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Whatever happened to US drama?

Ratings: Once unassailable drama imports,The Good Doctor & NCIS are struggling to grab 300,000 viewers.

They were once unassailable drama imports but lately The Good Doctor and NCIS are struggling to grab 300,000 in overnight metro viewers.

While they do lift in Timeshifted (and NCIS reruns are the mainstay of the leading multichannel) both are impacted by their lead-ins and the heavy competition over on Nine. Varying start times is also a factor, and in some cases confusion around new vs rerun episodes.

Married at First Sight again won its slot and topped the demos at 1.04m viewers.

That was well in front of 7:30 (610,000), The Amazing Race Australia (503,000), Foreign Correspondent (434,000),  Britain’s Got Talent (321,000) and Great Australian Railway Journeys (242,000).

Later Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire was up slightly on last week at 399,000 then Botched (354,000), The Good Doctor (308,000) and NCIS (282,000 / 202,000).

Nine network won Tuesday with 32.3% then Seven 23.8%, ABC 18.3%, 10 17.7% and SBS 7.8%.

Nine News was #1 at 1.05m / 1.01m. A Current Affair also won its slot at 752,000 then Hot Seat (452,000 / 281,000).

Seven News was best for Seven at 1.00m / 958,000. Home & Away (568,000) and The Chase (506,000 / 317,000) followed. The Resident was 178,000.

ABC News drew 700,000 for ABC. The Drum managed 207,000.

The Project pulled 439,000 / 282,000 for 10. 10 News First was 369,000 / 230,000.

On SBS it was SBS World News (188,000 / 151,000), Insight (150,000), Dateline (98,000), Mastermind (80,000), and The Feed (59,000).

Bluey led multichannels at 168,000.

Sunrise: 274,000
Today: 232,000
News Breakfast: 122,000 / 86,000

OzTAM Overnights: Tuesday 23 March 2021

41 Responses

  1. This has been a trend that has been happening for 15 years. NCIS rated 1.8m in the 5MC when it first moved to Tuesday from Sunday and dominated the 8:30pm timeslot. It is mostly just the internet. Firstly this give people other things to do with their time, streaming better TV without ads for a fee, but also social media, Spotify, games, news, YouTube and porn. The has caused a reduction in FTA audiences year on year over that period. Secondly targeted online advertisting has attracted advertisers away from TV, reducing reveneue.

    The networks themselves have contributed, fast-tracting shows with lots of production breaks makes it harder to maintain viewer habits. Multichannels that compete with Foxtel and their rivals, also compete against their main channels.

    In the US peak TV means there are 500+ scripted shows, but not 500+ top notch showrunners and the thousands of…

  2. I think there are lots of reasons.

    1. Streaming services – can watch so many other things at your own pace including some of the shows on TV like The Blacklist and New Amsterdam
    2. Do people really want to wait around until the reality show finally finishes past way past the scheduled time.
    3. Can watch on catch up as I do (generally at work when these shows are on and anyway its so much easier on catch up)
    4. Inconsistent scheduling. Prime example is The Goldbergs – on one week than off the next sometimes even showing a repeat even though they are never up to date with the US. I really would’ve liked to keep watching the series but it became too much of a hassle.

  3. Part of this problem is the networks constantly moving shows around – days, times, channels.

    The bigger part is that OzTAM is, and always has been, a flawed measurement tool. Sampling 0.11% of households does not give a true and accurate account of viewer behaviour. Panel members are recruited via random digital dialling and data collected via phone modem, meaning only those with household phones will be recruited. The only people I know that still have a home phone are my elderly parents!

  4. I still love the Good Doctor and last nights episode was excellent. Freddie just plays the role brilliantly and I find the other cast fantastic. The Resident is also a very good show.

  5. Loved NCIS but as some have already mentioned, I gave up a while ago when it just got to hard to try and follow viewing times and then to top it off trying to work out what is new and what is a repeat. This is not the only program I stopped watching for the exact same reason.

    Just a note on the US interruptions, there was a time where we would get a clear message at the end of a program to tell us no show for x number of weeks due to a break in the US. That fell away a long time ago and just contributed to losing track of a show.

    1. The commercial networks very rarely promote “next week’s episode” over the closing credits. In fact, programmes telecast between 3pm and 10pm are lucky if any closing credits are rolled.

  6. As season 8 of The Blacklist is now streaming on Netflix (and episodes are now available here within days of their American screening), it would seem 7’s ditched the show after 7 seasons.

  7. Some very interesting comments there. I do wonder how US viewers react to interruptions in a season and whether or not it discourages viewing for there to be planned season breaks.

    Certainly in this country I am another viewer who reaches for their remote at the merest hint of a drama being a repeat (or the classic ‘double episode’ where one is a premiere and the other a repeat.) I simply no longer have the time or the energy to view programs except as continuous seasons one episode per week or, if the show is exceptional, as a single one day binge.

