they churn through the series.

Over on Ten it's all doom and gloom, while the figure for Ice Road Truckers seems suspect (only 3/5 markets are noted even though the show had 100% clearance) but what is unmistakeable is that Will & Grace is floundering and an ultra-violent rebroadcast of the Terminator is gunning for an audience that just isn't at home.

Indeed T2 had two things going against it - first of all Ten's print predates the invention of digital television with a hoary old 4:3 broadcast making it look like the oldest thing on the box last night, secondly young males out for a bit of bloodshed movie action would've been hard pressed to go past last night's Fox Classics double Death Wish and Death Wish II! Fox Classics is building up a great reputation of screening some real classic films now all they have to do is discover widescreen and then we'll have something.

As for Ice Road Truckers, Ten just can't seem to take a trick, like I said several weeks ago, Friday has two audiences, Families and old people, ABC and Seven pitch to the oldies every time, Ten and Nine need to fight it out for the families, Ten pitching to a male audience on a Friday night, after footy season is completely the wrong target.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

900,000 is the new million – Thursday 30 October 2008

Very very low rating night last night. The night belonged to Nine but there was nothing to crow about. Compare the barnstorming performance of Seven on a Tuesday which is a very competitive night, to Nine’s Thursday which is a night where virtually no-one is competing and you start to get a picture of the uphill battle that Nine faces in the year ahead.

In fact it’s a conundrum that must have the network programmers scratching their heads – what happened to Thursdays??

Throughout much of the 90s Thursdays were a one channel night – and that channel was Nine, the predictability and broad appeal of Getaway, The Footy Show, ER and This is your Life carried the night for the better part of a decade.

Eventually though ER aged and lost most of it’s original cast and Ten struck with Law & Order SVU quickly overtaking the aging hospital soap. In 2005 Seven found their game by Scheduling an “Amazing Thursday” with Lost and the Amazing Race holding back all comers and causing serious headaches for Nine and Ten, but as with a lot of younger skewing shows the fad didn’t last and the night again fell back to the oldies with Nine’s doco-soaps of RPA and Missing Persons Unit tussling with Ten’s Law & Order spinoffs.

Since this year we’ve had ABC enter as the third force on Thursday nights with the experimental panel political QandA in the first half of the year taking the shine of commercial contenders at 9.30 and in the last few week a series of well presented docos/dramatisations of Australian history.

Last week we were treated to the plight of vanishing PM Harold Holt, this week we got an account of Robert Menzies and Winston Churchill’s ongoing conflict in the early years of WWII, it was certainly an eye opener to see another Australian Prime Minister who spent more time overseas than Kevin Rudd!

What was more incredible was the colour film footage that Menzies himself shot – especially of London after one of Germany’s Air Raids. Full marks to the ABC for taking on these interesting historical subjects and talking points which quite frankly – you don’t learn about in school.

Apart from the dwindling Heroes and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? Everything else on the schedule was fairly even with most shows achieving over 900,000 viewers. It used to be that if you scored over 1 million viewers in prime time your show was considered safe – I think that goalpost has well and truly moved.

Late Night wrap

Occasionally we’ll have a look at the post 10.30 timeslots, 400,000 viewers seems to be a decent level for 10.30 but you would think a really good 10.30 show (say Boston Legal, Family Guy, Buffy) could pull 500,000 – 700,000 depending on the night.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Note to Ten: Quit while you’re ahead – Wednesday 29 October 2008

How Ten must pine for the glory days, back in 1995 their Wednesday Line up was a sight to behold, The Simpsons, The Nanny, The X Files, NYPD Blue, all big raters. They were the first network to really open up Wednesdays in 95 by scheduling shows (rather than movies) after 8.30pm. The other networks were quick to follow suit and all have owned the night at one point or another.

After Ten dominated early with The X Files, Seven brought Wednesdays under control with Blue Heelers, a mega popular country cop drama which used to command rating which would make any current TV number cruncher weep.

Nine took control of the night in the early part of this decade with CSI Miami and Without a Trace, until Ten wrested control again with the medical drama House.

Now the pendulum has swung back to Seven with the FBI Profiler procedural (vastly superior to that boring 90’s series “Profiler”) Criminal Minds dominating the night since the second half of this year.

Nine is making a play for a comeback – already in charge of the 7.30 hour with the sitcom Two and a Half Men their gamble of moving The Mentalist to Wednesday had a nice payoff last night with the show scoring over the million mark, while still third in the timeslot behind Seven and ABC – it’s a respectable third.

Less respectable is Ten’s entire night, rather than being assisted by it’s lead in Jamie’s Ministry of Food lost 149,000 viewers week on week, by contrast Two and a Half Men attracted an extra 128,000 people. Seven’s Crash Scene Investigators remained similar to CIU the previous week, although Medical Emergency remains more popular than either road accident doco.

House got a slight lift week on week, but then so did The Mentalist, the better news for Ten was with Life which lifted by 75,000 people week on week, most of those viewers came from CSI New York which dropped 73,000 people.

The low performance of everything at 9.30 highlights a problem. All three competing shows are by and large very similar shows, all involve cops, 2 of them are procedurals whereas Life is a procedural/serial and on a more basic level, all three are scripted adult dramas – there is only so much audience to go around for this stuff and if networks put it all up against each other then people have to choose.

Contrast this embarrassment of riches with a weekend lineup where virtually nothing is on and yet Monday thru Wednesday the networks are throwing shows at us but not really giving many alternatives.

Meanwhile Ten, if it continues with new episodes of House at 8.30 will have expended 10 or 11 episodes of a popular series for virtually no reason, the network is in a funk brought on by Big Brother and a rash of bad programming decisions since, nothing is going to break them out of that funk before summer – they need some clear air and the tail end of a season is not going to give it to them, better to put House into reruns than waste expensive new episodes which nobody is watching.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seven's problems are other nets fantasies - Tuesday 28 October 2008

Last night was a very low rating night – unless you were channel seven that is with Packed to the Rafters and All Saints boosting their numbers from last week.

