Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cricket = Nine's Friend - Sunday 30 November 2008

Nine can be pleased with the first night of summer – the lead-in from cricket gave the early part of their night a nice lift over their rivals.

20 to 01 again proved the timeslot king, that is until summer stalwart Hot Property bowed at 7pm giving Seven a boost and further embarrassing Jamie Durie who once again came up short.

I expect 20 to 01 to lift next week as Thank God You’re Here bows out and comedy watchers are left with one remaining option, notwithstanding the unintentional comedy of Tyra Banks’ inflated ego.

Given the paltry lead-in you would think that Don’t Forget the Lyrics did alright to get to 830,000 but you’d be wrong, out of all the 7.30 shows on commercial nets Ten actually had the least increase with only 87,000 added, whilst Seven added 131,000 and Two and Half Men drew an extra 166,000 to the set.

I remember a long time ago when Nine had a mega hit sitcom in the form of Friends – they tried every conceivable show behind it – Caroline in the City, Veronica’s Closet (Good first season then stupidly re-tooled), Jesse (Boring show, good theme song), Spin City (underrated sitcom one of Nine’s best), Malcolm in the Middle (strong start then disappeared!?) and Two and a Half Men.

Now a and the ones that did then couldn’t perform well on their own. This year now that Two and a Half Men is a hit, Nine is trying to get a second, they tried Til Death and succeeded in growing it’s audience, except that the show looks to be on life support in the US and is therefore perhaps not a long term prospect so they’re giving another tryout to Chuck Lorre’s other show – The Big Bang Theory and so far, so good – if it can keep this sort of retention over summer then Nine has another long term prospect on their hands as it is also one of CBS’ best sitcom performers in the states, always improving on it’s 8pm lead-in How I Met Your Mother.

The last Monday sitcom CBS had which pulled better 8.30 ratings than it’s 8pm lead-in was Everybody Loves Raymond which in it’s second season was outrating it’s 8pm lead-in Cosby, it was moved to 9pm the following year where it stayed for the remainder of it’s run as the tentpole show for CBS on Mondays.

Finally, Ten seems to have been vindicated by scheduling School of Rock for the 800th time this season, I suppose in the eternal network game of rock/paper/scissors improbable comedy movie beats out fact based drama.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Not with a bang... Saturday 29 November 2008

The final day of the official 2008 ratings season came and went with barely anyone noticing.

Both Seven and Ten trotted out premiere movies at 6.30, Ten gave us the uneeded Garfield 2 (wasn't one movie enough?) while Seven showed us Disney Channel's attempt to create it's own bandwagon with Camp Rock which already premiered on cable about 2 months back.

Both were hopelessly outmatched by Nine whose Funniest Home Videos perked up slightly for it's season finale (but nowhere near the performance of previous seasons)

Note to Ten and Seven - get an hourlong 6.30 show, test pattern, whatever - Funniest vids has the biggest 6.30 aud and no-one (including kids) wants to start watching a movie halfway through - hence Nine's follow on movie a rerun of The Polar Express took the prize.

(In reality ABC's schedule of The Bill and some other show took the actual prize - but since they're too stupid to sell advertising with those sort of ratings, I'm not going to encourage them!)

Strangely - Saturdays are one of the few things that will actually get better with the oncoming summer - with less pressure on all the networks they'll start experimenting a little more and Saturday nights produce some real gems (Wife Swap for example) so thank god this season of Seven is over - maybe now we can be entertained!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Flavour of the Month - Friday 28 November 2008

Just a quick one for last night's ratings - I've only included the southern cities because Brisbane and Sydney dropped out of a few channel ten figures for some unknown reason so here's the damage south of the Murray

Better Homes and Gardens was again top for the night - but the real action on Friday night was the tie-in Movie bonanza on all three commercial nets, Seven used the hoopla over James Bond to sneak in a rerun of 'Die Another Day' whilst Ten tried the old commercial net trick of taking a previous film of a hot star and seeing if it floats - this time the Hugh Jackman vampire romp 'Van Helsing' clearly it sunk - although why Ten should be surprised after the performance of X-Men 3 a few weeks back is beyond me.

Nine was smarter than the rest of the pack and decided to tie-in in 'spirit' taking the jingoistic flavour from Jackman's movie ('Australia' in case you've been living under a rock) with their annual rerun of the Crocidile Dundee films (No III was mercifully excluded)

This little black duck headed off to Fox Classics to see a Widescreen presentation (uninterrupted by breaks) of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a film that stands as one of my all time favourites, and probably (IMO) Spielberg's all-time best.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top Cable Series

Here's the list of top cable series in Australia for last week, this measure is the number of indivdual viewers watching any part of any episode of the program throughout the week - it's not an accurate measure as it can encompass different episodes but it gives a decent idea of what series on cable that most people can agree on.

TV After People – Thursday 27 November 2008

For a real demonstration of what happens when all the people desert television then check back on Friday night’s ratings, last night there were still a few folks around though – with a fair few of them watching what would happen to the earth if we all died (Yehaah!)

Of course with a choice between one of the fairy floss E! specials on teenage celebrities vs a decrepit travel infomercial you can see how people made their choice. Because the Seven special (originally from the US History Channel) went for 90 minutes every other slot looks out of whack on this chart!

Nine went to cable for their 8.30 hour with a “new” (for FTA only viewers) Crime Investigation Australia, this series is the flagship of CI: The Crime & Investigation Network, which has been one of Pay TV’s most successful channels climbing up the ranks to become one of the most watched despite being offered on a discretionary tier by most providers.

The strong performance by CI put the hurt on Criminal Intent’s season finale – slightly dampening an otherwise stellar season, the show will continue in reruns over summer along with stable mate SVU.

Heroes did the best of the late night shows despite not starting until 11pm, although all shows were down on last weeks numbers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Finally – Wednesday 26 November 2008

It took some yahoo at channel nine to schedule complete shit and ABC to pack up Spicks and Specks a week early but finally Dr House got back in the black – for his final new episode this year.

The medical drama roped in over 1 million viewers, a first for its current season – another beneficiary of Nine’s stupidity (Christmas with the Kranks?? I mean come on!) was Seven whose Criminal Minds enjoyed a boost of 179,000 viewers week on week.

Nine can be happy with the performance of The Big Bang Theory which has better audience retention from Two and a Half Men than previous tryout Til Death and is pulling respectable numbers. A timeslot change is in the offing with this pair of sitcoms now moving to Sundays and Mondays at 7.30pm where I expect they will continue to rate well.

Seven held their nerve (much like Ten has with House I suppose) with The Unit and it paid off with the military drama coming a close second to surprise timeslot winner Life – see what happens when you ease the glut of dramas in the same timeslot. No such luck next week as Life makes way for Rush and Nine enters the fray with ER.

Futurama continues to be a puzzle – the show single-handedly kept ten’s 2005/06 summer afloat (along with short-run hit Surface) yet now with new episodes it seems to be floundering, I’m putting the blame squarely on lead-in Will & Grace which in four weeks has failed to fire. When your main 7pm comedic rival is doubling your audience and then continuing into the 7.30 timeslot then Futurama has zero chance of building a lead. Honestly though will Friends do any better over summer.

Here my advice ten – if you want your nights to succeed – then PROMOTE Friends – not just with some one size fits all ad, but with a new commercial for EACH EPISODE run it all through your news and then start the promos for the next nights show all through primetime – the only way your gonna make people want to watch a show they’ve watched before is by reminding them how good it was – and the only way you’re going to do that is by promoting the S H 1 T out of it.

As a last note the return of Prison Break did really well and bodes well for Seven to dominate late night over the summer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rush for the exit - Tuesday 25 November 2008

Last regular Tuesday of the year and Seven cleans up marking an unbeaten run on this night since the Olympics. Aside from Seven’s supercharged Tuesday the other top performer (again) was NCIS with an outstanding 1.35 million against the week’s toughest competition.

The same cannot be said for Rush, the show has one of Ten’s best lead-ins yet the viewers are not sticking around.

At one point it looked as if Rush had fairly good retention out of NCIS but now that NCIS’s figures have been improving the picture is becoming clearer – Rush has a core audience that has settled at 800,000 viewers and the fly-by-nighters tuning in for NCIS are not sticking around for the follow-up act.

The big question (which will be answered next week) is, will a timeslot free of local competition (9.30 Wednesday) encourage new viewers to sample the show? Or is 1,000,000 the true upper limit of Rush’s reach?

Stay tuned for that one, Although NCIS has weathered Ten’s season of hell, the same can’t be said for The Simpsons which took a beating at 7.30 back into fourth place – this is in great part thanks to the paucity of Ten’s entire schedule sucking the oxygen (and buzz) out of the network – can anyone even recall the last time they saw a promo for the Simpsons? I can’t and I don’t know if that’s due to Ten not promoting it or me not watching enough ten??

