Once again, the rumour has arisen suggesting that Ten are looking to possibly extend their nightly 5pm news to 90 minutes on weekdays in attempt to help lift Ten’s ratings shares early in the evening. Speculation has arisen that Sports Tonight is being considered for the 6.30pm weekday timeslot, with the 7PM Project to remain as is.
From 6pm to 7pm, Seven and Nine dominate that hour with their news and current affairs programming. The strength of this hour alone can often help Seven edge over Nine in ratings for the night even if subsequent programming has not performed so well. Ten have for many years chosen to provide alternative viewing with the Simpsons at 6pm, and Neighbours at 6.30pm but neither rate well in overall people. Recent reports have raised concern over declining ratings for Neighbours, suggesting, that if it wasn’t for the shows’ international success, it could not survive on its Australian ratings alone.
The Simpsons and Neighbours both rate well in Ten’s target 16-39 demographic, yet the network languishes in third place on most week nights even though Masterchef is averaging around two million viewers. Furthermore, strong shares from Seven’s and Nine’s secondary channels 7TWO and GO further solidify ratings wins for the two over Ten.
Even though the 7PM Project now rates almost as well as Home and Away on Seven and endless Two and a Half Men repeats on Nine, and shows at 8.30pm on Ten rate over a million (Good News Week now regularly passes the million mark, NCIS repeats perform very well, Lie to Me grows each week, for example), without strong 6pm-7pm ratings, Ten remains third most weeknights.
Just about everyone who writes about TV, participates in TV forums or simply follows the ratings has an opinion on what Ten should do to overcome low ratings from 6pm-7pm. Ten News at 5pm easily outrates the shows on Seven and Nine at that time, but come 6pm, half the viewers are gone – mostly for even more news on one of the other two channels.
Ideas for how Ten can overcome the problem include extending the news to 6.30, moving the 7pm Project to 6.30pm (under a different name), starting Ten news at 5.30pm with the aim of catching more viewers home from work, having two new bulletins – one at 5pm, another at either 6pm or 6.30, moving Neighbours to 6pm, even putting on Masterchef earlier – although that would not be a solution for the whole year anyway.
Apart from having the Simpsons at 6pm, Ten have tried other shows there like Friends and Taken Out, both rated worse than the Simpsons.
There is no question that Ten need to address this hour if they are to regularly win nights over Seven and Nine, but, with Ten aiming more for key demographic wins, joining the Seven and Nine ratings rat race is most likely not what they are looking for. Even so, higher ratings at any time will always help the network bring in the money from advertisers.
Following are some of the ideas for what Ten could try, based on moving the News and other shows around it, and what the impact may be. This is in no particular order, and based entirely on opinion only.
1. Ninety minute news from 5pm.
The Ninety minute news option would see the Simpsons gone from 6pm, with Ten’s nightly news running for an hour and a half. Unless Ten were to further split down the news so that from 6pm, it would cover in depth or more localised news, the likely effect of a longer news bulletin is that ratings past 6pm would not be any better than they are for the Simpsons, not to mention the loss of younger viewers who would normally tune in for the Simpsons.
As for the Sports Tonight at 6.30 idea, the show would struggle. On ONE, it does not rate well. On Ten on the weekends – when most sport is played – Sports Tonight still is not a high rater.
2. Move the news to 5.30pm, but keep at 60 minutes long.
Starting Ten’s news at 5.30 instead of 5 would mean more people are home to see the start of the news, and therefore lift ratings. Back in the days of 10HD, you could see the news time shifted half an hour at 5.30 – a time I personally found more practical to watch their news over 5pm.
It should also mean that viewers are more likely to stick around past 6pm rather than going over to Seven or Nine’s news. The half hour of news hanging over into the 6pm hour would lift ratings and thus nightly shares.
With news at 5.30, there are a few options as what to do with the shows around it. One idea would be to put Neighbours at 5pm, following Bold and the Beautiful which currently airs at 4.30 (which incidentally, rates better than the 4.30 news services on Seven and Nine). Alternatively, leave Neighbours at 6.30 and put the Simpsons at 5.
3. Move the news to 5.30pm and extend to 90 minutes.
This option would see Ten News run from 5.30 to 7pm, and could give Today Tonight and A Current Affair a run for their money. 90 minute news could allow more in depth reporting, as well as coverage of more current affair stories in its last half hour. Sport could be incorporated at varying times in the bulletin, perhaps culminating in a 10-15 minute summary near the end.