The biggest drop was to The Simpsons which lost 125,000 viewers week on week whereas it’s stablemate Kenny’s World actually got a lift as did The Chopping Block, however with both shows staying under 900,000 I doubt either will earn a second season.

8.30 seems to be a major switch on point and it’s a fair assumption to note that there a lot of people who on average now are only watching one hour of TV per night – that has probably always been the case to some extend but the proportion of folks who only stay for the 8.30 hour is growing.

At 7pm the 3 commercial nets attracted 3,084,000 people to the box, at 8.00 that number grew to 3,549,000. For the 8.30 hour it pumps up again to 4,133,000 essentially adding 500,000 people per hour, then an 9.30 a million people take off leaving only 3,163,000 holding a remote which is tuned to 7, 9 or 10. It’s a good bet that not all of these people are heading to bed – a good proportion would be headed to cable, with a lot more firing up the internet, even DVDs and Video Games would get a look in – the choice is endless. In the future 9.30 programs pulling over 1 million are going to get a lot rarer.

What about the retention from 8.30 to 9.30 – well unsurprisingly Nine fared the best but only because they had the least to lose with 20 to 01 retaining 91.3% of it’s lead-in, Rush retained 78.8% of it’s lead-in – you would think Ten would be aiming for at least 85% given the strong NCIS marquee and the fact that Rush is a similar show in content, but no amount of promotion seems to able to give it a lift – the show appears to have found it’s audience and is settled between 900,000 and 1 million. Ten needs to put in a concerted promotional push to get new viewers to sample the show because Rush is now decoupled from it’s lead in.

All Saint fared the worst in terms of retention with only 67% but it almost doesn’t matter because the show is streets ahead of it’s rivals – it does however present seven with a future dilemma – here they have a show, a steamroller in Packed to the Rafters which could be used to launch or boost anything on their schedule, yet if they move either it, or All Saints they risk killing the Golden Goose – of course, Nine or Ten would kill for a problem like that right now!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It’s your money…

You know, I’m not opposed to the ABC spending taxpayer money on The Chaser, they’re a better outfit that 90% of what Aunty shows but $6 million dollars???

SMH today reports that THE CHASER boys are close to signing a $6million deal with the ABC that will see them return to screens next year.

OK that’s alright I guess, Seven paid a license fee of $3 million to Jane Turner and Gina Riley for the rights to Kath & Kim and the Chaser is funnier than Kath & Kim, also for their $3 million Seven have only netted the reruns and 8 new episodes, that’s $375,000 per episode, a pretty reasonable license fee considering the material, especially given that some 24 reruns are thrown in as well bringing the per episode licence fee to $93,000 per half hour – an absolute bargain given reruns still command 1 million viewers per screening.

So I’m thinking alright, in 2007 The Chaser screened 24 episodes, so if this year they’re doing 24 new eps that means a license fee of $250,000 per episode, pretty darn good – but wait, read on (as no doubt you already have) and you see that they’re only committing to 10, that’s right, 10 episodes – that’s 600,000 per half hour which must make it one of the most expensive shows on Australian television, I hope ABC has some US currency stashed away so they can bring down the cost.

So lets review, your ABC has spent dollars which put commercial networks to shame on a program for which they cannot sell advertising time, nor claim the full profits from DVD sales – well done chumps!

You'll have a gay old time – Monday 27 October 2008

Well blow me down – three Mondays into this blog and still the same pattern persists, Seven first, Nine Second, Ten far away in the distance.

First up, Australian Idol improved, no thanks to it’s “new” lead in Will & Grace, the ex-Seven sitcom and current Arena time waster pulled about the same as Friends managed the week before.

It’s funny to think (and I may have only gotten this suggestion from watching PayTV) that the same people who like Friends also like Will & Grace. But does anybody else? Well frankly it’s too early to tell.

Ten was never going to bolt out of the gate with this show because a) it’s a rerun and b) viewers are by and large committed to other 7pm entertainment, their real opportunity is in six weeks time when Two and a Half Men makes way for Temptation and Home & Away shuffles off presumably to be replaced by one of Seven’s many factual half hours, that will leave an awfully huge 18-49 crowd looking for some laughs at 7pm – it’s a good bet that then Will & Grace’s ratings will spike, especially given the show wasn’t well watched in it’s initial broadcast, meaning it should repeat well it just might take a while for people to notice it.

Good News Week took a hit this week dropping 113,000, Til Death also dropped week on week (46,000) as did CSI (64,000) a rerun of CSI wiped 136,000 off the previous week’s figure for a fast tracked Cold Case, however at least Nine is willing to support it’s former hits rather than throw them to the wolves.

In fact nothing on the commercial nets impressed post 9.30 thanks to Andrew Denton interviewing Michael Parkinson on the soon to be retired Enough Rope hitting a very nice 1.2 million viewers.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Consolidation Prize – Sunday 26 October 2008

All three commercial networks were in tactical retreat last night, rather than launch into something bold or new all three have (in recent weeks) fallen back on safe and predictable.

Channel Nine
Nine has been consolidating for two weeks now, extending their flexible nostalgia series 20 to 01 to a second hour in the 6.30 slot in order to stop the haemorrhaging caused by Battlefronts a widely criticised gardening show which I never personally bothered with on the sole pretence that it was a gardening show and we shouldn’t be (as a nation) encouraging this cheap trash on the airwaves. Nonetheless the show failed to fire even with the ample hordes of people who normally go for this sort of program (look at the millions transfixed to Seven on a Friday night) and Nine swiftly booted it subbing in a more broadly appealing hour.