Nine barely showed up last night but luckily for them they have enough people tuning into their news and current affairs hour to keep them respectable.

What happens next week on Tuesdays depends entirely on whether people want to see Ugly Betty and Eli Stone – watch this space…

Monday, November 24, 2008

90210 No – Monday 24 October 2008


I can’t even look – I’m just going focus on the other channels for the moment.

Nine, Seven and ABC all enjoyed a close tussle for control of the Night.

Nine kept their Monday buzz going with a retrospective on the old 90’s show Weddings, that show was quite popular in it’s hey day being one of the original fly on the wall series attempted in this country.

A rerun of CSI gained week-on-week beating City Homicide into second place with The Howard Years Part II a close third, Cold Case also showed a slight gain week on week but was still in fourth place with Enough Rope taking the slot for the ABC.

The Good News Week Awards did OK, no scratch that – in light of it’s lead in it did magnificently with over 200% retention!

The big stories of the night though were at 7.30. SBS which rides on 5-6% audience share, wheeled out a new season of the UK Top Gear (after several weeks of middling performance of the Australian version) and saw their numbers lift spectacularly – It’s easy to think that people just ignore channel 28, up there on the lonely UHF dial while everybody else parties on VHF, but when SBS get a hit going the people come running.

The Rich List saw a 200,000 viewer lift in their fortunes week on week, at first you think – good for them they’re picking up, but I submit to you a theory – if there’s nothing on that viewers want to watch then mediocrity wins out.

These were the Audience Shares for FTA in the 7.30 hour (by my reckoning)
9 25.74%
7 25.07%
SBS 22.11%
ABC 18.63%
TEN 8.45%

8 percent, 8… That is horrific. As Ten’s 7pm timeslot has lurched from disaster to even bigger disaster their 7.30 timeslots have taken a beating but this is the absolute worst 7.30 beating they have ever sustained.

Ten has shown some faith in the new 90210 by reintroducing it for summertime but where are the viewers? 7.30 is arguably a better timeslot for a teen drama than 8.30 but they just didn’t show up.

I’m not sure why – the new show is well made, it’s not embarrassing to watch, it contains a lot of continuity for fans of the original and it cracks along at a breakneck pace, so why aren’t people watching it.

Here’s my (crackpot) theory…

There’s no buzz, or rather, all the buzz is centred on what old 90210 star will next appear, does anyone know who the stars of this new series are? Let me put it another way…

Back in 1992/93 did anyone NOT know who Luke Perry and Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty were? They were megastars at the time, helped a long in large part by the behind the scenes feuding, but Ten rode out a year of poor ratings (1991) with the show on Friday nights before it caught on with kids here and (more importantly) in the US.

The next big Teen thing was Party of Five – Ten waited two years to bring it out – by the time they did Scott Wolf (remember him?) and Neve Campbell were on magazine covers everywhere.

Back in 1997 the WB Launched Dawson’s Creek – ten waited until 99 to introduce it here by which time Joshua Jackson and Katie Holmes were fully on our radar even though we’d never seen them in anything.

In effect Fast Tracking (in the initial years) may be a teen show’s worst enemy. There’s no hard and fast rules of course some teen shows never take off or generate any buzz (One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl) my point is that although I don’t think it will go this low again (it’s moving to Sunday nights with a better lead in than Will and Grace and less competition) Ten is going to have their work cut out for them getting it to catch on with audiences.

The only thing that can help this show in the short term is for Rob Estes to take his young co-stars down to the Viper Room for a night out (with Paparazzi in tow) – or perhaps Lori Loughlin could introduce the kids to drunk uncle Jesse!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Torn between greatness and obscurity – Sunday 23 November 2008

In the United States American Idol is the top rating show on Television, a megahit in the truest sense of the word with ratings upwards of 30 million viewers per showing. In the UK, the original Pop Idol was gone after only 2 seasons.

Australian Idol is (much like Australia) torn between the two countries, no longer the megahit it was in the first two years, it still manages to keep its head above water and although it’s finale ratings were not impressive when put in context with previous years – they are good enough to ensure another season next year.

Seven obviously expected Idol to do big things because they wheeled out the movies – scoring with the kids film Over the Hedge.

Nine’s season finale of 60 Minutes did the business at 7.30, as did 6.30 lead in 20 to 01 and CSI Miami was no slouch either with their entire night offering the most obvious counterpoint to Ten’s Idol night.

Finally the reruns: Kath & Kim scored their best rerun ratings since returning as Seven’s fallback from the unwatched US remake, Figures for the NCIS rerun in other reports are inflated thanks to the Idol overrun and Thank God You’re Here cannot exit fast enough.

Rugby League finally locates fans! - Friday 21 / Saturday 22 November 2008



Just a quick one for the weekend. Friday's standout was definitely Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire which wnet well in spite of not screening in Adelaide.

For the record South Australians viewed Wipeout and the 6th Day saving Harry Potter for Saturday whilst the Eastern States watched the Rugby League and Perth finished off the cricket

Nine also struck paydirt on Saturday thanks to people finally taking an interest in the Rubgy League world cup, predictably 7 and Ten phoned in their Saturday night and were rewarded accordingly

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seven's Schedule - Now Twice as Ugly!

So what's Seven up to this summer? Lets check it out...

Looks like a very old skewing mix to me, continuing The Outdoor Room and then Hot Property - Hot Property seems to do well every summer that they wheel it out - but who is going to want to watch this orgy of auctions and house renovations whilst house prices across the nation are falling. As a social indicator - the ratings for this program will be very interesting.

At 7.30 Seven brings on a limited run BBC doco about various industrial marvels, followed at 8.30 by Holby Blue, the now cancelled spin-off of Holby City, itself a spin-off from the long running Britsh hospital drama Casualty.

I remember back in 1994 Ten attempted to foist the cheapness that is Casualty on unsuspecting Australian audiences - you know it's a bad sign when the set looks like cardboard and you're in the year nineteen hundred and ninety three. Who knows their may have been a decent story in there somewhere but I couldn't get past the Doctor Who production values.

A Touch of Frost rounds out Brit night on Seven, all of these shows should seal a comfortable lead in total people and over 55s (almost one and the same these days!)

With Home & Away taking the summer off, 3rd year sitcom How I Met Your Mother steps into the slot in an effort to give the show more exposure and expand the fan base - all useful causes. It's main genre competition is the remarkably similar Friends over on Ten.

The Rich List continues at 7.30 and Bones takes it's second hour away from Thursdays and over to Mondays, I'll be curious to see how this CSI-lite goes against the real thing, it is in vogue this year so anything's possible.

Late Night Monday we can see Scrubs followed by the US Kath & Kim, damn it to hell it should've been Scrubs in the 7pm timeslot many years ago, one of the most finely crafted sitcoms on television probably has more followers from DVD than actually on the television.

Yep twice a week Seven is throwing a lifeline to Ugly Betty - a first season hit whose second season return was horribly botched (by the network, not the show itself) joining it at 8.30 is Weirdo Lawyer Dramedy Eli Stone which was first promoted by Seven all the way back at the end of 2007. Has it taken them this to find the tapes they dropped down the back of the sofa in the green room? Sloppy Seven.

Dirty Sexy Money is back, perhaps fast-tracked (not sure), itself followed by Prison Break which will also be pulling double duty on Wednesdays. This is surely Prison Break's last gasp - a show whose premise justified exactly ONE SEASON has stretched onto it's fourth!

Air Crash Investigations has gotten a headstart last week, as has The Unit, Las Vegas takes the 8.30 slot to play out their final season (or at least some of it) there was a point (When Vegas aired 7.30 Thursdays) when it was a timeslot winner and a solid rater - but like so many imports on Channel Seven they had trouble sticking to ONE TIMESLOT and the viewers quickly found other things to do.

The Amazing Race moves back an hour with Heroes staying on through the summer - that's one lesson it would've paid Seven to learn last year when it counted, now Heroes (like so many others) has faded away.

Apart from Better Homes & Gardens reruns (oh sorry "Summer Series") nothing else is locked in - first week back though we get the 24 movie, which is handy, after a sixth season which started out ludicrously and got worse ('I held my mud') I'm not holding out much hope for a return to the greatness of season 5, but I guess we'll see what happens...

Two unknowns here - a British drama called Brittania High followed by a short lived US game show called Dance Machine, not sure what the purpose of either is and perhaps Ten should've kept MacGyver on and run a marathon from 6.30 to 10.30 - if this is all Seven have got for competition on this night - it's not looking good.

If Ten is loading up on reruns to lock in a schedule for 2009 and Nine is just regurgitating failed series, then Seven's sked feels the most like summer, a whole bunch of shows we wouldn't see otherwise, nights and lineups completely remade and almost all of it imported. There is also still a very good question mark over the non appearance of Reaper another show which was heavily advertised LAST summer.

