So does the ABC care about ratings or not?

Yesterday the ABC got into the Ratings Press Release game, with just as much spin as their commercial counterparts.

This is disappointing.

The ABC has traditionally taken the view that it isn’t driven by ratings, yet it is happy to remind media when it scores well with shows such as Gruen Nation and Yes We Canberra!

Perhaps it’s a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Some may think the network would be remiss not to document its ratings results for 2010.

But if we’re going to go there, then why are we moving the goalposts just as much as the commercials have?

ABC’s issued Ratings data for Weeks 1 – 48. That includes summer and Easter non-ratings. Either it should stick to survey ratings and play with the big guys, or it should be transparent and wait until the end of Week 52.

But including summer no doubt helps ABC, when commercial networks have suspended their best stuff.

Based on those weeks, ABC says it has increased its total prime-time average audience by 4%.

It notes its top performers on ABC1 were select episodes of Gruen Nation (1.7m), Spicks and Specks (1.6m), Yes We Canberra! (1.6m), Doc Martin (1.6m), The Gruen Transfer (1.5m), Midsomer Murders (1.5m) and New Tricks (1.3m). It neglects to average episodes as a series total (Seven for instance says Spicks and Specks actually averages 1.19m -a mighty big difference).

Top shows on ABC2 were select episodes of The Gruen Transfer (311,000), Spicks and Specks (276,000), Gruen Nation (248,000), Movie: The Italian Job (242,000), Yes We Canberra! (241,000), The Graham Norton Show (234,000), and Dirty Jobs (229,000).

ABC3, which turns one on Saturday, is the number one daytime channel (6am-6pm) among 5-12 year olds across all FTA and Subscription TV. The share for that audience has lifted from 16.1% in its first three weeks to 22.1%. In defence of the channel, it is frequently forgotten that its ratings share if based on 6pm-midnight, yet it ends transmission at 9pm. ABC notes Dance Academy, Prank Patrol, CJ The DJ, Good Game: SP, Dead Gorgeous, and My Place amongst its hits, but no data was supplied.

Data for ABC News 24 was only supplied as Reach (audience who sampled a show) as 1.5m viewers across a week.

However one of the continued success stories for ABC is iView.

Average monthly unique browsers this year were 588,000 (235,000 last year) and visits have increased from 708,000 to 2 million. It peaked during August, no doubt thanks to the federal election, with 793,000 unique browsers, 2.4 million visits and 3.2 million plays of programs.

18 Comments:

  1. I think it’s sensible enough for the ABC to promote its performance. Its cultural critics like to paint the public broadcasters as elitist networks that air programming of interest to few. The fact is that while the ABC has a charter that links its function firmly to the public interest, it also needs to show – even if only to the political sceptics – that it can actually command an audience of some sort.

    To be honest, I think Ten’s ratings releases are far more cynical. Apart from using a completely non-standard but highly self-serving 6pm-10:30pm timeslot, its end-of-year release excluded the Comm Games, which were meant to be a huge marquee event in its broadcast calendar. I’ll bet they’re claiming the Games are irrelevant because they were a one-off, so advertisers won’t care about them. But their tune would have been very different if the Games hadn’t flopped big time…

    • As noted in an earlier story, Olympics and Comm Games are traditionally excluded by advertisers, so TEN was right to drop. That said, I am sure it was relieved to. Their other non-standard measures were disappointing however.

  2. The ABC should care about ratings.
    Government run organisations should be accountable for the money they spend, just like private organisations. That means making shows Australians want to watch.
    I don’t mean Big Brother and X Factor. But shows (Gruen, Spicks & Specks, Kath & Kim) etc they have broad appeal with the people who fund them: all Australians.

  3. @ Ronnie

    I’m under 55 (not even near it) and I will be watching Phryne Fisher. I also love Poirot, Marple (Miss Marple too), and the old style Sherlock Holmes (as well as the new one on the other channel). I hope they choose 8.30 pm Sunday if they are TV movies i.e. 90 minutes (Phryne Fisher).

