ABC trumpets Aussie flicks, but moves the goalposts.

The Oyster Farmer was seen by "more than 1.3 million people" on TV claims the ABC, but its overnight metro ratings were 899,000.

Creative Press Releases are usually the domain of commercial television networks, but the ABC has today issued a surprisingly enthusiastic Release on the success of their Australian movie season over summer.

While we all applaud the move to showcase quality arthouse films, it isn’t license to blur the numbers.

According to the ABC, “Over four Sunday nights the season of features reached more than three million Australians. That is, more than three million Australians watched at least one of the four films. Across the four weeks the total national audience for the four films was close to 3.8 million people.”

It claims the following audience figures for the films:

The Oyster Farmer: “more than 1.3 million people.”
The Proposition: “close to 900,000”
Lucky Miles / Romulus, My Father: “close to 800,000”

However the overnight, 5 city metro, average figures were:

The Oyster Farmer: 899,000
The Proposition: 577,000
Lucky Miles: 519,000
Romulus, My Father: 513,000

ABC’s Press Release didn’t indicate if it was factoring in regional audiences and timeshifted figures too.

Kim Dalton, Director of ABC TV, said: “These films are strong, well made and diverse examples of the depth of talent of Australian feature filmmakers. However, when released theatrically their box office performance can at best be described as modest, and as a result they were seen by only a small number of Australians. By providing a Sunday night prime-time slot ABC TV has been able to bring these Australian films to a new and greatly expanded audience.”

Admittedly ABC’s investment in Samson and Delilah meant we all got to see the award-winning film in a fast cinema-to-TV turnaround -but only 646,000 watched it last November.

It doesn’t quite fit with the ABC’s claims that “Australians do like Australian feature films. It’s just that in general they prefer to watch them on television rather than going to the cinema.”

Nine also slated Aussie flicks on Saturday nights over summer, as it has done for the last few years. Doing so gets them juicy local quota points, none of which are exclusive to shows aired in the ratings season. December Boys netted Nine an unspectacular 299,000.

While it’s gallant that an ABC audience responds to independent filmmaking more than Nine’s, there is surely still a lot of ground to make up before we should start getting excited about it?

8 Responses

  1. My understanding is that due to metro spill some sample households are included in both metro and regional ratings and therefore it is always inaccurate to include both combined. They can very well be reported together as separate figures.

    The real question is that why it’s all very well that Australian films resonate with the ABC audience, what kind of Australian films are going to resonate with the cinema going audience in a big way?

  2. If he’s saying more people saw those films than those who saw them in their cinema releases, of course as they were free, but if he’s also saying maybe some Aus films would fare better as TV movies, he’s also correct. Nine also
    did a run of Aus film screenings over summer.

  3. I think the relevant point here is that the article was written looking back at a period of time for which full ratings were now available.

    For what reason should a channel restrict themselves to overnight ratings to undersell their popularity when in fact they have accurate ratings that prove a higher number did in fact enjoy their season of films?

    Overnight ratings are used due to the quick turning nature of modern TV but in this case more information was available and therefore it was used. I think this is helpful and accurate and as regional viewers seem more willing to give Aussie films ‘a go’ I think it was only right of the ABC to represent this important sector of their viewers in the press release.

  4. I don’t see why you think there was any goalpost moving, the ABC clearly said “Across the four weeks the total national audience for the four films was close to 3.8 million people.”. It baffles me why you would then try to use the 5 city metro overnights to prove the figures wrong. How about you use the same figures?
    across 4 weeks

    1. The ratings measure has always been the 5 city metro average. Sometimes networks take it a step further by including regional audiences (Nine said there were 4.7m for the Opening Ceremony), and now there is timeshifted to contend with. The practice is always to notate the measure in the Release, none of which was done by the ABC here. To suggest Oyster Farmer got more than 1.3m viewers is to suggest it is in the same league as Cougar Town and Good Wife etc. It wasn’t.

      I’ve reported city + regionals on occasions before (ie Masterchef finale) and clarified the formula. Here it would distort comparisons. It’s not a lie by ABC, nor have I said it was. But it does require full disclosure.

  5. Gee, I wish Kim Dalton was as passionate about the quality of the television drama being commissioned on his watch – lame, tame, same same, and they are the good ones. The rest are merely unwatchable. Most Australian feature films are really telemovies that belong on the national broadcaster so they can be seen by the general public who has already paid for them once – why should they be expected to pay to see them in the cinema as well?

  6. i dont see an issue here – the overnight, 5 city metro figures are of course inaccurate…the figures the ABC are suing are the full, complete numbers. that’s the trouble with ratings, they are so very inaccurate!

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