Gather round the Bonfire

A few days ago I poured over Ten's summer schedule. Time now to have a look at what Nine has in store for viewers this holiday season.

20 to 01 continues for a few weeks where it will likely dominate. Mid December it will replaced by burn-off episodes of failed gardening show Battlefronts.

Two and a Half Men has been cut down to a merciful 2 episodes per week using it to promote The Big Bang Theory. Both nights should work well and I would suspect that Two and a Half Men will continue to perform well.

It's suprising that Nine hasn't chosen to revive The New Adventures of Old Christine - perhaps they are not confident of that show's long term future in the states - indeed I beleive this is the reason that Til Death has disappeared, it is on very shaky ground in the US right now.

Again, another outing for the two sitcoms and the return of Temptation to the 7pm timeslot. I'm in two minds about this - on one hand it will probably attract the lions share of older folks with it's only competition being ABC news, but on the other hand it gives channel ten a free kick in the timeslot.

Last summer when Ten tried to get Friends to work they had to compete against Two and a Half Men and That 70s Show, both of which had either new episodes or reruns which were not widely viewed the first time around, this year they'll only have to deal with reruns of How I Met Your Mother which is substantially less competition than last summer.

CSI continues at 8.30 so we can almost assume this will be it's regular slot through the new year. I beleive that Nine programmers would be happy that CSI has City Homicide's measure.

Fringe is back being given a second tryout at 9.30 - given the kind of numbers it was doing at 8.30 Wednesdays this will be a crap shoot but hey that's what summer is for!

You know I'd almost forgotten that when Summer rolls around channel nine opens it's doors to all manner of factual snoozefests from across the Tasman. Yes it's that time of year again to enjoy the adrenaline pumping Police Ten 7, that is unless you've already been enjoying it Saturday nights on Fox 8, following will be one of those car crash shows which seem to pop up like noxious weeds all over Seven and Nine's schedules - no idea as to the origins of sudden impact, it may even be local because it is narrated by Gary Sweet, although my money is on a rebandged Brit import.

All we can tell about post 8.30 is that it seems to be a movie timeslot - this suggests that Nine have got nothing, Tuesday is Seven's biggest night during the regular season - if Nine want to break that stranglehold the time is now.

Also Monday and Tuesday late they are pumping in Survivor - first finishing off the Micronesia season, then there's every chance we'll get Gabon, the series has been doing good business on Tuesday nights for the network - much better than some of it other 10.30 fare.

10 to 01, you know I don't even get the point of 10 to 01. This is the worst repurposing of an existing format since Fox in the US tried to squeeze Ally MacBeal into a half hour slot for syndication revenue, what's worse for Nine here is that there is no point to a half hour version of their hit unless they're looking for a 7pm strip - which they're not.

Following at 8 is the return of another NZ reality show - Deadly Surf - way to excite everyone Nine.

At 8.30 CSI Miami is back in what seems like it fifteenth timeslot change this year, Miami has become a sort of hole-filler for nine in 2008, subbing for Underbelly in Victoria where that series' broadcast was banned and since it seems to move around at will filling in gaps created by departing series or rubgy league telecasts, thankfully Nine seems keen to re-establish the series Wednesday timeslot. In the Melbourne market at least - it didn't do too badly on Wednesday nights, although it never took the slot, House was always the timeslot winner in Melbourne (Underbelly in other states) how times have changed in just a few short months. In fact it's entirely possible that Underbelly wasa big contributor to House's demise in this country.

Following CSI Miami is ER - we're about 1.5 years behind here, some have suggested that they should try ER back in it's old Thursday 8.30 timeslot - and while that idea certainly has merit, I think a 9.30 Wednesday slot is the best chance for viewers to get to see this show through 2009's regular season all the way till the end.

Gossip Girl, a CW series which has already aired on Fox 8 (they're commencing the second season this week I think) gets it's FTA debut this week, kind of odd that Free TV viewers have had to wait this long - that's kind of how they operate in the UK with Sky getting a lot of the hot overseas shows before the 'terrestrial broadcasters'.

Not sure how popular this will be, it is not a demographic fit for Nine (remember they were previously burned with The OC a show which they handballed to Ten) Given that this show is less well known or anticipated than The OC and the former show only reached one million viewers on two occasions Nine is justified giving it a late night slot.

More fly on the wall rubbish to start off the night, Nine has clearly noticed that Seven's sked is usually wall to wall television wallpaper - and they're either trying to emulate them as much as possible or make viewers so sick of this kind of show that Seven is weaker in the new year.

Cold Case gets a go on Thursdays - I seem to remember this lineup of Cold Case, The Closer and Close to Home used earlier in the year

Documentaries, wow NOT, to add insult to injury they're using Friday nights to burn off Monster House. I suppose they have to burn it off somewhere but on Television??

Now this is more like it, Funniest Home Videos is always popular (although it has suffered this year under a new host) and Wife Swap USA is good solid entertainment, in the best tradition of Jerry Springer they round up two couples with diametrically opposed viewpoints and let them loose on each other's lives.

McLeod's Daughters returns for it's final season at 8.30, it got shocking numbers earlier in the year when it returned (after a substantial break) and I'd say the Saturday timeslot is to ensure an unbroken run of episodes through 2009.

Unlike Ten's schedule which has the look of a long term plan, this sked is more of a burn off schedule of unsuccessful shows, a bonfire infact. There was a time when you could rely on Nine's summer line-up to introduce shows not seen in the regular season (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Me and the Boys, 48 hours to name a few) there's very little of that here, apart from a few unknown factuals, most of this has been tried (and failed) in the on-season. It doesn't bode well for the year ahead...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Start spreading the news

Channel Ten’s 6pm Timeslot is about to change again, this time The Simpsons will make way for The Bold and The Beautiful. Daytime’s most popular show is moving to evenings in order benefit from the broader viewing base after 6 and hopefully steal a few followers away from the news on the other commercial nets.

Here’s hoping that it works because in the 17 or so years since Ten moved their evening news to 5pm, nothing has ever taken off in this slot. Ten’s low readings between 6pm and 7pm have kept their audience share subdued for two decades.

Last night we got a small sampling (that pops up now and again) of what would happen if Ten extended their bulletin past 6pm. The Brisbane storms provided an opportunity for the 5pm bulletin to run 90 minutes last night, it produced an inflated result for the net.

You can see here a table showing The Simpsons’s 6pm Audience for Brisbane and on the same night nationally – this was from approximately a week ago with no big news stories on the night. In the Brisbane market The Simpsons got a 17.54% commercial audience share, on the same night nationally they managed 20.47%

Now look at last night – Ten News produced a 26 share – translated nationally that would improve Ten’s performance in the slot by 6% and mean an extra 180k watching the net at 6.

This is by no means a detailed or even competent analysis and there are an endless amount of naysayers who will tell you that messing with the news = ratings death, but I think it’s worth a look – if The Bold and The Beautiful fails to lift ten’s 6pm game – then start spreading the news.

Praying for Summer - Thursday 20 November 2008

Nine had another great trip down memory lane back to the 90s with This is Your Life their top show for the night, all prime time shows* fell under the early evening strips as is increasingly the trend with Seven news again pulling in the most people at 6pm.

The finale of Make Me a Supermodel did the business at 7.30, personally 7.30 has become a TV dead zone where you start praying for the onset of summer programming for some sweet relief – luckily for me relief came with Comedy (113) screening two episodes of Scrubs against all this dross. I did manage to see the tail end of Oprah’s schmooze-fest where she was talking to Baz Luhrmann via Skype (hey at least it wasn’t via hologram) only two minutes of this and I felt physically ill. Ten has only been the latest to get on board a week long news and current affairs bandwagon hyping the f*ck out of this film.

Back on Tuesday Nine jettisoned any semblance of news content on A Current Affair for a half hour tie in for this movie, on Wednesday night I caught the tail end of ABC News and noticed it had morphed into Entertainment Tonight whilst I wasn’t looking, canvassing audiences at the film’s Darwin premiere, this in a week where Australia’s third largest city is being torn apart by the weather, car companies start heading for the exit door and yet another child care monolith goes down and yet the most important thing on any television news agenda is Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman – give me a break!

The 10.30 contenders (Heroes and The Strip) both got a boost with Ten News making way for Out of the Blue, which got it’s regular audience, but the surplus people up at 10.30 split between Seven and Nine (mostly to Nine).