The move paid off for Nine which now rides in first place in the timeslot

Channel Seven
Seven dropped to disastrous numbers with the US adaptation of Kath & Kim and wasted no time subbing with reruns of the original. They were duly rewarded for their diligence pushing back into second spot ahead of Ten

Channel Ten
Poor Ten, their initial move at consolidation (ie: reruns of Thank God You’re Here at 6.30) looked great until Nine put them in check with 20 to 01 a similar light appeal show which has the advantage of being able to seem fresh even when it’s not. For ten the recalcitrance of producers Working Dog is a thorn in their side with a knock down concept sitting on the shelf while a bunch of overpaid and over-respected producers whine about having to recharge their creative juices – it’s not the Sopranos people – it’s a fucking cheap concept, just make some more already!

To add to Ten’s woes they took a second tactical retreat this week, pulling back their niche comedies (Californication and The Office) to 10.30 and putting up a second hour (repeat) of NCIS, generally reruns of NCIS have done exceptionally well but the bubble may be starting to burst with last night’s instalment pulling similar embarrassing figures to it’s timeslot predecessors.

In other news
The other big thing last night was Nine’s Rugby League world cup which didn’t really set the world on fire, one wonders if it will do any better next week with a match to be staged in Melbourne, the Main Beneficiary was Dancing with the Stars which saw huge gains from stranded viewers of The Mentalist and CSI Miami to become the night’s third most watched show.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Night's alright (for something other than television) - Saturday 25 October 2008

Some years ago the major US television networks stopped programming on Saturdays, turning the night over to either sports or rebroadcasts of programs shown earlier in the week (a practice known as repurposing)

While the Australian free to air networks are not there yet it can't be all that far away with no single post 6.30 program drawing in excess of 1 million viewers and several regular draws underperforming.

The biggest dissapointment of the night was the Rugby League World Cup whose delayed telecast attracted a tiny audience even in the northern states where it was shown at 9.30pm. It remains to be seen how the league fares tonight with a better timeslot and Australia playing.

Everything else was movies. As long as the commercial networks treat Saturday night like an afterthought rather than building an audience on the night they'll continue on indefinitely earning these low numbers.

Squinting for laughs - Friday 24 October 2008

Seven continued it's dominance of Fridays with it's lifestyle flagship pulling a phenomenal 1.5 million across the big 5 markets.

As good as the news was for Seven - it proved absolutely bleak for Ten with Download attracting only half a million across the five cities, not a good look for ten.

The show itself is alright, the hosts are good together and they genuinely make an effort to keep it lively - compare the studio segments on Download with the insipid segues on Funniest Home Videos and they have them beat hands down.

Where Download suffers in comparison to Nine's laffer is in the quality (ie: picture quality) of it's clips, whilst Funniest Video's clips are often blurry or grainy (ie: Home Video quality) they still take up the full 4:3 frame, Download reduces the screen size to maintain some sharpness but the result is you have to squint to see what's going on.

When you're on Youtube with your face about 20 centimetres from the screen it's not a big deal - but watch it on TV sitting 3 metres away and it becomes a problem!

United 93 didn't do Ten any favours and may have been a better play on Sunday night where more adult fare (especially topical) can find an audience, not that the kids movie did all that well, Nine proved the law of diminishing returns with Harry Potter diving to 892,000. In a sense it's not bad on a night where not even Nine's news managed 1 million, nor is it that bad given that the movies running time can be expressed in days rather than minutes, but it is a low rating and the unpteenth time the film has been aired.

Absolutely no idea how Seven's Sydney/Brisbane movie "We're Here to Help" did in the ratings, but the International Rules game in the southern states did OK, although with figures well below normal AFL averages - looks like it's going to take a while for the game of gaelic football to really catch on in Australia!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Week Ending Saturday 18 October 2008

Just thought I might chart out what the average viewer watched during last week

Just a small experiment...

Doubleclick on the chart to see full size

Frankie J Holden is Missing - Thursday 23 October 2008

Leaving aside News Programs the number one show last night was ABC1’s The Prime Minister is Missing – a doco/dramatisation of the disappearance of Harold Holt and the bizarre Mexican standoff between the Liberal and National parties that ensued thereafter. A bit of national history is always a good rater for the ABC on a Thursday night, and last night was no different.

Happily for Seven and Ten their imports, Criminal Intent and The Amazing Race held up well against the doco but The Strip took a hit with 198,000 viewers fleeing the Gold Coast. They all came back, mind you, to see RPA which finally broached the million after several weeks in the doldrums.

Ten went 5 for the week (that is 5 shows over 1 million) and 5th Grader had a mild improvement of 100,000 viewers – note though that they had a “celebrity” contestant. This show always seems to pull better numbers when the contestant is known rather than a regular person.

The variable next week will be the 7pm slot. Friends has been languishing at 7pm (ever since it replaced Taken out) with half a million viewers, if Will & Grace doesn’t lift their 7pm to at least 800,000 or higher than Ten can write the rest of the year off.

Seven would be pleased with their 7.30 – 9.30 block, The Amazing Race is scoring for them on a night which they lost control of back in 2007 and Make Me a Supermodel is defying all expectations by keeping a respectable audience.

The disappointment is Heroes, it only shed 10,000 people week on week so that could be statistically insignificant but the current storyline, although featuring some kick ass moments and stunning twist, is confusing – even to the seasoned viewer – I found myself watching last night wondering whether particular scenes were set 4 years hence, present day, 1979, two weeks from now – I had no fucking idea – If I find it that hard to follow what are more casual viewers doing? Oh that’s right – they’re deserting it in droves.

Not exactly Seven’s fault this one, Kring and Co need to start unravelling some of the tightly wound plot, but more on that in a special review in the next day or so…

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pissing up the wall - Wednesday 22 October 2008

Looking at last night’s ratings for the major Australian networks is instructive. It demonstrates the old axiom wheeled out by Channel Ten at various times – people don’t watch Networks, they watch shows*

The case study here is channel nine which subbed the buzz show™ of the season Fringe with an actual fast-tracked success story – The Mentalist.

