Seven wins Australian ratings year

Nine, Ten each claim age-group, growth victories

SYDNEY -- The Seven Network has won the Australian TV ratings season for the third year in a row, but rival Nine Network has claimed victory in the key 25–54-year-old demographic after end of year ratings figures were released Sunday.

Additionally, youth network Ten said it was the only commercial broadcaster to grow audience share during the year.

In a year when each major network launched new digital terrestrial channels, the Seven Network took a 28.1% of all people share for the year against rival Nine’s 26.6% share and Ten’s 22.4%, with Ten posting a year on year increase of 1.7 points. Australia’s two public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, posted shares of 17% and 5.9%, respectively.

While Seven won the year, Ten’s finale of hit cooking competition, “Masterchef” – watched by 3.5 million viewers in Australia’s capital cities in August –  and Nine’s local crime drama, “Underbelly," with an average weekly audience of 2.1 million viewers, both broke records and proved the most popular programs with audiences, alongside regular sports events.  

“Underbelly,” Seven’s hit local drama, “Packed To The Rafters" and comedy formats like "Talkin’ Bout Your Generation" and "Thank God You’re Here" easily outrated imported fare. “NCIS” is the most popular overseas program on Australian television, watched each week by an average 1.5 million viewers on Network Ten but ranking as the 13th most watched regular program overall. 

While the free to air broadcasters argue over shares, the pay TV sector, with a penetration of around 30% of Australian homes, said the ratings showed that viewers were spending the majority of their time watching pay TV channels.

Australia’s pay-TV channels accounted for a combined share of 22.4% of all capital city viewing between 6 am and midnight – more than any other network. 

Pay TV’s top rating program for the year was the FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Australia and Uzbekistan, with 431,000 viewers.

However, ratings analysts Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy said the three major commercial networks' audience growth across the board was a “very good solid result," while pay TV audience growth was “indifferent."

Nine Network CEO David Gyngell said the network was in the process of rebuilding after three years of losses to Seven. 

"It's been a strong year for Nine where we've put more bricks in the wall. We've now got the structure from which we'll grow in 2010 with the best slate we've enjoyed for years,” he said. 

The top 10 regular programs on Australian television in 2009 included local dramas “Underbelly” and “Packed To The Rafters," weeknight episodes of “Masterchef,” the Seven Network’s Sunday night news bulletin, comedies "Talkin’ 'Bout Your Generation” and “Thank God You’re Here” and factual programs “World’s Strictest Parents” and “Border Security.”