Friday, July 31, 2009

Finding your niche

There’s a weird phenomenon with Australia’s television ratings when it comes to American shows

Generally speaking a show’s performance in America is a good indicator of how it will fare in Australia

In the past shows like ER and Friends that regularly polled over 25 million US viewers in their heyday – had no trouble rounding up 2 million people here in oz.

Similarly in the 2000s big US shows like CSI and Everybody Loves Raymond had similarly big followings here, Raymond even mimicked it’s patchy start in the US where it spent two seasons admired by critics and no-one else, here it spent it’s first two seasons languishing on channel Seven while Ten paid attention to the critical press coming out of the States.

Similarly niche shows and cable shows in the states don’t fare too well here – Dexter, Californication, Flight of the Conchords, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, The Shield, The Closer, Battlestar Galactica – none of these are primetime fare here in Australia but last night something original happened...

United States of Tara pulled 1.2 million last night. A lot of people will attribute this to the lead in which was the final episode of The Chaser’s War on Everything, but that would be a mistake, plenty of sitcoms have followed this show to no avail – no, this is a new one.

In the US ‘Tara’ airs on a “premium” cable network, Showtime (think the equivalent to Showcase or Movie Extra here) meaning folks who have cable are paying extra just to get those channels, so it’s not available to everyone.

Of the 30% of American Households that pick it up, roughly 2.4 million of them watched this show – enough to see it renewed for a second season – even if Tara had 100% coverage across America you’d be looking at a maximum of 7 million people watching.

For a US show pulling less that 10 million – you’re usually looking at a summer run, if that, it’s very unusual for this kind of cable play to make it big on Australian TV. The heady combination of timeslot, heavy ABC promotion and a recognisable Australian star has added up to an unlikely 9.30 hit for Auntie! Kudos.

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