On Sunday Nights the mentalist has been a beacon of hope for the network recording very good ratings (it was Sunday night’s top show) with averages around 1.3 million a week. Circumstances (the Rugby League World Cup) have forced Nine to schedule the show on a new night so the choice was elementary. Indeed one could conclude with Wednesday Two and a Half Men bludgeoning the competition at 7.30 there would be an orderly flow from Nine’s sitcom hit to their new drama hit.

So much for jumping to conclusions, Criminal Minds, undoubtedly one of Seven’s must surprising performers this year has mostly held it’s ground although it suffered the biggest week on week drop losing 197,000 people to Nine, House, already in the doldrums, excised a further 25,000 viewers. The Mentalist came third in the timeslot (2nd was Spicks & Specks on 1.24 million) and improved on Fringe by 309,000 viewers.

A good result for Nine but nowhere near the 1.4 million The Mentalist achieved on Sunday night, in spite of the fact that Two & a Half Men pulled a roaring 1.4 million in the half hour prior, so what does this mean?

Essentially – it means that the people watching Two and a Half Men, are not fixated on Crime Dramas (indeed a good proportion would be switching to the ABC at 8.30 with others going to Cable and kids quite likely headed to bed) and the people watching Criminal Minds are mostly the same crowd who have been following The Mentalist.

The other conclusion we can draw from last night is that after several weeks you can stick a fork in House – he’s done, why Ten continues to piss fast-tracked episodes up the wall (they will do again next week) when their early evening sked is driving viewers away is beyond me – they should pull House and hold their fire for the new season when they can do a proper launch for the show.

*Unless that Network is Seven

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Pod People – Tuesday 21 October 2008

Channel Seven is viewed by Pod People, this week they switched out RSPCA animal rescue and subbed it with The Zoo (yet another fly on the wall thriller) and they didn’t even skip a beat – in fact they added viewers up 109,000 on it’s predecessor. The hegemony of these early evening doco-soaps suggests to me that whatever subject Seven’s cameras follow – people will watch

Coming soon we could expect concepts like “The Brothel”, “Centrelink: Australia’s Dole Queue” and “Pizza Delivery” it doesn’t matter how pointless, objectionable or irrelevant they are - they will rate their socks off – just make sure that they’re on Seven, because Nine and Ten’s attempts to inject a bit of light entertainment into Tuesday nights are failing dismally.

The Chopping Block lost 54,000 people week on week, but Kenny the Toilet Man fell down the crapper with a painful 117,000 viewers disappearing down the S-bend!

Speaking of painful, The Simpsons is agonisingly close to the Million Mark with only one thousand viewers shy of the big number.

Everything performed much the same as last week, Rush added a further 42,000 week on week while NCIS lost 97,000 viewers. It’s still doing well though which means it’s unsurprising that Ten has enlisted a second hour of the show to shore up Sunday Nights (back in it’s original 9.30 timeslot).

A big question mark for tomorrow night with The Mentalist entering the fray for Nine, this will either see a nightly win for Nine (their Wednesday Two & a Half Men is a timeslot winner) or we’ll see all three drama’s cannibalise each other’s audience.

One thing is for certain – Ten cannot keep blowing House on Wednesday with such a weak 7.30 lead in – Nine blinked first in the battle of the Wednesdsay dramas – but in doing so they have countered Seven’s Criminal Minds with an even bigger gun, The Mentalist – stay tuned for the outcome of that face off.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No News is Good News for Good News Week – Monday 20 October 2008

Monday nights are developing a familiar pattern to them, 7 comes first, 9 comes second and Ten comes third in every single timeslot!

Ratings for all Seven’s shows went up with the biggest increase going to The Force which added more than 200,000 viewers week on week and became the night’s top rating show.

The ABC’s ratings powerhouses were down on last week, I have anecdotally noticed that the ABC does well on a Monday when either Four Corners takes on something topical or Andrew Denton has a very high profile guest, last week both shows were in effect with Denton interviewing Kevin Bloody Wilson and Pakistani Cricketer turned politician Imran Khan and Four Corners showed a special report on the financial crisis.

This week Denton’s guests were considerably lower profile and Four Corners tackled the much drier subject of the Murray-Darling river system (pun intended)

This was good news for Good News Week which also received a 200,000 viewer increase and stunningly unlike the week before where it lost 27,000 Idol viewers this week they built on Idol’s aud by a healthy 67,000 people!

Good News Week’s improvement also helped lead out Supernatural improve 59,000 viewers week on week, interestingly both Bones and Cold Case improved by similar amounts.

Finally Nine appears to be incrementally wearing down it’s audience with it’s drip feeding of Til Death, this week recording an additional 29,000 viewers. The initial episodes of this sitcom aired in Summer 06/07 were woeful to say the least but (IMO) the series has seemed to find it’s feet from this second season and if Nine persists they’ll have another keeper on their schedule.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Channel Nine rides again – Sunday 19 October 2008.

Nine would be well pleased that the Mentalist is picking up steam becoming the night’s top show and giving it maximum exposure going into it’s new Wednesday slot, it will be interesting to see whether viewers stick with Criminal Minds on a Wednesday or drop it like a bad habit for local boy made good (Simon Baker for those keeping score!)

Nine in fact can be pleased with their whole night, 20 to 01 will cause problems for Thank God You’re Here next week, while Seven caused problems for themselves with Kath & Kim losing 34% of it’s lead in and pushing into channel Ten territory.

Elsewhere the continuing Financial Crisis was a theme with Seven snaring a timeslot win at 6.30, all but sealing their current affairs plans for next year and Nine’s 60 Minutes answering a question that has been on my mind since this sub-prime mess blew up – “Are many people being made homeless from this” the answer was a distressing yes.

Dancing with the Stars did alright with no Idol to go against, the ARIA awards kept Ten respectable but didn’t do anything spectacular on the night.

Can Idol’s results show pull out of it’s slump tonight or will it continue to drag Ten’s Monday into the abyss, also did last night’s encore of CSI encourage any more City Homicide viewers to make the switch tonight.

