New Year’s Eve ratings rise above criticism for ABC

2014-01-03_0047The ABC has defended its broadcast of the New Year’s Eve fireworks, following a barrage of criticism from online, print media and radio.

The lengthy broadcast has attracted heated debate, much of it for technical flaws which left guests shouting, and some discussion over chemistry, politics and various talking points. Others defended the fresh approach, notably pre-recorded contributions by ABC personalities.

While acknowledging room to improve, ABC Director of Television Richard Finlayson says the ratings success of the event showed viewers voted with their remotes.

According to OzTAM the midnight event averaged 1.27m viewers, up slightly on Nine’s 2012 broadcast at 1.24m. But adding ABC News 24’s simulcast, the figure climbs to 1.37m. The 9pm Family Fireworks averaged 1.04m on two channels, higher than Nine’s 782,000 in 2012.

“Audience figures show that TV viewers preferred the ABC broadcast over the 2012 coverage on commercial television,” he said.

“I think this speaks to popularity of the surrounding family friendly content from our stars of ABC3 and ABC4Kids and our performance across all demographics underlines the broad appeal.

“Our approach was to create a national event, using a breadth of ABC talent, over four hours – rather than just cover the firework displays as has been the previous practice.

“Four hours of live TV is a huge undertaking. While there’s always things to review and improve, we think our team did a terrific job in celebrating an iconic Australian event.”

ABC isn’t the first broadcaster to have attracted criticism for such a flagship event. Previous New Year’s broadcasts, including on Nine, have also landed networks in the spotlight, as well as major sporting and music events such as the ARIA Awards on TEN in 2010.

However, ABC has signalled interest in more Event television this year and the feedback from social media and talkback radio has nonetheless instilled a few lessons about broad audiences sampling the broadcaster.

“Social media is full of a range of opinions, positive and negative. All feedback is useful and our ratings numbers are saying that Australians voted with their remotes in favour of the ABC coverage. We are thrilled to have reached a total national audience of 3.8 million with our New Year’s Eve coverage,” said Finlayson.


  1. Exactly David this was not just a twitter response. Many loyal ABC viewers like myself responded to the subpar broadcast via many means to express our views.
    I’m looking forward to an much improved broadcast next year on the ABC.

  2. So a bunch of Gen-ME brats on Twit prefer banal low-brow offerings from the Murdoch networks they’ve been conditioned to enjoy… Imagine my surprise.

    Ignore them ABC, it was your first attempt, naturally it will lack polish. Find your feet, you’ll be fine. Take heart from the fact that few complaints came from those over 35, who actually have attention spans and a sense of humour.

    • But Bazza why are you ignoring the opinions in print media and talkback radio, which are acknowledged in the story? ABC has stated it has had 140 phone calls, which is an indication its own audience has reacted. By all means defend the broadcast as others have, but to dismiss this as a few young ‘uns on social media is a complete misreading of audience debate. Twitter was merely the first response as it usually is.

  3. I don’t think many people get that this was not the ABC’s ‘coverage of New Year’s Eve’. It’s the ABC’s coverage of the City of Sydney’s festivities. The ABC picks the hosts but the City of Sydney books the cover bands, and, it would seem, apparently decides that the best place for a TV broadcast is right next to a speaker stack. If the ABC wants to do nore event broadcasting, I hope it learns to stand up for its requirements.

  4. ….and, during the telecast, there was some lampooning of our current political “leaders”. How dare the ABC – this must be stamped out!! The exclusive rights to future NYE celebrations must be given to News Corp!

  5. Fairdinkum, it’s pretty clear Finlayson is using ratings data to counter this ridiculous criticism from the mob. With that in mind, NYE broadcasts are pretty mainstream & was always going to be used as a promotional vehicle for 2014 programming. What’s wrong with that?

    Pertinax, where do you get his meaning that “the audience [was] too dumb to appreciate [it]”. I think your obvious hatred of ABC is leading your OTT reaction. I’ve since watched it on iView & I don’t think they made one single mistake, & if anything, Finlayson shouldn’t have dignified this Twitter trolling with a response.

  6. The event, (in Sydney) are two 20 minute blocks of fireworks that people at home or out at parties will watch wherever they are on and who ever does them. The TV show is provide a few hours of entertainment in between for people watching TV.

    This is a typical response from the ABC, circle the wagons, refuse to concede they made any mistakes, and blame the audience for being too dumb to appreciate them.

    Richard Findlayson (Director of TV) says that the ABC staff did “a terrific job”. Mooney concede there were sound problems but then said it was just “happily stomped to death by folks sharpening knives on holiday”.

    It’s clear they had no idea how to stage a live event outside a studio and did no proper rehearsing. Apparently because only 140 bothered to waste time complaining means it was a great show as far as they were concerned.

  7. Next year they need to create a bit more variety throughout the evening. Utilise more of their personalities to host an hour each, doing something totally different from different locations around the harbour. It doesn’t need to be high budget, most parties aren’t, but it just needs to be a bit more fun than sitting on a sofa for four hours.

    I’m fairly confident that they’ll do a better job next time.

  8. The big difference between the ABC coverage and a Commercial network is the Ads. It’s a lot easier to do a 3-4 hour broadcast for the commercials, because they’re only really creating 2-3 hours worth of content. And if things are moving slowly they can throw to a break and get the momentum back, which is (I think) where the perception that the ABC broadcast was boring has come from.

    I love Laurence Mooney and want more of him on my Telly 😉

  9. ruan1980: the commercial networks are right. If ABC’s broadcast is anything to go by, then 4hrs of live broadcast is definitely not ideal or necessary.

  10. For a network that is not supposed to be interested in ratings I find these comments hard to stomach. The fact of the matter is that except for the fireworks the content was rubbish and the entertainment factor nil. Many people like to stay home to watch the Sydney NYE so there will always be a huge captive audience. If Finlayson thinks this content was OK he is delusional and is really only trying to justify the decision making of the production team. The ABC needs people with higher expectations than the present Director of TV so it can be restored to its former glory.

  11. The ratings may have been high but it doesn’t mean people watched it, I’m sure it would have been background noise or muted video in many households having gatherings until fireworks commenced.

  12. carolemorrissey

    I think with any of these events, you can’t please everybody. Some people will love it, others will hate it. And not everyone will like the whole thing because they are trying to entertain a wide range of people. That’s why I taped it, so I could fast forward the boring bits that don’t interest me.

  13. The ABC should be applauded for devoting four hours of live primetime airtime to this event. No commercial network has ever done it. When people ramble on about how much better the broadcast was on Nine or Ten, what are they talking about? They (the commercial networks) never did four hours of live broadcasting for New Year’s Eve because it falls in the non ratings period and they obviously don’t think their audiences or want it. Thank god we have a public broadcaster committed to broadcasting events like this and respectful of their audiences.

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