Ads get personal as Oz’s TV ratings rumble turns nasty

Hit skeins 'Housewives,' 'Lost' lead Seven to gloat

SYDNEY — As one of the most hotly contested ratings years nears its November conclusion, it has degenerated into a vitriolic spat among terrestrial webs Seven, Nine and Ten.

The first taunt came in Seven’s full-page ad in the Sydney Morning Herald in August, in which it flaunted its news ratings next to the Seven logo — a perky television set with arms and legs — jumping on rival web Nine’s news logo.

Seven’s news regularly outrated Nine’s with 1.3 million viewers/6.4% of the population while the usually dominant Nine hovers around 1.2 million or 5.9%.

Seven has a right to be a little smug. “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” are in the top five shows of the year, while celeb hoofing skein “Dancing With the Stars” has drawn auds of 2 million/9.9% of the population.

This has put Seven’s primetime share of viewers across all age brackets up 4.6% to 35.1%, while Nine’s is off 2.2% to 36.8% and Ten’s is down 2.3% to 28.2%.

After Seven’s gloating ad, Nine retaliated by concentrating on Seven’s weakest night, Sunday. A Sept. 12 press release points out that its own home-improvement skein “Backyard Blitz” had 1.7 million viewers, more than double Seven’s documentary “Behind the Scenes of Seven’s Dancing With the Stars.”

The following day a Seven spokesperson branded Nine “deluded” and said it must be “hard to program a network with your foot in your mouth.”

Just as the sparring appeared to be cooling off, Ten took out an ad in the Australian newspaper on Sept. 15 refuting claims that its “Australian Idol” was on the slide. The show is holding well in its target aud of 16-39-year-olds but has not reached the heights of the previous two “Idols.”

Next to a large lemon Ten has the headline: “What, a lemon?” The ad then points out that the first live edition of “Idol” drew a respectable aud of 1.31 million and adds, “If that’s a lemon, we’ll plant an orchard.”

This had the Seven spinners back at their computers.

“We find the histrionics of Nine and Ten amusing,” says a Seven release that all but swaggers off the page. “Today’s lemon ad can be added to that list. So allow us for one minute to let Nine and Ten suck on that lemon and consider the facts.” Seven lays out its aud growth and ends “Now, where’s that lemon?”

So far the webs have stuck to name-calling, but with only a few ratings weeks left, fisticuffs may be on the horizon.

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