Stay Tuned.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hot in the City - Saturday 18 October 2008

At least it was hot in Victoria last night - at first glance of the ratings you might assume that the heat drove people outdoors and away from their televisions, only one show last night won over 1 million viewers, Seven News.

But look closer, at 6.30 there were a total of over 2 million people split between the commercial networks, those networks were all playing shows aimed at children, Funniest Vids, Jumanji (airing #478) and Shark Tale. The networks know that kids make up the biggest Saturday TV audience but they're all fighting for the same group of people, question to ask is - who's gonna blink first?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ten Learns the Secret to Success - Friday 17 October 2008

Well blow me down - that's 6 shows over one million this week thanks to 'Nanny McPhee'

Ten has demonstrated for the first time this year that it understands how to get an audience on Fridays - program for the people who are home!

All this year Ten's Friday night shows have been aimed at teens or young adults, action movies, teen comedys, Top Model, nothing has worked until tonight.

So why has the premiere of British Kids Flick Nanny McPhee done the business for ten, especially coming off an incredibly low base of a lead in?

Simple - there are two types of audiences home on a Friday (& Saturday) night, Families with Children, and old people.

The old people last night were well catered to with Taggart (has that show been around for decades or what?) on ABC1 as well as Better Homes & Gardens, which I guess alleviates the lonelyness, I have no other explaination for it's extreme popularity.

So that leaves families - looks like they split up between Download & Wipeout/Hole in the Wall for the first hour but then all flocked to channel ten after 8.30

Whatever adults remained (about 1 million) split up between two violent movies on 7 and 9.

So next week Nine will be playing Harry Potter (welcome to high rotation) expect a boost for them, probably at ten's expense.

Thank God it's Thursday! - 16 October 2008

Or at least that's what the head honchos at Nine and Ten (especially Ten) would be saying after last night.

In fact Ten would be particularly pleased, one of the lowest rating nights of the week is also one of their strongest, with the Law & Order Franchise delivering the goods as people drop serialised dramas (like Heroes) and retreat to episodic crime procedurals.

Also significant is this marks the first time in weeks that Ten has had 5 shows over 1 million in the same week the other three being NCIS, Idol and Rove.

Less pleasing would be the performance of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? Which went from decent ratings in it's earlier 'celebrity focussed' outings to middling figures now, pulling what is now a 7.30 average for ten on a weeknight.

They would be none to pleased to be beaten by Make Me a Supermodel a concept which could best be described as Next Top Model with sms voting - which kind of defeats the whole purpose I think.

Shading them all was Getaway, from Getaway to RPA Nine only shedded 45,000 viewers which is not too shabby, Seven on the other hand kept a good chunk of viewers around for The Amazing Race - which has been given the 8.30 timeslot - something which should have been established years ago.

On the other hand Heroes seems to be quickly becoming a cult show, only problem for the fanboys is the only other outlet showing it at the moment is SciFi channel which is frustratingly broadcast in unglorious 4:3.

This is a sad outcome for a show which burst onto the scene in a competitive slot (8.30 Wednesday) with 2 million viewers but quickly lost steam, especially as Seven began to mess with the show, sticking it on Thursdays in two states and then on it's second season shunting it to 9.30 behind the incredibly boring Bionic Woman remake and then insulting loyal fans by withholding the final two episodes of the season for 8 months after fastracking the rest of the season.

Now that it's back people have been demotivated to watch. Serialised dramas need constant promotion and care by the network to keep up fan interest, if you start missing episodes then you're more inclined to give up the habit, and the best way to miss an episode is for a network (I'm looking right at you Seven) to screw with the scheduling.

Oh well - you reap what you sow I guess.

As for Prison Break, seven's one time golden child now laguishes at 10.30pm on a decent audience - but nowhere near it's first season hey day - for that however I don't blame seven, the show is a perfect 1 year concept dragged out too long, now it's so convoluted that most people couldn't care less anymore.

So for that one - blame the writers, and the greedy people who couldn't resist stringing it out for as long as possible in order to wring every last dollar from the idea!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lead in – Lead out - Wednesday 15 October 2008

Wednesday was a story of poor lead ins on channel Ten and horrible lead outs on channel Nine

Channel Seven continued to dominate although they ceded 7pm – 8.30 to Nine by a whisker with Wednesdays being the preferred viewing night for Two and a Half Men, what happened next was simply beyond belief, like one of it’s bizarre mysteries the audience for Fringe vanished the latter only retaining 47% of the sitcom’s audience. This is an unmitigated disaster and by virtue of this they have flushed the returning CSI NY down the toilet.

In previous years an audience like this would have had Nine reaching for the late-night button, no scratch that – in previous years this sort of audience never even would have been a consideration, back in 2006 everyone was shocked with the low performance of Yasmin’s Getting Married with figures that were just unheard of – now we’re hearing about these kinds of figures all the time.

Back in 1996 Nine sent Star Trek Voyager packing from it’s 8.30 Tuesday slot all the way to 11pm when it was attracting 300,000 Sydney viewers each airing (extrapolated out you can assume that 300K in Sydney means comfortably over the million mark in the 5 cities – indeed 9 Perth (then run by Sunraysia) kept the show in Prime Time.) So Voyager with an Audience of 1 million gets canned and now barely 12 years later half the audience gets an indefinite prime time run.

I like Fringe, I think it’s a great show, perhaps the successor to the X Files – but I’m in a small minority here and I’m amazed Nine is sticking with it as long as they are!

The other side of the coin is channel Ten, Friends is at 500,000 viewers and sinking – these kind of figures meant the end of Taken Out several weeks ago – hell they meant the end of Wheel of Fortune a few months back on Nine, but Ten is trapped like a deer in the headlights – it doesn’t want to make to many scheduling moves and alienate viewers – but it’s not like there’s that many people to piss off in the first place.

