Steady Nine retains Oz ratings crown

'Dancing' keeps in tune with auds

SYDNEY — Nine Network has won the right to use its “Still the One” promos for another year after it claimed victory in the closely fought 2006 ratings race, winning 20 weeks this year, half of all the survey weeks.

Seven Network has so far won nine weeks, while Ten Network, which targets a younger 16-39 demo, has won just one. The ratings year ends Dec. 2.

Nine has also edged past its fierce rival in total aud share with a 29.4% share, ahead of Seven with 27.8% and Ten with 22.4%.

But the victory does not tell the full story, with Nine — the ratings leader in Oz for nearly two decades — having a tough year, sacking 100 newsroom staff and seeing high-profile people, including long-time presenter Jana Wendt, depart.

All this and Seven nipping at its heels.

Touted as a possible ratings year winner, Seven leaped hare-like out of the survey gates in February with “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” leaving Nine to act the tortoise and creep to its eventual win. But Seven is far from glum.

“Seven is up in all key demographics for the second consecutive year, we lead in news and public affairs for the second consecutive year, we lead in breakfast television for the second consecutive year,” a Seven spokesperson says. “We are building audiences everywhere. Nine had a loss in audiences and in all key demographics for yet another year.”

Seven also points out that the year for Nine was boosted by the Commonwealth Games rights.

“Nine includes the Commonwealth Games in its analysis of the year, but strangely excluded the Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics when proclaiming victory in those ratings years,” the spokesperson says.

Nine topper Eddie McGuire put the win down to solid skeins.

“The depth and strength of Nine’s programming has been a major key to our success in 2006,” he says. “New Australian hits like ‘Missing Persons Unit’ and ‘What’s Good for You,’ both of which are in production for their second seasons, have already entrenched themselves as longterm brands.”

But they are solid performers rather than standouts. Nine has not found a breakout hit to match Seven’s local version of “Dancing With the Stars” or “Border Security,” both of which regularly break the magic two million audience mark.

But what “Nine” lacks in headline skeins, it makes up for in other areas.

The winning web’s sked is chock full of sports for the rest of the year, a guaranteed draw Down Under. Starting this month, it will broadcast every match of the Tri-Nations Rugby League Series, and next month, it will broadcast cricket’s England versus Australia matchup, the Ashes; March sees the World Swimming Championships in Melbourne.

What is clear this year, with Seven about to unleash its next edition of “Dancing,” is that even if the ratings year may have been won on paper, the competition will continue.

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