Wow – 9 wins the ratings every Monday night of the back of Underbelly. Series 2 is the most watched show on television at the moment beating its closest rival – Packed to the Rafters on 7 on Tuesdays – by at least 400,000 viewers. Love it or hate it, its doing really well. Perhaps its the language, the nude scenes or just the fact that, when you look closely at it, it is actually something different to everything else on TV at the moment. With so many crime shows dominating the ratings top 20 weekly (NCIS, Criminal Minds, CSI, Lie to Me, etc) Underbelly is different and in my opinion, being based on fact attracts so many viewers.
But what else do 9 have to offer? Their next biggest show each week attracts less than half the viewers that Underbelly does for most weeks. 9’s much hyped “Farmer Wants a Wife” and its flagship “60 Minutes” struggle to win their respective timeslots and barely contribute to 9 winning the night they appear on. And consistant lateness and sudden programming changes are not helping them one bit.
9’s problems start at 5pm every weekday afternoon and continue from there. In Sydney, 9’s 6pm news struggles sometimes coming 4th after the news on 7, 10 and the ABC. While I am not a big believer on lead ins these days, it definitely makes a difference if the show leading into the news is one worth watching – which Antiques Roadshow is not for most of us. Even Family Feud and the axed Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune used to do better.
9’s 6pm news is barely watchable compared to 7’s and 10’s and constantly try to lure viewers in with so-called exclusives even to the point where they attempt to pin the story on the back of the success of Underbelly. While A Cuurent Affair in my opinion is slightly better than Today Tonight, most viewers stick to 7 after watching the news – usually because you’ve seen the ads about what is on it and decide “ok, I’ll stick to it!”
At 7pm, the success of Two and a Half Men can only be attributed to a lack of options. I mean, if you’ve already seen the news, why watch it again on ABC at 7pm, and as for channel 7, Home and Away is not for everyone. There was a time when 7pm on all networks was the time you’d show your best locally produced content. Back in the (late) 80’s it used to be Sale of the Century on 9 against current affairs on 7, with Neighbours on 10. Interestingly, Home and Away was originally on at 6.30 and at some stage swapped with Neighbours for time slots (one moved to the same time and within a week, the other moved away from it).
And then there is the rest of the night… with numerous programmes aimed at the lowest comman denominator (such as Wipe Out, Ladette to Lady, 20-1, etc) and others not doing as well as they should – such as CSI and the Mentalist, 9 should be taking a good hard look at what they are doing. Perhaps it is the fact that all their shows on weeknights start at least 5 minutes late or they are now attacting the stigma of being a “trash” channel which is bringing down the success of shows that otherwise would do well. The Mentalist is one classic example of a show that should do better, being the highest rating show in the USA other than American Idol, yet here it barely cracks 1 million and never wins its time slot.
So what should channel 9 do? In my opinion, the trash shows should either be kept to one night and not even promoted on other nights or taken off altogether. Perhaps these shows would be best left to themed nights on their 2nd SD channel if or when that happens.
Another idea that just might work – is to break away from copying 7 once and for all with news and current affairs. They are losing in all markets to 7, so why not? Try this: 1 hour news at 6pm. A Current Affair at 7pm. 7.30 and subsequent shows start on time. 7.30 sharp – not 7.35, not even 7.32 (yes, I know – the lateness issue again – my pet hate!). Why one hour news if half hour is failing? Well it would give them more time to cover local news, go into more detail with sport and fit in so called exclusive stories without detracting from the rest of the days’ news. Furthermore, in regional northern NSW, NBN (9′ affiliate) leads all other networks convincingly from 6pm – 7.30pm with one hour news and ACA at 7pm. And you’d be surprised how many people watch both Today Tonight and A Current Affair when they are on at different times (even though most stories are the same or similar).
And finally, apart from making sure all their shows start exactly on time, 9 would need what I call a “time slot” guarantee” where if a show is scheduled in a certain time slot, it remains there for say 12 weeks before changing. Also they’d need to make sure that once the deadline has passed for printed TV guides, they do not change their schedule at all. Most people still get their TV information from printed guides, and I’d have to admit, despite already knowing what is happening in the TV guide from the Yahoo TV guide, my Foxtel EPG and TV Tonight, I still flick through the printed guide from the Sunday paper and still have that by the side of the lounge to refer to each night. Yes, its quick and easy when you’re not at a computer.