Friends is a good show – I was pleased in summer to see the first few seasons which are actual television classics, yet Friends was a monster hit in it’s day – sometimes commanding upwards of 3 million viewers per episode, with that in mind – it’s a good bet that everyone’s already seen it whereas with Two and a Half Men – a lot of people are only just now discovering it – hence it’s high numbers.

Despite the low nadir of Friends, Jamie Oliver incredibly manages to attract 200,000 more people to his earnest cooking escapades, from here House builds to catch third spot behind Criminal Minds and Spick & Specks.

The ABC has, for almost 4 years now, been causing headaches for the commercial nets on a Wednesday night with their ever changing line-up of local comedies anchored by the Adam Hills hosted game show, I had thought that without The Chaser – the viewers would desert ABC on a Wednesday, but although they’re not there in the same heady numbers, Aunty puts in a solid performance for the night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chink in the armour – Tuesday 14 October 2008

Not much of one – but enough to provide a ray of hope to the other nets particularly Ten. Whilst Seven’s 7.30 hour increased week on week, Packed to Rafters reduced by 93,000 viewers and All Saints lost 175,000 week on week

Most of those viewers must’ve found their way up the dial. Ten recorded increases for NCIS (40,000) and Rush (94,000), and Nine increased Two and a Half Men by 93,000 viewers.

The prescence of The Chopping Block was a blow to Nine’s 7.30 hour and seemed to bolster the fortunes of Seven’s 7.30 shows – especially RSPCA which gained almost 100,000 viewers week on week.

Kenny’s Toilet Tour benefited from the move to Tuesday nights but still lost viewers from The Simpsons. Which is vernturing back into more respectable territory increasing week on week by 49,000 people (and by 145,000 over last weeks new 7.30pm ep!)

Overall it was a fairly stable night with some good gains to ten, they now have three shows over the million and have improved there other timeslots, can they keep it going or will they falter again with House tomorrow night, it remains to be seen but the can be encouraged by the stronger performance for Rush, one of the year’s best new shows – here’s hoping it’s numbers improve.

As for Nine – it is hard to imagine where else they could put The Chopping Block, but Nine doesn’t tolerate sub-million figures for long (Battlefronts has just been axed), Tuesday night has been a free-for-all up to The Olympics at which time Seven got the night in a headlock, the other two will be lucky just to keep their head above water on this night – and for the most part last night – that’s what they did.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Seriously F*cked – Monday 13 October 2008

Ten Execs could have been forgiven for having some optimism going into Monday night – their Sunday night performed nicely and Good News Week was coming back to take back some audience share.

The only thing Ten didn’t count on was Channel Nine…

Nine Launched a bold assault to take on Seven’s dominant Monday lineup with the return of CSI and Cold Case. It wasn’t a win but it really did some considerable damage leeching away all of City Homicide’s younger viewers blasting the show into third place for the all important 18-49 Demographic and propelling CSI into first place for 18-49 and a very close second overall. This is the first time in a long time where someone has fought fire with fire and it has paid off so Nine can be pleased.

Nine, or anyone else for that matter cannot be pleased with what happened next – perhaps everyone is just exhausted after a big Monday but the post 9.30 audience just evaporated with nothing over 1 million

Look at the comparison at 8.30 (excluding SBS) there were 4,444,000 viewers watching FTA TV, at 9.30 that figure dropped dramatically to 3,434,000 – that’s over a million people switching off, to add insult to injury ABC beat the imported dramas with Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope which pulled 979,000 viewers. The 9.30 switch off is a worry these days – especially after a high yielding 8.30 hour.

Finally what to do about ten, a day ago David Leckie (he of Ch 7) boasted that Ch 9 was f&*$%d and Ch 10 was the Pocket Money network. Given that Cold Case, a well established favourite with higher peaks than Bones has ever achieved was wiped by the low rent Fox procedural and given that two Channel Ten former hits Australian Idol and Good News Week are being pushed into Pay TV territory – he may be onto something.

For the record – Channel Ten had decent 18-49 results but that doesn’t excuse a night that never even got off the ground. Shameful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ten Lifts, Seven Sags, Nine’s the one – Sunday 12 October 2008.

All the attention in the early evening was focused on Seven, buoyed by a generous lead in from the Bathurst 1000, the network had two aces up it’s sleeve, the US version of Kath & Kim (more on that later) and the David Koch special on what to do during the all consuming world financial crisis.

This half hour news special features Kochie at the news desk, a quick cut to Kevin Rudd (that’s the Prime Minister for any overseas readers) who announced that they’re guaranteeing deposits a la Ireland’s recent move, a response for the opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull and any number of crackpot economic theorists who varying predicted we would either “ride the storm out” or spiral in Armageddon!

It worked because people watched – shoving Thank God You’re Here under the million mark and pushing Battlefronts (how many of these Gardening makeover shows can they do) out to the boondocks.

Kath & Kim held over 80% of that Audience and wasn’t that bad really, the trick for them will be to make it there own, like they did with The Office (the first 6 episode season of The Office was shaky but from second season on they had nailed it)

Alas none of this helped Dancing with the Stars, it’s worth noting that even though this show has only been around since 2004, this is season 8 (two rounds per year in 05, 06 & 07) is it possible they’ve made one to many trips to the well, expect to see an all stars edition next year I reckon.

It was beaten by Australian Idol which cleaned up in the demographics as did it’s follow on Rove which also held over 1 million viewers, Californication even rose by 45,000 viewers.

The question for ten is – have they hit their nadir, or is there worse to come?

In the past two weeks only 3 Ten shows have over the million each week (Wk 40 TGYH, Idol Sunday, NCIS, Wk 41 Idol Sunday, NCIS, Criminal Intent) With the return of Good News Week and Download this week can they lift their performance on Mondays and Fridays or will their 6pm – 7.30pm sked keep them underwater?

Nine had the run of the night, clearly affected by Seven’s bolt out of the gate the panicking aspirationals took a look at Kath & Kim then headed over to 60 minutes for even more Kevin Rudd action.