With the news finishing at 7pm, it would lead straight into the 7PM Project. Under this option, Neighbours moves to 5pm, and Simpsons is out.
4. Move the news to 6pm, keep one hour long.
Moving Ten’s news to 6pm would mean all three commercial channels have news on at the same time. The ratings would effectively split over the three, with the one perceived as the best by the audience ultimately winning. The obvious benefit to Ten would be a ratings boost at that time of night, with Seven and Nine losing some viewers to Ten.
If Ten news moved to 6pm with the same format they do for 5pm, and assuming they do not start getting caught up in all the so-called exclusive in depth stories that Seven and Nine do which are sometimes best suited to their current affairs shows then Ten news would be a good alternative at that time.
The drawback for this option, and any other than involve the news filling the 6pm to 7pm hour on Ten is that there is a lack of options for viewers not interested in the news. But with the advent of digital channels, digital take up on the rise, and Ten’s impending launch of a third channel in 2011, alternative viewing can easily be provided on the new channel which is most likley to be general entertainment based.
A 6pm news start for Ten would mean programming beforehand might look like 4.30 Simpsons, 5.00 Bold and the Beautiful, 5.30 Neighbours.
5. Two hour news from 5pm – 7pm
A two hour news program would have to be run a bit like Sunrise or Today where top stories are covered on the half hour, with in depth coverage in between. It is not likely that many viewers would stick around for the full two hours, so the net effect would prove no benefit in ratings unless the show was broken down into half hour segments – like national news at 5pm, sports after 5.30, local news at 6pm and in depth or current affairs coverage from 6.30pm.
But with the 7PM Project following, that’s would be two and a half hours of news style content. And then there is the question of what to do with Neighbours – it would have to be somewhere!
6. News at 5pm , news at 6.30pm.
The last option I’ll list is the idea of a news bulletin at 5pm of either half an hour or an hour, with a second half hour news at 6.30pm. The idea is not as stupid as it sounds – it is exactly what Nine and Seven do by having 4.30 and 6pm news, but time shifted half an hour. In both cases, the 4.30 news is national, and rates poorly compared to the 5pm news on Ten – which is localised, while their 6pm bulletins rate very well.
For this idea to work for Ten, and to rate well for them, both news bulletins should be localised, with the 6.30 news providing more in depth coverage, again leading into the 7PM Project. News at 6.30 would capture a new set of viewers who may not have been able to see the news earlier, or would prefer to see Ten’s version of the news over the public affairs programs on Seven and Nine.
Neighbours then would sit at either 5.30 or 6pm.
7. Should the 7PM Project move to 6.30?
In its 7PM timeslot, the 7PM Project has built an audience that is comparable to shows on at the same time on Seven and Nine. The 7PM Project – although on at a different time – often outrates Nine’s A Current Affair – which is never does as well as Seven’s Today Tonight. Having the 7PM Project on at 6.30 (under a different name) should maintain the figures it does at 7pm, and possibly improve, thereby helping to lift Ten’s shares for the night.
Then Ten would have a new problem at 7pm. An idea of the 6.30pm version of the 7PM Project going for one hour to finish at 7.30 would probably fail – half an hour is plenty for the show, and keeps it running at a comfortable pace. In summer, Ten tried running the 7PM Project for one hour – ratings remained low at the time.
There are many other possibilities as to what Ten might do, including launching new shows to build and fill ratings voids.
Out of all the options above, I would suggest that moving Ten news to 6pm would be the most beneficial in ratings. Leave 7PM Project alone at 7pm, and move Neighbours to 5.30pm, with perhaps the Bold and the Beautiful preceding at 5pm.
If Ten were to make this move, it should be done in conjunction with the launch of their new channel in 2011 so that alternative viewing can be easily provided from 6pm for those not interested in the news. That could include the Simpsons and other sitcoms in those timeslots.
The combination of 6pm news rating as well as 5pm currently does and a third general entertainment channel drawing shares similar to well established channels 7TWO and GO would make Ten more competitive against the Seven and Nine networks and see them start winning ratings nights and indeed weeks in overall audience.
Furthermore, should the third channel also aim more to younger demographics, some of the shine will be taken from Nine’s GO – although GO lately seems to be moving more and more away from being the youth channel to more of a general entertainment channel like 7TWO.