Also that’s seven shows over the million mark for Ten, not too shabby this week, Tonight is a contest between movies Ten has You, Me and Dupree which is first run, Seven has I, Robot which is a rerun but has the stronger lead in, Nine will probably beat them all with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

*Although official Prime Time is 6pm - 12.30, I consider it to be 7.30 - 10.30 on weeknights and 6.30 - 10.30 on Saturdays and Sundays

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hamish & Andy hit for six - Wednesday 19 November 2008

Some different things happening last night. The Big Bang Theory was given a new tryout behind Two and a Half Men, and had a fairly decent 83% audience retention, I think Nine will stick with it through the summer and end up reaping some good results.

Ten scheduled a one-off Best of Hamish & Andy special at 7.30 which gave them their best ratings on a Wednesday for what seems like eons and took a chunk out of Two and a Half Men. That makes 6 shows over 1 million viewers this week making it the best turnout Ten has had in a long time – probably since the Olympics.

Unfortunately Hamish & Andy proved no lead in for House which is stuck in second gear hovering under the 900,000 mark, this is a terrible situation for a once popular series although it must be said that it’s lead-out Life is enjoying a spectacular audience retention.

Seven started summer early this week with perennial Wednesday gap-filler Air Crash Investigations landing smoothly at 7.30 but a new trial of The Unit (the Semi Fast-Tracked 4th Season Premiere) fizzled losing almost half of it’s Criminal Minds lead in. It’s a pity too because although the opening minutes of the episode were pedestrian to say the least, after the opening titles the show grabbed this (first time) viewer by the balls with a high octane plot with Terrorists assassinating the Vice President and Vice President Elect and this specialist military Unit (apparently based on the real life US Delta Force) sent in to rescue the President-Elect and take down the terrorists in what looks to be a season-long storyline.

It’s great action movie fare and I recommend everyone check it out – that’s if it’s still there next week!

Bait & Switch

Uh Oh – Ten’s getting jittery again, hot on the heels of Nine’s Schedule Announcement – Ten has made some changes to their sked, mostly for the better, no doubt there will be even more changes once Seven publish full details of their Summer line up – but for now let’s have a look at what’s changed

The big change is removal of perpetual rerun Thank God You’re Here, replacing it with the new 90210 on Sunday nights. This is a good thing – first of all we know that Nine has placed Two and a Half Men on Sunday nights – that would spell an embarrassing death for Working Dog’s precious project. By moving the 90210 sequel to it’s spiritual home (the original ran in this slot from 93-96 - Seasons 3-6) it might actually catch on with the viewers!

The little change late on Sunday night involves The Daily Show and The Office in the late night slots, why Ten does not give The Office a decent try in an early evening slot remains one of life’s great mysteries but on the other hand at least Ten is starting to recognise that the station is still running after 10.30 at night so it’s not all bad!

With 90210 only making a fleeting appearance on Mondays that opens up the night for Rules of Engagement to be given another go at 8pm, Swingtown gets the boot at 9.30 instead we get to see The Ex List which has already been axed by CBS after what was apparently an excellent pilot but a lot of creative difficulties between the network and producers since.

The other thing you’ll notice from Mondays is the weeknight lineup. First of all – although I didn’t include it on the chart – The Bold and the Beautiful, forever the lead-in to Ten’s 5pm news and the highest rating daytime show is promoted to 6pm – it’s an audacious move (see I didn’t say bold!) that should encourage a fair percentage of older women to ignore the 6pm news on the rival nets – whether it will do better than the Simpsons (currently around the 600,000 mark) we don’t know, but it’s a strong indication that ten realises it needs and older aud to sustain it’s operation. Judge Judy moves into 4.30 lead-in duty for the summer.

At 7pm Will & Grace makes way for Friends (yes again!) given that Seven will likely position reruns of How I Met Your Mother in this slot, Friends seems like a shrewd move – if only because How I Met Your Mother is a virtual clone of Friends and after a while viewers might prefer to watch the original.

No idea what will sit here on a regular basis (so far we have a Britney Spears special in the first week) I imagine it will possibly be more Rules of Engagement, once the summer sets in. After 8.30 Ten has snubbed Burn Notice and instead cranked up a second hour of NCIS. Given that show’s recent performance I say why not? But it would be good (without the heat of All Saints) to retry Burn Notice or another middling show in their lineup. With Nine putting movies on this night – Tuesdays is up for grabs this summer so any promotion ten can do on the back of their naval hit will be worth it.

Gone: Law & Order SVU, Back: House MD. Maybe someone at Ten read my blog last Friday (OK I doubt it) but it seems like they’ve opted for some consistency in their schedule rather than moving things willy nilly. That’s commendable, will reruns of House outmatch reruns of CSI? And will Seven keep Criminal Minds on Wednesdays? Will Wednesday night become a Mexican standoff with reruns?

The only change here is that SVU is back in its current 9.30 slot and the original Law & Order is off to…

Ahh Friday night – remember Fridays – that night at the end of the week that TV programmers didn’t know existed – well eureka Ten has discovered it! The Ice Road Truckers have been despatched back to cable TV and The Simpsons (always a reliable Friday night entrant) are back to fill another hole which frankly needs filling.

Now remember – there are two types of audiences on Friday nights – kids and old people, the kids are well catered to with The Simpsons – that’s a sound move and the old people just might discover the math related antics of Don and Charlie Epps on Numb3rs (one of the most interesting and underrated procedurals in recent times) and then go for some legal wrangling on the original (and best IMO) Law & Order.

They were going so well, outstanding in fact and then oooo – epic fail! Where the f&%# is MacGyver??? Why get people’s hopes up like that!! Instead we get BBC dross Big Cat Diary and I get to watch channel Nine which has the best Saturday lineup yet again!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Curious Phenomenon - Tuesday 18 November 2008

Another Tuesday night of wall to wall Seven dominance. You know a night of TV is big when people you know start talking to you about it apropos of nothing!

So it was last night with All Saints lifting for the last episode with actor Mark Priestley who died shortly after the Olympics in an apparent suicide. This help to subdue the figure for Rush, ten’s strategy for a quick summer turnaround for the Melbourne based drama is a welcome move – getting it out of the path of Seven’s steamrolling Tuesdays.

At least Ten has the one show that can weather a Seven storm in NCIS, occasionally this show, a procedural laced with sarcasm feels like it’s straight out of the 80s, which makes sense as it’s from Don Bellisario, the creator of such 80’s highlights as Magnum PI, Airwolf and Quantum Leap and although he has long since left NCIS (over a dispute with series lead Mark Harmon) the tone of the show is unmistakeable.

In the US NCIS is proving to be indestructible with reruns outperforming other new series wherever they land and the series itself standing up against megahits like House and American Idol.

Here in Australia it has been Ten’s most solid import, while their other big draw House implodes NCIS goes against the toughest show of the week and shines.

This week we can also bear witness to that curious phenomenon of the 8pm episode of The Simpsons outrating the 7.30pm episode. Anecdotally this makes a lot of sense, viewing generally (but not always) peaks at 8.30pm because with people working later and commuting longer they are often not ready to watch TV until later in the night.

For Ten this has been a factor for years – they used to show Everybody Loves Raymond after Becker on Tuesday nights because Raymond could net the larger audience – amazingly it has never occurred to anyone at channel ten to post the New Simpsons episode at 8pm and see what happens!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brisbane boosts the numbers - Monday 17 November 2008

An interesting night of TV last night with Nine getting Blitzed, Ten getting better and seven getting slightly richer. Overall viewing numbers were up last night across the board. Including SBS there were 5.1 million people watching Free to Air TV at 7.30 last night – out of a population base of 13 million (for the 5 metro cities) that’s pretty good.

ABC has been pulling respectable numbers all year for Four Corners which ended it’s season last week to make way for the four part doco – The Howard Years (one part for each term in office I believe) it was definitely interesting, especially whenever Peter Costello had something to say and I’ll definitely be either tuning in or recording the last 3 instalments.

Andrew Denton, who needs no assistance with his ratings was actually down by 200,000 on the previous week, but his show really rises and falls on the guests he has on.

Looking at the other networks – Seven had a massive start to the night with Seven News, no doubt boosted somewhat by the storms in Brisbane – both Seven and Nine News had inflated figures in Brisbane as locals tuned into the coverage with Seven Brisbane netting 400,000 (Up 110,000 or 37.9% week on week) and Nine Brisbane welcoming 322,000 (Up 110,000 or 29.3% week on week) this also proves that after years of being the last state well an truly welded to Nine’s 6pm bulletin, Brisbane has indeed made the switch.

The Rich List improved by 90,000 week on week, which is good, no doubt helped along the increased numbers watching FTA. Given how inexpensive the format is no doubt some Seven execs are hoping that it maintains a decent performance throughout November.

City Homicide tied (that’s right tied) with the Howard Years which is good for a rerun. Nine were also in a rebroadcasting mood with the 8.30 CSI a repeat, no doubt a defensive move in light of the ABC’s play into the slot for the next several weeks.