The Mentalist dropped but still won it’s timeslot as did CSI Miami a show which once dominated Wednesday nights but is now reliant on a good lead in to get by. Will a fast-tracked CSI (Las Vegas) be the evidence viewers need to switch to Nine or will it be DOA?

Stay tuned to find out…

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday Shutdown - Saturday 11 October 2008

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Years ago Saturday night shows could command top 10 figures, programs like Hey Hey it's Saturday, MacGyver would fight it out in the same slot and still pull great numbers, now - it's just depressing.

Nine's Funniest Home Videos - once the shining beacon of Saturday night has sunk to the 900club which is getting more and more crowded these days as the potential eyeballs find other things to do.

Everything else was movies - Ten had the only rerun - Evolution, which seemed to have been promoted only 20 seconds before the start time and was rewarded in viewers thusly.

Seven again had the top show with family movie Holes - seven's access to the Disney brand helps them out every so often on Saturday nights and their family movie bent is working well.

Working less well was Alien vs Predator which predicably did about two thirds of it's lead in sharing it's potential aud with Aeon Flux a movie spin off of an anime series that SBS used to carry - hardly mainstream stuff. Why networks think that this is the best they can do on a Saturday is beyond me - people are home and are watching - but not the people they are aiming at.

Nobody's Watching - Friday 10 October 2008

Well nobody except those rusted ons who like their gardening and family movies. Frankly Seven is playing the other networks like fools.

Nine somehow condensed Wipeout to half an hour and followed it up with the insipid Hole in the Wall - this was a disaster - a disaster one can only chalk up to either zero promotion for this lineup or a lack of viewers on a Friday.

Ten's Next Top Model was even worse, surely any future cycles of this show will be off to TenHD, although one wonders why Ten keeps persisting with this show - it had a season in the sun last year but ever since it has struggled to keep it's head above 900,000.

The movie issue is a big one and demonstrates what is going wrong with Friday nights. Here we have 3 movies against each other, Seven goes the PG Family Comedy route and scores, Nine choses a thriller (in Melbourne at least) and bombs, Ten goes for an action flick (a predominantly male genre) and also bombs. Both Nine and Ten were trying to cater to an audience which just isn't there on Friday Nights.

The chart I've put up is for Melbourne Viewer numbers only because I have no idea what Nine showed post 8.30 in other cities and whatever it is it's impossible to find the numbers on it, but here you can see that as with most nights - Nine News and Two and a Half Men are all that's keeping the network afloat.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Only the elderly – Thursday 9 October 2008

Only the elderly seem to be sticking around for a Thursday night, the evidence is that after 7.30 only one show broke 1 million viewers, Criminal Intent, once a ratings powerhouse, can still pull in the older generation enough to put it over the line.

By contrast Seven gave us a night aimed at younger viewers and came off worse for wear, Heroes seems to be suffering from the ennui which has hit almost all “fast-tracked” shows this spring – either that or a lot of people bailed out after the boring season 2.

Nine would have to disappointed with the numbers pulled by RPA – the show used to be able to draw a crowd at 9.30 like nobody’s business but now it’s either being hurt by The Strip, a local drama which is trying to be CSI Gold Coast but comes off more like Paradise Beach ’08, or it’s potential audience is satiated with Seven’s Medical Emergency a day earlier.

Just looking outside Prime Time for a moment – 4 shows aside from Criminal Intent pulled over 1 million, Sevens News & Today Tonight, Home & Away and Nine News. Given that Nine’s 6.30-7.30 hour skews younger than Seven’s we can assume that the under 40’s audience on a Thursday is drying up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fast Track to Oblivion - Wednesday 8 October 2008

Woah, the first thing you notice about today’s ratings is not the outstanding performance of Two and a Half Men which after a pretty ordinary Tuesday has found viewers more agreeable to a Wednesday broadcast.

No the first thing you notice is House for the third week under 1 million viewers.

Ten is officially in dire straits.

Just last year an episode of House could attract close to 2 million people – ten decided to keep the buzz going by fast tracking the series so that episodes aired barely one week after their US broadcast – the show seemed to lose a bit of steam but still chugged along with respectable figures.

It even pulled good numbers amid the Writers Strike which saw it’s ratings depressed but still afloat.

But obviously a lot of people took the writers strike as their ticket to kick the habit and start a new one with the Serial Killer hunters on Criminal Minds.

To be fair to Criminal Minds – it is a great show, a lot more realistic than a lot of US cop procedurals (read the book Mindhunter ) and repeats very well.

But the precipitous drop in viewers for House is just amazing – are all those people watching Criminal Minds or Spick and Specks? Have viewers tired of the weird medical mysteries, given that it’s on Ten – do people even know that it’s on???

Another fall from grace is Jamie Oliver who at one point was Ten’s golden boy with his rough language and extensive cooking show repertoire – but watching Jamie Oliver after witnessing the force of nature that is Gordon Ramsey is akin to binging on X Rated videos and then trying to get exited at Maxim!

I’ll seriously doubt if Fringe is still here after next week which is a pity because it’s starting to fire but Nine generally aren’t in the business of sticking with a show so I predict that’ll be the first show to blink – who knows what they’ll try in it’s place – maybe 4 eps of Two and a Half Men in a row! Nothing succeeds like excess.

Seven’s 7.30 doco-drama hour (how many of these must we endure per week and why is it that they rate so well???) brought a close second – clearly this fly on the wall reality is working for Seven.

The Mentalist did about as well as you could hope for from an encore screening the test will be on Sunday do it’s number increase?

Finally Life, arguably one of the most interesting shows in Ten’s line-up is suffering behind House and I can see it getting the chop before the good doctor but neither show is really the problem.

The problem with Ten on certain nights has progressed from worrying trend to a full blown catastrophe but more on that later.

