Australia: ‘Stars’ are aligned in Seven surge

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

SYDNEY — This year has seen the Seven network mount its greatest ratings challenge to leader Nine.

Seven led early in the year courtesy of hot U.S. imports, “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” which drew some of the largest auds of the year. But Nine clawed back to the top of the ratings as those skeins wound down.

Seven is not just hunting for overseas buys to sustain its success. Topper David Leckie says he is looking to find both overseas and local content to fill the void left by “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” and cites local successes “Border Security” and “True Stories” as strong local performers.

Third outing of reality skein “Dancing With the Stars” also drew big auds for Seven in September with 1.9 million.

“We have 17 high-rated primetime programs we didn’t have 18 months ago and all of them are returning in 2006,” Leckie says.

Ten’s big U.S. import has been “House,” with auds of 1.7 million, while local reality skein “Big Brother” saw a peak aud of 2.3 million in its fifth outing.

“We are on the look out for new reality formats, but it has got to be big budget,” says Tim Clucas, Ten’s head of production and development. “To get the next ‘Idol’ or ‘Big Brother’ you have to kiss a lot of frogs.”

Ten also has slots in its sked for sitcoms. “The failure of the States in the area of sitcoms has changed the face of early evening television in Australia,” Clucas says.

Crime skeins are still delivering solid figures for the webs, but the genre isn’t as popular as in previous years.

Paybox Foxtel’s priority over the last 12 months has been boosting firstrun content. “The free-to-air networks are becoming less reliant on output deals, so there is more firstrun product out there,” says topper Brian Walsh.

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