Another episode of Domestic Blitz (is this the regular timeslot now?) went very well for Nine, next year I can see a game of quick draw between Nine and Seven to see who can get their franchise into the slot with fresh eps first, Blitz or Border Security.

Over on Ten it was the first outing for Out of the Blue, while the turnout was substantially down on Ten News (Ten News typically pulls over 450,000 in this timeslot, more during winter) I would have expected that – the key is – does it build (meaning will audiences follow it and will it be worth retooling for early evenings) or will people desert it? Stay tuned for that one.

Still on Ten, something unexpected happened last night, blame the wild Brisbane weather – but they did it – they got their four shows over 1 million! That means this week they could potentially have 6 shows over 1 mill by the end of the week. It probably won’t do much for their overall shares but total audience counts as well, especially when it comes to promoting future shows.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where are Seven Now? - Sunday 16 November 2008

A Solid night last night for Nine with the network dominate every slot from 6.30 onwards. Keeping Rugby League away from the southern states seems to be a good idea with CSI Miami picking up the slack for Nine down south.

No Dancing with the Stars meant that Seven’s Sunday went into freefall after the news. Surprisingly the (very late) return of Where are they now? Didn’t give the network any traction at 7.30 with Dancing’s viewers flocking to 60 Minutes.

Rove’s Season Finale didn’t set the house on fire but it didn’t suck either thereby ensuring Ten a shot at four millionaires this week.

Thank God You’re Here improved slightly but is now the poor cousin of 20 to 01, here’s how clever 20 to 01 is – that episode about child stars was a rerun but it’s subjects were so interesting I didn’t realise until they got to Liz Taylor! A celebrity who long ago crossed into ‘famous for fame’s sake’ territory and is now the exclusive province of gossip magazines – it was enough to snap me into reality and realise I’d seen it before!

Week on Week NCIS and The Outdoor Room both fell.

The Outdoor Room is in a particular pickle – it has the best lead in on television – Seven News yet it sheds almost 400,000 news viewers. Compare that to a recently renewed Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader which raises almost the same amount on it’s lead in and you see that networks weigh actual performance against potential performance.

The Outdoor Room is done for, you’ll probably see Durie on Seven next year but I doubt it will be in this show.

I thought I might end with what I watched on the box last night – since it was none of these shows and yet I found it quite entertaining.

At 7.30 after some channel surfing I discovered a series on CI called ‘The Academy’ which follows police recruits through their training – I reckon Ten will be emulating this show for their factual about Goulburn Police Academy next year.

At 8.30 E! had a premiere True Hollywood Story about Oprah Winfrey – it astonished me the whole way through how much about Winfrey I already knew just by osmosis and watching the news. A lot of the events they profiled were very familiar and yet I don’t really watch her show!

At 9.30 SBS showed the first in their Stanley Kubrick festival – 2001: A Space Odyssey – what a film, it has the most unsettling opening and closing scenes in the history of cinema (for my money anyway), I still can’t figure out what the hell is going on with that ending (the astronaut is aging so rapidly he can see his future self or something??) and it’s the only film I know of that’s ever tried to imagine the dawn of man. A classic film, and even though it was made in the 60s and set in 2001 it still looks futuristic today!

Friday & Saturday 14-15 November 2008

I've Decided to Lump Friday and Saturday together this weekend because there really wasn't that much going on and there was a dearth of information about the results


Had it's first shake-up since Nanny McPhee with Nine's first 20/20 Cricket Match of the season (some sort of exhibition game) drawing a commanding figure for Nine. Nine's early schedule though is in dire straits with ACA sinking on a Friday, both ACA and TT seem to be depressed from their lead-in and lead out programs, I can only surmise this is impact of Neighbours remaining competitive at 6.30 (compared to Ten's 6 and 7pm shows) but you never know.

Better Homes and Gardens put up a good show at 7.30 but the movie Shark Swarm must've done pretty badly because I can't even get figures for it or Ice Road Truckers which is probably limping along at the same old speed.

Perth is excluded from the chart because Cricket may have disrupted their schedule more than the eastern states.


Ahh Saturday Night - the night where our television network devolve into radio stations - Local and Low Rating.

Apart from the usually networked Ten, Seven and Nine stuffed things around a bit, Nine for the ongoing RL World Cup and Seven for the Myer Melbourne Xmas Parade, for my own sanity I just chose to run with Sydney/Brisbane overnights only as they were the most complete figures I could get a hold of!

Saturday night was a very low viewer turnout, although it's no longer unusual to have only 1 show over 1 million (normally Seven News) by the 8th ranked show (Ten News at 5) we're now going under the 700,000 mark.

Seven's Movie "Agent Cody Banks" suprisingly didn't hit with the kids (when you consider other movies which have worked for them in this slot), only the ABC's 'Mother Country Lineup' kept a stiff upper lip in the face of what must've been substantial competition for the elderly eyeball with Foxtel's Main Event channel which had a pay per view live Andre Rieu concert, if his DVD sales are anything to go by it could be Main Event's biggest night ever - I eagerly anticipate the results.

Last Thursday I published ratings for 10.30 series Heroes (462k) and The Strip (430k) amazingly I found out later both were beaten by Ten News (488k) for the record Lateline pulled 277k in the timeslot - that's a total of over 1.6 million watching the TV after 10.30

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Mac is Back

Ten has just released their schedule for Summer 2008/09.

The question on my mind is can this sked hit the reset button for Ten and give them a fresh start?

The short answer: It depends a whole lot on how 9 and 7 schedule during the summer. For instance, although Ten has not indicated as such we can almost assume that Will & Grace will continue through summer in the 7pm slot how it will fare depends on what Seven puts at the top of their night.

We already know Nine will schedule Temptation at 7 O'Clock, so what is Seven going to do? If they skew factual then Will & Grace has a chance, if they use summer to promote one of their sitcoms (How I Met Your Mother has been repeatedly cited in forums) then Ten is dead in the slot and that will impact the rest of their timeslots.

Anyway - for sake of argument lets assume that their 7pm hour picks up over summer - how will they go?

Thank God You're Here has been rerun ad infinitum now, although they got the genre right (given their Sundays are dominated by reality it would be pointless to schedule dramas on the night) TGYH has been losing steam in the last few weeks in it's 6.30 timeslot.

America's Next Top Model will at least be new but it is typically low rating rarely hitting one million although it's demographics would make it a good earner.

90210 gets another tryout this time in the much more sensible timeslot of 7.30pm. Why they're sticking with Mondays is a little unclear but it seems they've decided to have some flow-on with the audience with the new US cable drama Army Wives bowing at 8.30 and the axed CBS Summer drama Swingtown rounding out the night.

Ten is thankfully giving The Simpsons a rest and giving some more airtime to Rules of Engagement which follows what may be an hour of Will & Grace from 7pm. Rules of Engagement would be an eventual fit on Tuesday nights following The Simpsons during the regular season so this move makes sense.

They're also giving a boost to Burn Notice by scheduling it in the way they should have from the very beginning - In tandem with NCIS. This is important because no other show on Ten's roster would be a better fit with the Don Bellesario drama than this Spy caper which is a great show - but it needs exposure to a like-minded audience.

Don't Forget the Lyrics has worked this shift before without incident, but what is happening after 8.30 is worth noting, when Ten moves reruns of their established dramas into timeslots over Summer it's usually a preview of what's to come and by the looks of this when things get rolling again in '09 SVU will be their Wednesday tentpole. My tip is for House to get the move to either Sundays or Mondays.

Some folks may disagree with a quick turnaround for Rush but I'm positive that Ten's theory is that it's potential aud is much larger than the one watching on Tuesday nights up against All Saints and at the very least they've taken it away from direct competition with another local skein.

Not sure what they're attempting at 7.30, any show contains the word Naked and airs in family hour is bound to suck and indeed they tried this out behind Big Brother on Monday nights a while back - it did well on exactly one occassion if I recall. After 8.30 though they're playing a lot smarter - keeping CI as the Thursday anchor and attempting to rehabilitate the original Law & Order which had a horrible false start this year on Monday nights - it should do well with new episodes teamed up with it's sister show.

This is basically the same Friday we're watching now - clearly Ten thinks they can get these Ice Road truckers to fire but I just don't see it, although with the behometh Better Homes going into reruns or resting (not sure which yet) Friday night becomes up for grabs again so anything's possible.

Firstly lets start at the end with The Wedge - make no mistake this is the Australian Drama Quote burn off slot pure and simple - Nine used to use this slot every summer to show a whole stack of low budget Australian films so they would acheive their drama quota for the year.

Ten is shoring up their quota with the failed NZ drama Orange Roughies - how you can even have a 'drama' with a title like that is beyond me but by all accounts the show was not a success and now reruns on one of TVNZ's digital niche channels.

