We sure miss those Friends
We just don’t flock to the screen the way we used to in years gone by. There are now so many competing interests: Pay-TV, DVD, internet, (illegal) downloads and gaming. Plus there is widespread cynicism at both the offerings and the programming habits of our major networks.
But I was reminded just how dramatically audiences have fallen when I stumbled across some old newspaper clippings this week that detailed the weekly Top 20 shows in Melbourne in June 1999.
Only eight years ago top rating shows like Friends soared with huge audiences of 945,000. Yes that’s 945,000 for one show, one night in one city. That’s the sort of figure you’d get for a major sporting event these days. In fact the ARIAs got about that audience this week -nationally.
Just compare these two lists of audiences and you’ll see what I mean:
Melbourne May 30 – June 5 1999
1. Friends Nine 945,000
2. Jesse Nine 792,000
3. Blue Heelers Seven 702,000
4. News Nine 635,000
5. ER Nine 580,000
6. A Current Affair Nine 569,000
7. News (Sun) Nine 566,000
8. Better Homes and Gardens Seven 556,000
9. News (Sat) Nine 552,000
10. Cricket (Aus vs WI) Nine 540,000
11. News (Sat) Seven 531,000
12. Home Improvement Seven 530,000
13. Good Medicine Nine 528,000
14. Our House Nine 526,000
15. Water Rats Nine 519,000
16. Ally McBeal Seven 504,000
17. Dharma and Greg Seven 493,000
18. Funniest Home Videos Nine 490,000
19. The Footy Show Nine 487,000
20. 3rd Rock from the Sun Seven 484,000
Melbourne Oct 21 – 27 2007
1. Border Security Seven 552,000
2. Spicks And Specks ABC 515,000
3. The Chaser’s War On Everything ABC 513,000
4. Summer Heights High ABC 501,000
5. The Force Seven 496,000
6. City Homicide Seven 495,000
7. Dancing With The Stars Seven 486,000
8. The Simpsons TEN 471,000
9. The Simpsons TEN 461,000
10. 60 Minutes Nine 459,000
11. Kath & Kim Seven 451,000
12. National Bingo Night Seven 446,000
12. So You Think You Can Dance TEN 446,000
14. House TEN 440,000
15. News (Sun) Nine 430,000
16. All Saints Seven 429,000
17. Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? TEN 424,000
18. Australian Idol TEN 420,000
19. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Nine 407,000
20. News ABC 396,000
20. Missing Persons Unit Nine 396,000
As you can see the #1 show in Melbourne last week (Border Security 552,000) only equaled the #9 show in June 1999 (Nine News). That’s some drop off!
The two lists also illustrate some other interesting trends:
- ABC and TEN have improved considerably. From 0 entries in 1999 to 5 entries for TEN and 4 for the ABC in 2007.
- Three of the entries in the 2007 list are repeats (Simpsons / Kath & Kim).
- A drama now considered a hit (City Homicide 419,000) would barely make the top 20 in 1999.
- Australian content rules in 2007 (17 entries over 13 in 1999).
- Comedy remains as popular than ever (7 entries in both lists). Despite some failed sketch shows this year networks should keep investing in comedy production if they want a breakout hit.
- News and current affairs have suffered a huge loss of faith, with a shift to observational series.
- Scripted drama / comedy drops from 9 in 1999 to 7 in 2007 (although gag writers for ABC shows level pegs the lists).
- We love to sing and dance in 2007. Three entries in 2007 plus one music trivia show, none in 1999.
While it should be pointed out the ratings system changed with the introduction of OzTam in 2001 there is no denying, we need a lot more convincing before sitting down at the box these days.
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