Michael Bodey, The Australian, June 21, 2007
A STRONG ratings tussle looks set to emerge in the second half of the television year with Nine and Seven scheduling program launches for media and advertisers to showcase their wares.
While Seven has a strong 2007 ratings lead, questions will be raised if Kerry Stokes's network loses momentum in July. Seven has won 15 of the 16 ratings weeks, yet Nine's resilience has been unexpected despite some embarrassing hiccups.
Seven's year-to-date network share is a mere two points more than Nine's, 29.4 per cent against 27.4 per cent, with Ten at 21.5 per cent, the ABC at 16.1 per cent and SBS at 5.6 per cent.
Nine is expected to aggressively program ahead of what it anticipates to be a fruitful slate of US product next year.
Nine's director of programming Michael Healy is particularly confident about legal drama Damages, starring Rose Byrne and Glenn Close, and a musical drama co-produced by Hugh Jackman, Viva Laughlin. Either may be programmed this year.
The Ten network traditionally works harder in the second half of the year, with Australian Idol and the AFL finals being strong platforms for its schedule. That platform will be boosted by the July return of Thank God You're Here, which averaged more than 1.7 million viewers last year.
"We've tracked well this year given how Seven has gone out with its top shows in the first half," says Ten's head of network programming David Mott. "I'm feeling very comfortable for the second half of the year."
Beyond Thank God and Idol, Mott expects big business from So You Think You Can Dance, America's Top Model, the movie Kenny (ahead of its series debut next year), the revamped Neighbours and Rove's series of shows from the US. Rove McManus was also a no-brainer to host Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
"I feel very confident that will be a break-out and we will look after that schedule-wise," Mott says. Indeed, if, as expected, that moves into Sunday 6.30pm, ahead of Idol and Rove, it could damage Nine and Seven.
Ten will also debut some US programs as they start their US season in September, with a racy comedy from Showtime, starring David Duchovny, one of the prime candidates.
"There's no decisions yet but it's fair to say you'll see one of them on air," Mott says. "Within 12 months to two years you're going to see one-third of all new shows running straight after their US programming."
At Seven, US dramas Bones, Criminal Minds, Las Vegas and Ghost Whisperer will be joined by one of the few recent hits from the past US season, Shark, but Seven's focus will be local.
Seven has been unwilling to divulge its line-up before Monday but it is known the network will bring back Border Security, The Force and Medical Emergency. The line-up will be bolstered by the launch of drama City Homicide, Australia's Best Backyards, Jamie Durie's first effort since jumping the fence from Nine, and factual series Surf Patrol. Oh, Kath & Kim will also debut its fourth season on Seven.
The ABC threatens to spoil the commercials with The Chaser team returning for an expected tilt at the election campaign in three months. Drought drama Rain Shadow also debuts, as does a four-part documentary on Captain James Cook.
SBS is just as prolific locally. Upcoming is its edgy drama Major Crime and another about an Aboriginal lawyer, The Circuit, as well as Great Australian Albums, Hot Spell and possibly Shaun Micallef's world news satire, Newstopia.