But really the story of Saturday and perhaps the whole summer is the unheralded return of MacGyver - a one hour action drama that commenced in 1986, was once Japan's most popular show and was a summer mainstay for channel seven for years until finally clicking with mainstream audiences in 1996, several years after it's cancellation.

This move is so unexpected, so left of field it is freaking genius, Can't wait to see the results!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning the hard way – Thursday 13 November 2008

Nine had a much healthier night last night than the previous Thursday thanks to This is Your Life a show which just will not go away and with 1.2 million viewers you can see why. Nine night of unscripted baby-boomer television (they had the exact same schedule as this in the 1990s) paid off for them handsomely – the only fly in their ointment was the move of The Strip to 10.30 where is more than halved it’s audience.

The Strip is the second locally made drama that Nine has benched this year after the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ Canal Road sunk on Wednesdays. Although The Strip premiered to a large audience on a largely uncontested night it has been outclassed on subsequent occasions by the long running Criminal Intent on Ten and even more recently, by The Amazing Race on Seven.

Although channel Ten’s Rush (which premiered in the same week as The Strip) has generally bowed to lower numbers, it is in a tougher timeslot on a network with virtually no hits so it has been renewed for a second season, after moving The Strip to 10.30 I don’t expect a renewal from Nine.

Ten’s early evening is in the doldrums, at first you might wonder why 5th Grader was renewed for a third season in the face of low ratings, but look at the lead in. 5th Grader lifts a hefty 300,000 viewers from it’s paltry starting point – the only other regular show on TV that does more heavy lifting from the lead in would be the news, so the renewal is justified. If Ten gets a decent 7pm show next year then 5th Grader will outperform it’s competition in this slot, the question is – what does Ten have planned for the final third of 2009?

The real standout of the night though is the continuing success of Criminal Intent, on a network which people are avoiding like the plague what lessons can be gleaned from the standout performance of this procedural when so many of Ten’s other hits are faltering?

Lesson 1: Schedule your show straight through
In the old days in Australia TV series (of 22 episodes or more) would be played from beginning to end without interruption, if the show was popular it would be then rerun in the same timeslot for the remainder of the 42 week season, or programmers would schedule another show to take it’s place.

This used to be a viable way to run the Australian industry because movie’s were popular and most networks scheduled movies on up 5 nights a week, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays were reserved for adult dramas post 8.30. After 1995 this started to change with Pay TV adding yet another layer to movie distribution most networks quickly expanded their schedules to keep movies to the weekend.

Also in the late 90’s Australian Networks started treating the two week Easter Break as a chance to take a holiday, pre-empt series and schedule repeats once they did this for a while they got the idea to stretch out their seasons in much the same way that US networks do for their viewers.

In the US this practice is necessitated by the physical time it takes to actually make these shows, When their season starts most TV shows may only have 5 or 6 episodes in the can, with a 10 day schedule for drama filming and a 3 weeks on, one week off schedule for sitcom tapings these shows would quickly run out of episodes for their American audience if it weren’t for midseason reruns.

Here in Australia this was being done when networks already had entire seasons at their disposal (due to the February start time) so it just became insulting. Of course now in the age of Fast Tracking we are going to be subject to these on/off schedules whether we like it or not!

At any rate Law & Order Criminal Intent is rating better than most Fast Tracked shows and these episodes are at least 6 months behind their original stateside broadcast, but they are being shown at a regular time every single week, no reruns, no mucking around.

Lesson 2: Pick your night well
First thing that strikes you about Thursday night is than unlike Ten’s previous attempts to schedule Criminal Intent on Sundays – on Thursdays there are no other procedurals, there is no CSI and no Criminal Minds, in fact last night there was no other drama in the slot. Contrast this to House, floundering on Wednesdays against 2 other dramas or Rush fighting off a very popular Australian drama in the same slot – in these days of spare audiences you cannot afford to outgun the opposition at every turn – sometimes you need to program smartly.

Lesson 3: Stick to your timeslot
Ten is better at this than most (I’m looking right at you Seven) but it has helped Criminal Intent that it is regularly scheduled so that people intuitively know when it is on – barely anyone looks at a TV guide any more so you need to keep shows in their place if you any chance of the audience finding them.

Lesson 4: No Frills Necessary
Criminal Intent is the first Ten show in a while that doesn’t seem to be promoted as some sort of Event TV™ in fact the promos are decidedly low key – this is something that always struck me about channel Nine during it’s 1990’s hegemony – their promos were never, never flashy or bold, they just told you what was going on enough to whet your appetite, no tiresome hype.

Lesson 5: Don’t Kill the Golden Goose
I’m a little surprised at this actually that we haven’t seen multiple nights of Criminal Intent given it’s the only thing rating on Ten at the moment. Earlier this year Nine hit paydirt with Gordon Ramsay – they scheduled him once a week, then twice, then on three nights, finally four until the viewers got sick of it and the fad flamed out. They’re doing the same thing with Two and a Half Men but people are still lapping it up – partially because the overall audience for the Charlie Sheen sitcom would be a lot bigger than even it’s highest rating night – people are watching it at a time that suits them.

Ten has already killed the longevity of The Simpsons, they’ve buggered up Thank God You’re Here with the same action, and trying their best to mame NCIS in the same fashion, but they haven’t touched CI.

When you start scheduling a hit show at multiple points per week two things happen, first of all viewers binge on the show, who wouldn’t – you’re favourite show on multiple times a week - but like any good binge it’s that much easier to get sick and never want to partake again. After you’re conditioned to expect multiple airings it becomes OK to miss an episode because ‘they’re bound to repeat it later’ this is when the law of diminishing returns kicks in – it has hit almost every major success story that has ever been flogged to death and it’s a practice that programmers should avoid if their thinking long term.

So that five things Ten is doing right with Law & Order maybe they can take this model and expand on it in 2009 by treating the viewer and their assets with respect.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dead in the O.R. – Wednesday 12 November 2008

Oh my God, make it stop!

Let’s all take a deep breath and look at the positives…

Two and a Half Men, this US comedy continues to dominate Wednesday nights with the lions share of 7.30 viewers tuned in, the rest all split between Seven and the ABC.

Criminal Minds, still a hit but it is quickly being matched by The Mentalist. Although The Mentalist is not attracting the sort of Audience it did on Sunday nights it’s still a hell of a lot more respectable than the turnout for Fringe so it has achieved it’s task.

Spicks and Specks – this show which I’m happy to admit I have never watched continues to attract a dedicated 1.2 million viewers every week.

Stupid Stupid Man – I’m not sure what this show rated when it was on TV1 but it’s been nicely multiplied by being broadcast on Free to Air TV and frankly stands as a model on how to justify for spending by the cable channels on original Australian content. If a drama or comedy from Foxtel can be repurposed on Free to Air TV six months later it sounds like a good deal all around.

Now the worrying signs…

A Current Affair is struggling and problem originates from WIN territory, the two Bruce Gordon owned network stations are underperforming (especially the local Perth version) It’s a pity no-one publishes overnight for the RegTAM the numbers from the network O&O NBN alone would probably eclipse the woeful performance in Adelaide and Perth.

9.30pm is a basket case timeslot, in fact total audience after 9.30 almost halves from it’s 8.30 figure, very shocking, the slot is still deadlocked between 3 cop shows with Seven coming out on top (as usual) , someone should throw something different in here to attract a different audience to the slot.

Finally, here goes – the elephant in the room…

Channel Ten. After last night’s performance they have gone from the mat to dead on the operating table, this is just awful.

For NEW episodes of Futurama (albeit available on DVD) in Widescreen no less to only attract half a million viewers is shameful.

For Neighbours to be their top rating show yet again is deplorable.

But the real sting is with House. This was once a top ten show. Upwards of 1.5 million would tune in each week to see it – it has been Fast Tracked for several weeks now and not one instalment has reached over 1 million viewers, last night it sunk to an all time low. This is the kind of baffling performance that should have Ten’s lawyers meeting with OzTAM’s lawyers, except that the performance of everything else on the night is just as bad.

Ten need to pull the show immediately, rest it over summer, find a decent timeslot and promote the hell out of it’s return, DON’T WASTE ANY MORE EPISODES!

Watch this Show - Newstopia

10pm Wednesday

I've always liked Shaun Micallef but have only just managed to check out his current show Newstopia, blame my tardiness on the programming glut that is Wednesdays - if this were on a Thursday-Saturday on any channel I would've seen it already.

In fact the late night Saturday rerun (at like 1am or something) was when I first watched a whole episode (2 weeks ago) I watched again tonight and I can tell you it's hilarious.

The show is basically a News bulletin on acid, Micallef is the host, there are special reports, live crosses and talking heads through out (they even have a cross to the ubiquitous Commsec for finance news) and at every point the show riffs on the many bizarre cliche's of television newscasting.

