Nine extends ratings dominance

Territory report: Australia

SYDNEY — Australia’s terrestrial Nine network has increased its dominance this year, buoyed by a mix of local hits including reality show “The Block” and lifestyle series “D.I.Y Rescue” and U.S. imports “CSI: Miami” and “Without a Trace.”

Nine topped the ratings in all 28 weeks surveyed through early September, while rival Ten was No. 1 in its core 16-39 demo.

Seven is in transition, striving to pick up younger viewers while not shedding older auds.

At Mipcom and beyond, all three webs are hunting for event programming and hot reality/

lifestyle formats that fall outside their output deals with the Hollywood studios and U.S. webs.

“We’re searching for shows that are going to cut through and define our network,” says David Mott, Ten’s general manager, citing its recent acquisition of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Big Brother” (it’s ordered a fourth season for 2004) and “Australian Idol.”

Tim Worner, Seven’s director of programming, says he’s looking for reality shows. But, he notes, “It’s a very hard area to track because they keep popping up like mushrooms after rain and you don’t know which paddock to look in.”

Worner says Seven is less interested in older-skewing British dramas as his web rejigs its sked and marketing to boost viewers in the 25-54 demo, especially 25-39.

“If we can finish the year with a younger profile and roughly the same total audience, we will have done reasonably well,” Worner says. Among shows that appeal are “Alias,” “24,” “JAG” and local series “The Great Outdoors.”

The webs won’t reveal how much they spend on U.S. and other international (mostly British) programming, but Deutsche Bank estimates Seven is forking $A110 million ($71.5 million) this year, vs. Nine’s $68 million and Ten’s $62 million.

“Our budget for acquisitions is a bit higher than last year, reflecting the unprecedented competition between Australian commercial networks and the need to retain our edge,” Mott says.

Michael Healy, Nine’s programming director, says the amount his net pays varies according to the volume of product from output deals with Warner Bros., DreamWorks and CBS.

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