Ratings run rolls on, despite Seven's Olympian effort

SYDNEY — Despite reaping stellar ratings in the weeks during and around the Atlanta Olympics, Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network failed to wrestle the annual ratings prize away from Kerry Packer’s Nine Network. On Tuesday, Nine was declared the winner of Nielsen’s annual ratings survey for the 16th year running.

But the campaign by Kerry Stokes and Seven managing director Gary Rice to cut costs, increase margins and throw more resources on-screen reaped a 0.6% increase in Seven’s share of the primetime audience to 30.4%. Nine, which won 36 weeks against just six weeks for Seven, dipped by 0.4% to 31.9%.

Seven’s black spots during the year included a short-lived 5 p.m. news service, declining ratings for its 6 p.m. news hour owing to the dumping of the popular host of “Wheel of Fortune” at 5:30 p.m., and a 48-hour strike by staff last week over news that 119 jobs are to be axed by Christmas.

The only other web to increase its viewership was pubcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (which is presently battling against deep federal budget cuts), which rose 0.3% to 14.2% in contrast to multicultural pubcaster the Special Broadcasting Service, which dipped 0.1% to 2.8%.

Despite tapping TV veteran Ross Plapp to become its “Mr. Fix-it” program director, CanWest-backed Network Ten remained a distant third in the commercial ratings race, falling 0.4% to 20.7%.

Seven claimed the most popular regular program of the year with Southern Star’s rural cop actioner “Blue Heelers,” while Nine’s “ER” was the only Hollywood import to make it into the annual top 10 at seventh spot.

Seven and Ten aired all but one of the most popular movies of the year, headed by “Jurassic Park” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” on Seven, while Nine’s sole movie prize went to “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” the sixth-most-popular movie of the year.

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