Territory report: Australia

Oz private webs in tighter race

SYDNEY — Oz network chiefs have been under siege on the domestic front after the Sydney Olympic Games in September 2000, the introduction Jan. 1 of a new ratings system and the slowdown of the ad market — convergence U.S. style is far from their minds.

The three commercial nets — Seven, Nine and Ten — compete with two pubcasters, ABC and SBS, and a slowly growing pay TV sector operated by three carriers, Optus, Austar and Foxtel.

Nine was for a decade Oz’s undisputed ratings king but a new ratings service provided by ATR Australia for OzTAM, a company jointly owned by the commercial webs, has revealed a flatter aud-share landscape.

Now Seven and Nine compete weekly for dominance; Seven says that despite the advertising downturn, it has increased its market share.

CanWest’s Ten, which programs for the 16-39 demographic, emerged as a serious competitor in all demos in June and July with its telecast of Southern Star Endemol’s “Big Brother.” The reality skein provided Ten a buffer for the ad slowdown and will return in 2002.

Southern Star’s relationship with Ten has also borne fruit in the drama department: The web has commissioned a second series of “The Secret Life of Us,” co-funded by the U.K.’s Channel 4.

Seven has ramped up development of reality and drama, but it just lost decades-old programming lynchpin, Australian Rules Football, to nets Ten and Nine and Foxtel.

Seven programmer Chris O’Mara is upbeat: “Nine has increased costs to look forward to and Seven is free to do a lot of other things.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., all the private networks decided not to attend the Mipcom market this year.

TV homes:7.3 million

Cable homes:1.1 million

Satellite homes:300,000

Local programming:55% (primetime quota)

Top show:“ER” on Nine Network

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