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Ten overtakes Seven in battle for auds

Nine net nabs top spot as stalwart drops

SYDNEY — The long-established order of Australian TV has been dismantled and the three commercial networks are battling for auds, according to the first two surveys of 2002.

For a decade, Kerry Packer’s Nine web was the clear market leader — ahead of Kerry Stokes’ Seven and CanWest’s Ten, which targets the 16-39 demo and was way behind in third.

Things began to change last year and this March ratings agency OzTAM wrapped its first survey with Nine a fraction ahead of Seven — 28.3% compared to 28.1%. Ten reached 23% of viewers.

Fast-forward to survey two, taken between March 10 to April 20: Nine leaped to 30.3% and Seven dropped to 24.9%, just beating Ten’s 24.8%.

But in the last three weeks, Ten has nabbed second place thanks to a boffo start for series two of Southern Star Endemol’s reality skein “Big Brother,” and sitcoms “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Becker.”

Ten programmer David Mott told Variety, “It’s the best result in 10 years — the last time we performed this well was during the 1994 Commonwealth Games. We’re seeing some benefits in (advertising) revenue share.”

Is the shift indicative of a chase for broader auds by Ten? “We will never abandon 16 to 39, that is absolutely our focus,” says Mott. “But we endeavour to grow 25 to 40, and that’s what we’ve been able to achieve with programs like ‘Law and Order.’ ”

Web’s general manager of sales Grant Blackley confirmed Ten has achieved double-digit growth from its last reported share of total advertising revenue, which was 26%.

Meanwhile, Seven is hurting at the very time it should be benefiting from the finales of reality skeins “The Mole,” “Popstars” and “Temptation Island.”

“This year has seen extraordinary volatility,” says Seven’s director of corporate development, Simon Francis.

He makes the excuse that the surveys have been punctuated by many major events including the Winter Olympic Games (aired on Seven), the Oscars (on Nine), the Queen Mother’s funeral (on Nine and pubcaster ABC), the “Big Brother” preem (on 10) and all four movies in the “Star Wars” franchise (on Nine).

Seven programmer Chris O’Mara says Ten has gone out early in the year with its best programming.

Francis claims Seven is spreading its good content evenly over the year. He says the programming department had identified weak spots in the schedule and “the year will pan out a lot closer than the past few weeks.”