    By the way I also watch SBS and the commercial networks too. Why limit your viewing habits to one or a few channels? I believe in watching what may interest me the most no matter which channel it might be on. I think it’s true of most people. But everyone has different taste and ideas on what pleases them.

    By the way I’ve loved the ABC all or nearly all of my life. I’ve watched both 4Corners and Doctor Who most of my life (not the only shows). One for at least 25 years and the latter over 30. As a hint I’m not much older than those figures. They introduced me to Jane Austen years later as well as other classic novelists (before and after 1995). I appreciate it. I hope it continues into the future.

    Because there are some people out there that like the past. By the way Doctor Who is my ultimate show because I also like the future too. As well as different places including other worlds. That said I hope Phryne Fisher will be well done and that I’ll love it. I also hope it might be appreciated in Britain. My point is there are people out there interested in such stories. Plus I hope they will continue to show them as well as make them. I for one look forward to it. A lot. I love those kind of stories. Including the books. It’ll give them a new audience.

  4. Well done ABC – you have shown the commercial FTA’s how to do good multi channel broadcasting. With ABC2 an excellent compliment to ABC1 and ABC3 / News 24 providing the right content for their respective audiences.

  5. The ABC generally didn’t seem to care about ratings, and boasted ratings successes, such as Gruen Transfer, Spicks & Specks etc. to indicate that they were producing quality or suitable programming for the public. But in recent times, I wonder if things have changed for the ABC, especially with the introduction of the watermark branding.

  6. I don’t have access to ABC 3 but they have some great offerings.What could be done though is moving Degrassi New Generation to 7pm weeknights to provide the young people of today a good alternative to Home and Away or 2.5 men.

  7. @Joe…ABC3 is on my foxtel EPG…only problem in WA is ABC2 and ABC3 are still on NSW time, which would be great if they showed live sport. At least I have iq to record stuff that is on before I get home…

  8. @ Joe, why get rid of ABC2? Seven and Nine both have three channels – all of which are fairly broad entertainment channels. I’m sure ABC can have two general channels + a kids channel + a news channel.

    What ABC should do – funding permitting – is keep ABC3 on until midnight, with more teen-relevant shows after 9pm.

  9. I disagree with merging ABC2 and 3, I wouldn’t allow my toddler to watch most ABC3 shows, but do think that ABC3 should show non-kid shows after the 9m mark

    Ronnie: My wife (mid 30s) reads Phyrne Fisher and other Kerry Greenwood books, the news of a tV series will make her day actually.

  10. I wonder if the ABC ratings vary from ratings to non-ratings? I suspect after all the sound and fury the answer is not that much – the ABC has a rusted on audience that watch whatever it offers up rather than commercial TV. It also skews 55+ as there is not much on to attract the younger demographic. I’ve heard they are doing the Phyrne Fisher series next year – who under 60 will watch it? Even the BBC did Shelock Holmes in a contemporary setting.

  11. This whole ratings reporting is an absolute joke. Why does the Oz tv market continue to report in this way? Get with the program and catch up with the way the market leaders aka the UK do things. There are 52 weeks of the year, there are ratings for 52 weeks of the year. So report on the 52 weeks of the year

  12. As a former staff employee of more than 40 years I can assure you that the ABC is not driven by ratings, but is very excited when a program is a success and gets good ratings. No Producer likes to make programs that no one wants to watch, but the ABC is different from the commercials in that it has a charter and guidelines and makes programs accordingly. For the ABC ratings are not the only measure of success, but it is a competitive world, and when something like the Gruen Transfer comes a long and gets good ratings why not boast about it.

  13. As ABC only needs 2 extra channels, having ABC 2 and ABC 3 (which isn’t even listed on Foxtel’s EPG) as separate channels is a waste of money. They should be merged – there’s nothing wrong with operating as a kids channel in the day, 7 days a week and a different channel in the evening.

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