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Seven Network wins ratings battle

For first time, Aussie channel beats rival Nine

SYDNEY — After two years of coming within a whisker of victory, the Seven Network has stolen the 2007 Aussie ratings crown from the Nine Network, ending Nine’s two-decade-long reign.

Nine was so cocky that its slogan for years has been “Still the One,” which may now require a rethink, particularly as Seven’s victory was so emphatic. Seven won 38 out of the 40 official ratings weeks and beat Nine across all timeslots; the once-victorious web’s only wins came in sports, with the ever-reliable cricket and rugby league giving Nine some small comfort.

For Seven, however, the good news was plentiful: nine out of 10 of the top-rated Aussie series, half of all top-rated international skeins and a growth in aud share from 35.7% to 37.5% — its third annual lift in a row.

“Dancing With the Stars” continued to shine for the web, although it was announced recently that popular host Darryl Somers would be leaving after seven outings.

Seven even achieved success in drama — unusual Down Under — with “City Homicide.”

Amid the victory, the web has announced new local series for 2008 including family drama “Packed to the Rafters,” starring Rebecca Gibney and Erik Thomson as a couple on the brink of becoming empty-nesters.

Seven also announced this week that it will launch “Bush Doctors,” about the rural medical service, from the team behind its docu hit “Border Security”; and a local version of “Battle of the Choirs,” a hit for the Beeb from the team behind “Dancing With the Stars.”

Also ending with a good year was pubcaster the ABC. It was the only other web that increased its share, up to 16.6% from 15.4% last year, and it drew some commercial-sized auds with satirical skein “The Chaser’s War on Everything” and new laffer “Summer Heights High,” which had one of the top 10 ratings bows this year.

For Network Ten the results were mixed: While it failed to win its new target of the 18-49 market, it did achieve a record 35.4% share. What’s more, the web did win in the 18-39 demo, showing that its youth-skewed sked was working.

Programming topper David Mott said new shows — “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?,” “Life” and “Californication” — all quickly became winners in adults 18-49.

Web very aggressively applied the new day-and-date strategy for U.S. shows, which resonated with younger viewers.

To Nine’s credit it did not try to spin the result, instead avoiding all media requests and issuing a contrite statement from incoming topper David Gyngell.

“We are pleased to have 2007 behind us,” Gyngell said. “We’re building for 2008 and beyond.”

Gyngell is charged with turning the web around, but it is unlikely to be a speedy recovery. Highlights on next year’s sked include edgy new dramas “Underbelly” and “The Strip,” with which Nine will seek to shake off its reputation as the gray network. Web also has “Sea Patrol,” which was one of the year’s biggest new hits.

But, with Seven’s new-found momentum, turning Nine around in 12 months is going to be a very difficult task.

Top-Rated Australian Series

1. “Kath & Kim”      Seven

2. “Thank God You’re Here”     Ten

3. “The Force”      Seven

4. “Border Security”      Seven

5. “Dancing With the Stars”     (series 6) Seven

6. “Dancing With the Stars” (series 7)     Seven

7. “RSPCA Animal Rescue”     Seven

8. “Medical Emergency”     Seven

9. “It Takes Two”      Seven

10. “City Homicide”      Seven

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