Tonight's episode, which you can catch on Saturday night on SBS (UHF 28, Digital 3, Foxtel 104) or watch for free right here had three, no make that four good things going for it.

Firstly the complete non sequiter of a woman with a beard and a tree branch stuck to her nose, secondly an interview with a Washington Correspondent where Micallef spent the whole length trying to pry from him Barack Obama's opinion of Australia (a common theme in American-Australian relations).

Thirdly a three way interview with both the 1968 Captain Kirk and his 1994 'Generations' version over George Takei's marraige effectively being ruled illegal by Proposition 8 and a laugh out loud interview with a stereotypical country bloke about the drought - without giving too much away watch it and watch the flies...

So watch this show dammit - I didn't until now and I'm kicking myself for having missed out on some great comedy buried away late at night on our 5th Network.

People Meter Madness - Tuesday 11 November 2008

Another Tuesday, another clean sweep for Seven, leaving Nine and Ten to fight over the scraps.

Nine came out better earlier in the night with The Chopping Block posting an encouraging number and their other shows holding that crowd through the night.

Ten on the other hand peaked for NCIS and... that was it.

One thing that is becoming clear after 3 weeks is that Will & Grace is probably hurting Ten just as badly as the rest of their 7pm disasters this year, how else do you explain a figure for the Simpsons that's barely 20,000 people more than the 6pm rerun??

Perhaps the Simpsons' core audience has hollowed out to the point where there are only half a million dedicated followers anymore, perhaps it was barely promoted during the week, perhaps it was so gut bustingly funny that several people meter users forgot to press the button while it was on only to have the unfunny Shane Jacobsen snap them back to reality, or maybe - just maybe Will & Grace is driving viewers away. Now I don't pretend for one minute that a lot of Neighbours viewers switch to Home & Away at 7pm - that's pretty logical really, which makes 7pm a switch on point for viewers and that 7m show just ain't bringing the numbers.

At the other end of the night there'll be a whole stack of people happy that Rush has been renewed for a second season but what the hell do we make of a well promoted episode, where a character dies no less, rating lower than the rest of the season?

Late Edit: There may be something wrong with the figures for The Simpsons THE SIMPSONS TUES Ten 653,000 289,000 140,000 101,000 122,000 it only covers four cities and it's not clear which ones but it's likely that either Sydney or Melbourne is missing from that list which would explain a whole lot, including why this is a rant and not a factual analysis :D

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cross Promotional Blitz - Monday 10 November 2008

Ah the joys of cross promotion, take Backyard Blitz a program which specialises in taking hard luck cases and transforming their backyard (cuz what you really need when your life is shit is a bird fountain and a patio right?).

As if this winning formula wasn’t enough to bring in the hordes, Channel Nine decided to combine the power of their shows by locating one such unfortunate family whose daughter was profiled on a 60 minutes story about Tourette’s syndrome, and give their house the makeover.

It is actually very clever programming and combined with zero competition it did the business for Nine last night.

Not doing the business however was just about everything else scheduled. CSI lost almost 70% of that golden lead in getting beaten into a baffling second place by Enough Rope. In America CSI still attracts 18 million people per new episode – these episodes are FAST TRACKED virtually days after the US broadcast and yet Nine can’t seem to muster up much interest.

Even worse is the result for Cold Case, not so bad given the 10pm start but really, they can do better than this. Did they even let people know it was on? The promotional departments at Nine and Ten seem to have packed up for the year.

Proving that not all television viewers are lobotomy survivors the 7.30 report beat The Rich List into third place (in the slot) which itself beat Idol back to fourth.

What is remarkable is that just like water – a lot of Monday shows seem to have found their own level, The Rich List seems frozen under 1 million, Aus Idol results always garners around 200,000 less than the Sunday show, Supernatural always loses 150 – 200,000 people from Good News Week. Even Will & Grace has hit a ceiling stagnating week to week. If Ten could get a show together at 7pm that attracts 1 million viewers then they might have a decent shot but right now they’re relying solely on the core audience for their prime time shows and as we can see here – that isn’t enough.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

2 Channel Universe – Sunday 9 November 2008

Last night’s top rating show was Dancing with the Stars which has grown stronger in it’s last weeks, but nowhere near the dominating highs of it’s Tuesday night run. Nonetheless Seven can be happy with a night where all their shows (including one heavily rerun sitcom) performed well.

Nine too can be happy, 20 to 01 now dominates the 6.30pm timeslot and 60 Minutes continues strongly, moreover it’s North/South strategy paid dividends last night with CSI Miami picking up the slack from their underwhelming Rugby League telecast.

Ten meanwhile have locked themselves out of the competition, they got a decent figure for Australian Idol and probably won in the important young demographics (wait for the press release I guess) but their showing last night reveals a schedule with more holes than they can patch.

First of all they threw in NCIS reruns to stop the leaking at 9.30, this has shown some improvement in the slot. Californication was only retaining a woeful 54% of Rove’s Audience, the first week in for NCIS they retained 68% of same audience, this week the Naval drama did even better with 84% retention.

After patching the hole that was 9.30 they then had to try to fix the drop from Californication to The Office by scheduling the International Edition of The Daily Show but their 11pm figures have barely budged – it’s a pity because it’s currently the best post 10.30 lineup on a Sunday night but did you know that – I’m going to guess that you didn’t because Ten don’t promote it! They never promote any show properly unless it falls between 7.30 -10.30 (with the exception of Neighbours) Ten need to advertise The Daily Show and The Office then maybe some people will tune in.

The other part of their night where they’ve sprung a leak is at 6.30 – Thank God You’re Here Reruns, which at times have won their timeslot against subpar competition are now struggling where they once flourished but why?

First of all Seven and Nine have better 6pm lead ins – The News. People will usually watch the news to start their night, now Ten nets a timeslot win by slotting their news at 5pm, but those people don’t stick around for Sports Tonight or The Simpsons – what can they do about this – either Put the Simpsons at 5pm, then Sports Tonight leading up to The News at 6pm or Move Sports Tonight to 4.30 then News then find an hourlong show (it’s a weekend so it can be rated PG) to show leading up to 6.30 – just a thought.

The bigger problem though is Thank God You’re Here – the show has been in reruns forever, it is produced by Working Dog – a group which doesn’t seem to have it in them to produce anything that runs for a long time. Apparently there is another season of 10 (that’s right folks 10) episodes on the way – better savour them I guess.

It’s not like the folks at Ten haven’t tried either to coax these burnt out geniuses back for more – I’ve read numerous reports over the last two years about the back forth dance between Ten and Working Dog over this show.

In the meantime Ten has used the show to plug a hole in their schedule – but by now everyone who wanted to see it has probably already seen it – all it seems to have accomplished is whetting people’s appetite for something light and breezy in the timeslot and Nine has delivered it with the newly hot 20 to 01, a show that has been on the air for roughly the same length of time as TGYH, has approximately similar production values and the same ‘forget instantly after watching’ quality.

Strangely enough the people behind 20 to 01 haven’t attempted to ration episodes or take a year off or ruminate in public on the difficulties of producing such a show, yet that’s all we’ve heard from the producers of TGYH and yet now their precious show, preserved in amber is in the ratings toilet, no doubt it will be fished out for 10 more glorious weeks in the sun next year after which Ten’s long term problems will still persist and 20 to 01 will still be going (twice a week no less)

Kicking and Screaming but no-one's paying attention - Saturday 8 November 2008

Well, another Saturday another viewing low. This time all and sundry found themselves just about trounced by the ABC.

Ten would have been kicking and screaming that nothing they try in these movie slots seems to work, although their Saturday viewership is marginally better than their Friday figures - that's two consecutive night's where vieweing levels sit below 700,000. While Seven and Nine attracted the kids in the 6.30 - 8.30 period, the ABC kept the old school enthralled with The Bill a British cop show which has been around since colonial times.

I have included some Sydney & Melbourne Charts for comparison seeing that Nine again split their schedule for the Rugby League World Cup - a competition that is proving less than attractive for viewers in the heartland of League.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Under the Ice - Friday 7 November 2008

Overall a better turnout last night than last week and most of the benefits were split between Nine and Seven with the newer Harry Potter movie posting a better number than it's well worn predecessors. Seven even did well with what is an ultra-violent action movie - something Ten hasn't been able to make work on Fridays.

No doubt they were helped by the fact that it was teaming down in Melbourne last night (the nation biggest TV watchers anyhow) keeping a good chunk of people indoors.

Ten, however, was unable to exploit with it's early evening numbers holding the network under the ice for the whole of Prime Time.

I watched Ice Road Truckers last night and it was good, interesting television. A documentary with a real sense of drama to it's story. I can say that for me it was better than anything else on at 7.30 Friday (and that includes Cable) but for some reason ten can't break through.

