TV Viewership up in Australia for 2010

First Uptick for Audience in Four Years

SYDNEY -- Television viewing in Australia increased 5% in 2010, reversing a four-year decline, as the number of digital terrestrial channels rose to 14, reports from Australia’s broadcasters revealed as the end of the official ratings year drew to a close Saturday. 

It was certainly a volatile year for the Australian TV sector. 

Although audiences increased there was significant fragmentation, thanks to the addition of four new digital multi-channels during the year, the addition of time shifted viewing to the ratings, and a slowing in pay-TV subscriptions. 

The Seven Network remained the highest-ranking network for the fifth year in a row with an overall audience share of 24.6%, increasing to 28.7% with the shares of its two digital channels, 7Two and 7mate. 

Second-ranked Nine Network was the big improver of the year, growing 9.4% overall and winning the year in the key 25-54 and 18-49 demographics in prime time. Nine also had the top rating digital channel, Go! which averaged a 3.8% prime time share. Digital channels are now in 76% of Australia’s estimated 7.6 million TV households. 

But it was Masterchef, Ten Network’s reality cooking show that once again proved the ratings juggernaut, with the finale of the series airing to over 4 million capital city viewers and delivering Ten an average of 1.9 million viewers per night, five nights per week over its 13-week run. 

A spin off, Junior Masterchef, averaged 1.5 million viewers over two nights per week, beating X Factor Australia each Sunday night at 7:30 pm, while Seven Network’s homegrown cooking format My Kitchen Rules was a surprise success in the genre with 1.42 million viewers on average, coming in 14th overall. 

Masterchef aside, it was local dramas that fueled weekly audiences. Seven’s Packed To The Rafters, with over 2.04 million capital city viewers per week, topped the rankings of the most watched regular programs., increasing its audience in its fourth season. 

Nine’s crime drama Underbelly: The Golden Mile was the nation’s next favorite drama, ranking fourth for the year with an average audience of 1.74 million viewers per week. 

The closest general election in the nation’s history meanwhile, spawned Gruen Nation, a humorous analysis of political spin, which averaged 1.6 million viewers per week over its four-week run. 

Australia’s Got Talent on Seven, beat out its more hyped stable mate X Factor as the most popular talent show for the year here with 1.6 million weekly viewers.  

They were all well ahead of imported fare – ITV’s Midsomer Murders, which airs on pubcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp. here, was the most watched international show and the eighth most popular program overall with an audience of 1.5 million viewers per week. Modern Family was the top ranking comedy, coming in tenth overall for network Ten with 1.479 million viewers per week. Doc Martin (ABC), NCIS (Ten) and Glee (Ten) followed in the rankings with 1.475 million, 1.46 million and 1.448 million viewers, respectively. 

While Masterchef dominated the most regular programs and led the most watched events, the Seven Network dominated the most watched events overall with a handful of sports. It had a rare doubleheader with not one but two Australian Football League Grand Finals airing one week apart in September, thanks to a tied result for the first game, and delivering Seven 2.76 million and 2.68 million viewers for the two games, respectively. Seven’s Melbourne Cup coverage aired to 2.7 million viewers, while the men’s final of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis rounded out the top 10 events for the year with 2.6 million viewers.  

Ten chief programming officer David Mott said that 2010 was a “significant” year for the free to air TV sector. 

“As Australians take to the expanding suite of digital multichannels in record numbers, there has never been a more important time for the commercial networks to go after demographically targeted audiences,” Mott said.