Improving Nicely - Fringe

When this first debuted several weeks ago, fast-tracked to Australian viewers no less, I was pretty skeptical - JJ Abrams has (in spite of his track record) created exactly one series I like which is Lost, and I could see this show becoming like Alias.

The first episode had it's moments most of them extremely gross with some sort of horrific virus infecting passengers on a plane and veered into total weirdness with the shock ending of the dead FBI agent (and traitor) being revived

Only the presence of Joshua Jackson somehow managed to keep the whole thing from going off the rails.

I took a break and then came back for tonight's ep 1.04 "The Arrival" the whole story revolved around a mysteries cylinder that burst from under the ground and was set to return to the earth in 48 hours, that's if some dude wielding a very mean looking gun doesn't get to it first.

In the midst off all this is a bald guy with no eyebrows who keeps showing up at these weird events and Peter (Jackson) wanting out and away from his father.

Let me not spoil too much for the VCR/DVR crowd by just saying that even though all the elements are strange it all held my interest for the hour and held together really well, the scenes between Jackson and Noble are very well done and one particularly creepy scene involving mind reading make this one worth your while to watch.

This final scene where we get a bit of backstory on this father/son science team is intriguing and marks a spot on a much larger canvas without us having to see the big picture - much like (the oft cited) X Files in it's best moments.

If you're like me and opted out after the grossness and unevenness of the pilot then now is the time to opt back in, Fringe is starting to get good!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Seven Steamroller - Tuesday 7 October 2008

This is becoming a familiar story on Tuesday night with Seven having locked in it’s audience for yet more doco-dramas at 7.30 and the all conquering Packed to the Rafters which jumped an astonishing 143,000 viewers in a week.

Pulling off a quadrella for Seven is the long running All Saints which hung on to 69% of it’s lead in to win the timeslot.

This is obviously a massive boost for Australian drama which since 2007 has been heavily invested in by both Nine and Seven with very few flops.

A different story is playing out over at Ten, having put all their chips in the reality pile at the start of the year their schedule has fallen apart and their one attempt at scripted Australian television this year, Rush, which is as good any cop show that you’ll see, has been scheduled – in a moment of breath-taking stupidity – against All Saints.

Ten’s programmers obviously judged that All Saints would be ripe for the picking, indeed it was been beaten regularly by reruns of NCIS, but nobody counted on the confluence of three factors – the promotional push given by Seven’s Olympic coverage in August, the lead-in delivered by the year’s most watched regular series and the tragic death of one of the show’s actors which focused media attention on All Saints in it’s first week back.

If the brains behind Ten are smart they will swap out Rush for Life and give their cop show the benefit of a better lead-in and a clear run on a Wednesday. But I don’t think they’re that smart…

Even more disastrous than the non-performance of Rush is the failure of The Simpsons at 7.30. With the Simpsons being the perennial Tuesday Family Hour occupant and having so many reruns on the schedule, viewers seem encouraged to check out the alternatives. For a while there the obvious alternative was Wipeout a show dedicated to people making fools of themselves on a giant obstacle course in the mold of a Japanese game show, but Wipeout’s last two instalments (last night was the season finale) have been clip shows which have not attracted the same audience, when Chopping Block returns next week expect a small dent in Seven’s reality hour and the remaining Wipeout viewers to flee back to The Simpsons.

The Simpsons has got to be losing ground to RSPCA/Find My Family also – especially with younger children and people in their 30’s and 40’s.

Finally the ennui over Wipeout has put the kibosh on Nine’s “Adult’s Only” Two and a Half Men, the romance isn’t over just yet because the 7pm strip still netted 1.15 million viewers and a second place in the slot but it indicates that the 8.30 competition is strong and perhaps viewers are beginning to look at the Charlie Sheen sitcom in a similar vein to the way they view The Simpsons – ‘it’s on all the time, so if I don’t catch it now – it’s alright’ Essentially Supply is beginning to outstrip demand!

A surprise of sorts was the good performance of 20 to 01 Greatest Movie Scenes, it was well promoted during the week and obviously provided a reasonable alternative to all the Australian drama on the other channels, but it’s still nowhere near it’s performance 2 years ago and it feels like the concept is on it’s last legs.

Looking forward to tonight the big question is: Will Jamie Oliver rescue Ten’s Wednesday Night?

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Went Wrong - Monday 6 October 2008

Hello and welcome to the first of many pointless rants about the state of television in Australia. As good a place to start as any is with the nightly ratings so lets have a look...

Clearly this is going to be the trend for the remainder of the year, Seven is entrenched as the number one network thanks to it's command of the elderly with their doco-dramas in the 7.30 hour leading into the very popular City Homicide.

At the other end of the spectrum channel ten is failing to fire with of all things, Australian Idol. The Monday night results show (apart from being a bloated spectacle) is really only holding onto the core of supporters for this program, much like Big Brother earlier in the year. The question now becomes with the law of diminishing return well and truly in force for Australian Idol, will Ten pull the plug this year or will we see yet another "retooling" (ie: Adding more tools) in 2009?

Supernatural returned and it too has experienced an Audience decline, in fact if you look at audiences across the board the biggest declines seem to be hitting fast-tracked shows (ie: US programs broadcast very soon after their original air-date) surely this does not bode well for this practice continuing into the future.

Bones continues on it's ride to mediocrity - here is a show that has been moved all over the place, shelved and retried in half a dozen different timeslots and yet it still maintains a decent audience. It's probably not ideal for Seven (it loses a lot of it's City Homicide lead in - yet a lot of those people are probably off to bed) but it's strongest show in 9.30 at the moment.

Another bright spot is the performance of Til Death which has improved week on week. Nine is desperately trying to get it to work because it can see (through the logic defying ratings of Two and a Half Men) that people are trending towards sitcoms and light entertainment rather than drama, if they stick with Til Death and promote it - it should start to bat above a million viewers and re-establish a comedy night on Monday for Nine. Expect it to pick up even more when new CSI shows up next Monday night.