On any other network this show would be pulling 1 million plus but not Ten. Viewers also showed they prefer Harry Potter to X Men - but did people even know X Men was on?

Ten has got a real image problem right now - people just aren't giving it the time of day even when they've got something good to show.

Tenth Hour a shadow of it's former self - Thursday 6 November 2008 (US)

Thursday night is no longer the must see TV stonghold of days past. Survivor is the undisputed 8pm champion with 12 million tuning in, 5 million of those being under 40s. Incredibly watch how the total viewers rise for CSI whilst the 18-49 segment decreases! The reverse happens for ABC and NBC in the 9pm hour with Grey's Anatomy posting the biggest share of young adults for the night, followed by The Office.

The 10pm hour is just pitiful with nothing breaking through - in days gone by all the hottest shows with the most viewers were at 10pm, ER, NYPD Blue, Northern Exposure, LA Law, Law & Order, in fact 10pm was the drama hour - with shows registering audiences of 15 million up and sometimes up to 30 million, now the hour has more scripted dramas than ever before but nothing is standing out, to the point where even the faded ER is reaching more 18-49s than any of it's competition.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Seven Bones Nine - Thursday 6 November 2008

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this Thursday struggle was not how Seven has gotten it’s game back, or the fact that Criminal Intent (Ten’s quiet achiever) performs much better when Det. Goren is featured, but that Nine has completely fallen apart.

Obviously on a night with such low viewer turnout, large variations can be caused by small groups of survey homes but some of the falls are shocking, RPA fell by over 200,000 viewers week on week, Getaway by 81,000, The Strip by 146,000.

The 9.30 hour proves Seven’s dominance more than anything this year, moving in the middle of the road Bones, Seven has seen their 9.30 audience spike by 318,000, where did those people come from? Well at least 140,000 of them switched from SVU on Ten and another 178,000 let say from RPA on Nine. Diabolical.

Even more worrying for Nine is the performance of A Current Affair less than 100,000 viewers away from third place.

Seven moving Heroes to 10.30 has resulted in a week on week rise of 50,000 viewers from Prison Break (427,000) and a timeslot win, but at what price? Last night’s episode was the best the series has pulled out since season one and represents a bit of a turning point (for me personally) story wise with the ‘big picture’ starting to make more sense.

Just as with Lost, Prison Break, Scrubs et al we might be forever left to wonder whether the show ratings demise was a function of the show, or Seven’s erratic scheduling.

Finally lets briefly look at Ten, Criminal Intent has been a solid achiever for then in the second half, well promoted, regularly scheduled it’s fan base has reconnected with the show after at least 2 seasons in the wilderness which is good news for Ten, expect this night to remain in the hands of the Law & Order franchise next year.

However, the 7.30 timeslot is totally up for grabs, the low ratings for all shows suggest that at 7.30 Thursday: what networks are offering, the viewers ain’t buying.

You have a cookie-cutter reality comp vs an ageing travelougue vs Rove McManus hosting a game show. Where is the fucking entertainment here people??? No wonder Kerry O’Brien draws even with this mob, first one to put something scripted in this slot should win it hands down.

Finally Will & Grace, now this is a story with two sides, first of all, Week on Week the show is up by 134,000 viewers, that’s good, it demonstrates that people are discovering the show, and none of the other 7pm shows are down on last weeks figures by any great margin so it suggests new viewers coming to the TV, now we have to wait before we can declare a trend but it’s a positive step.

Now, lets look at the other side of the coin, The Simpsons last night attracted 638,000 viewers at 6pm – that’s it’s highest audience in forever, Then the Neighbours crowd came along swelling this number by a further 148,000 people, then 7pm comes and whoosh they lose 210,000 viewers just like that – Ten’s 7pm show does worse than their 6pm show (at least last night)

So what should ten do? Well for now – sit tight, it’s almost summer, clearly someone has already made the decision not to schedule Out of the Blue at 7pm so they’ll stick with Will & Grace, nine will switch to Temptation and Ten’s sitcom may get a good run, maybe, but they’re fast running out of options for this slot.

Lifeless - Wednesday 5 November 2008 (US)

And I thought Life was doing badly in Australia! Man Alive, they just switched slots in the US from Fridays to Wednesdays but the news was all bad. The only thinkg Life has going for it right now is that NBC has nothing in the cupboard.

Just as in Australia it is pummelled by Criminal Minds which is the night's top 18-49 network show. The other notable performers of the night were Bones and CSI New York while CBS' comedy hour remains in the toilet, NBC's Knight Rider has already dissappeared up the S-Bend.

So much for viewers seeking out lighter fare in tougher times - looks like it's crime procedurals all round folks!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Serious Trouble - Wednesday 5 November 2008

Memo to Nine, movies shown in midweek timeslots have not worked for years, and so it is with their latest Wednesday movie – Talledega Nights. It must be especially frustrating for Nine given that the lead in was the unstoppable Wednesday edition of Two and a Half Men, they must have thought some people would stick around for the comedy movie but clearly only 46% of their 8pm audience were interested in the prospect.

Even more damning is my memo to Ten, documentaries about Animals do not work – at least not on channel ten and here’s why

a) Animal or Nature docos appeal primarily to an older viewing audience
b) At any given time, channel Ten’s share of over 55 years old viewers rarely gets above 11% therefore it’s likely the intended audience would never have seen any promotion for the show.
c) The under 40 audience avoid these shows like the plague (hence the high numbers for two and a half men ever since Jamie Oliver showed up)

Ten is in serious trouble right now – there is no good way to spin it, their most popular program of the night was outside of Prime Time (the 5pm news), Neighbours posted a good result then the whole night fell in a heap, never lifting beyond it's 6.30 "high".

These are some of the worst numbers to come off the people meters for them since the introduction of people meters, ten need to use the summer for a complete reboot otherwise they will quickly see their share decline even further in the new year, just waiting for So You Think you can Dance and The Biggest Loser to pull them out of the hole is not going to be good enough – they need action ASAP.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Everyone's a Winner! (Except Nine, Ten and ABC) - Tuesday 4 November 2008

Yesterday's biggest program on Television was not even in Primetime - the 3pm broadcast of the Melbourne Cup drawing 2,156,000 people in the main capitals, pretty impressive given it doesn't include workplaces, in Melbourne alone where the day is a public holiday the race drew 1,042,000 people in their homes.

That race set Seven up for an all people blitz for the rest of the night - the biggest loser out of this was Nine taking a hot to all their time periods - especially the 8.30 hour.

Ten only got one show over 1 million, the always respectable NCIS, the show which is famously Idol proof in the US is proving to be Rafters proof here.

NBC's Presidential Heroes - Monday 3 November 2008

Last night's US ratings and NBC's Primetime Saturday Night Live special did huge business for the network cleaning up after the 9pm time period. CBS kept a steady ship with Two and a Half Men their best performer in both total viewers and demographics.

Best total viewer performance went to ABC's Dancing with the Stars which although helping Samantha Who? against Worst Week did nothing for the performance of Boston Legal vs CSI Miami, perhaps an indication as to why this is it's last season.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lowering the Bar - Monday 3 November 2008

Wow, what a difference Australian Customs makes! These guys pack up and a whopping 600,000 viewers leave with them. Seven's replacement The Rich List (a last ditch attempt to save a one season wonder from the scrapheap) saw more than 700,000 viewers lost week on week.

The loss at 7.30 didn't help their 8.30 tentpole City Homicide (albeit a rerun) which recorded a timeslot loss against a first run fast tracked CSI.

By removing their factuals - Seven has essentially lowered the bar, allowing Nine to walk right over them.

Two and a Half Men pulled in it's usual good audience but the suprise was a timeslot win for Til Death finally over 1 million viewers, Nine can chalk up a win for sticking with this sitcom, unfortunately Til Death just got taken out of Fox's schedule for November sweeps - a move like that is NEVER a good sign - cancellation almost certainly follows so the Brad Garret sitcom is suddenly on the boil on it's home turf.

One of the weirder things to happen was the 9.30 timeslot. While Cold Case only retained 63% of it's CSI lead in, Bones retained a whopping 85% coming first in the slot with Andrew Denton's Enough Rope a close second.

While Nine jumped over the bar this week, Ten continued to limbo right on under it with nothing acheiving. Australian Idol had their best result on the night, but still copped a third place in the slot. Good News Week is struggling to get noticed at 8.30 - it doesn't help that runs against 4 Corners in what is a resurgent year for the ABC Public Affairs program, last night profiling the American state of Ohio in the lead up to tomorrow's presidential election.

A bright spot for Ten though was Will & Grace improving week on week by 12%, is it just a fluke or will Ten's health in the slot start to improve. Keep watching this space...