    Perhaps programmers need to innovate a little more in their scheduling here (7.30pm does not always need to be reality) and perhaps communicate with viewers on why an interruption is occurring instead of just going silent. More communication and more information would make viewers informed. As a minimum EPGs need to have some…

  8. I watch NCIS and it was very confusing when it came back for a new season, and then it quickly disappeared. I looked online and saw that there was a break in the US schedule (no idea why). Having NCIS here FastTracked is great, except when the US goes on a break and we don’t get an explanation. (I’m sure there was a good reason why the US had a break). Not knowing when there is a new episode and when there is a repeat is a good way to lose viewers, I think.

  9. Some genius programmer came up with the idea of making 8:30 8:40, then another genius made 8:40 8:45 etc. Then (perhaps) the same genius copied the Americans with annoying popups and on-screen bright-colour banners, and all the other genius programmers copied that. Then, let’s run at least two promos in every break and cut the credits off programs and let’s double our commercial content per hour from what used to be allowed. Now, let’s not show when a program is a repeat or a ‘new’ episode. Now let’s provide some ‘catch-up’ things so viewers can watch this week’s or even next week’s episode on their device whenever. Let’s each introduce 5 or 6 other channels to compete with our main channel. Now let’s get into streaming with something like Seven Ten And Nine (Stan), etc., etc.

  10. I blame fast tracking. If channels don’t do it, people don’t watch. But when they do do it you get these on one week, off the next, annoying patterns so viewers tune out again. There is no winning there.
    The US schedule is annoying – there was one new episode of NCIS last month, two this month. Then you add in that TAR pushes back the start time. It is quite annoying to keep up with.

    1. Agree the US schedule is very annoying. I have watched This Is Us since the beginning and used to be annoyed that we could wait up to a year to watch a season but now we are watching it within a week of the US and I have almost forgotten the storyline because of COVID impacts and the erratic schedule. Hence why we are flocking to streaming services. So much more reliable. I used to watch a lot of US drama on FTA but This Is Us is the last one I have invested in, in years.

      1. Completely agree with This Is Us. Half the time I forget to check it is on – if it wasn’t that I was checking to see if SVU is on or a repeat I wouldn’t notice it when it does come back. Its just too hard to keep track of every show which is being shown at US pace. I love it & being caught up but all these breaks are frustrating. Then it makes it so hard to keep track of what is going on in a program like This Is Us. We didn’t know how fortunate we were getting it delayed until now.

  11. I usually just use my PVR to record shows. I do not have access to high bandwidth, so rely on TV. I also generally enjoy watching a series on a weekly basis (just not into bingeing).
    However the biggest issue, which has been around on Australia Free to air TV, especially the Commercial channels is the ‘devalued’ treatment of drama. Changing start times and yes the ‘fast-tracking’ of US shows is at the mercy of their hiatus and scheduling.
    I am still checking the TV schedule every week as the start time for one US show I am watching has a fluctuating start time. But generally I avoid committing to US dramas and choose carefully the Aussie dramas, but lately not many have appealed or progressed beyond 1 or 2 seasons.

  12. Channel 7 is also unreliable with their programming and mess with program start times – on Monday night The Rookie started forty minutes late over what was on their EPG so once again my recording was cut off, yet somehow last night The Good Doctor manages to start on time. Consistency is the key to building an audience – maybe breaking news bulletins need to go on a secondary channel or a dedicated news/current affairs channel or run a banner on the screen without interrupting scheduled programs.

      1. I watch more secondary channels than the “main”. If my show is interrupted by breaking news anywhere, most of which I don’t care about, I get very annoyed. A recent example was a recorded show on 9Life losing half an hour to a politician’s media conference.

  13. Problem with NCIS is 10. I watched it every week, Tuesday at 8:30. Then 10 moved it everywhere and it stopped being a must watch because you were never sure when it was on and whether it was a new episode. Once you lose the habit its gone forever.

  14. NCIS was terrific last night. It continues to bring fresh characters and tight storyline’s. I think the problem is a of lack consistent quality programming. There is a lot of padding on FTA between reality TV and repeats. The multi channels are a lost opportunity for the FTA networks. I agree with others comments about the ease of watching streaming tv. When I look at the TV guide and can’t see anything tempting across dozens of FTA and multi channels it’s easy to switch over to streaming services. FTA has a problem that they don’t seem to see – they don’t understand their audiences.

    1. I take it you are kidding. This episode was a bottle episode featuring 2 guest characters, one who had 2 lines and the other only a few more, one location, no stunts and the the cast split into 3 separate groups due to Covid restrictions. It was obviously given to a script editor or contract writer to knock out quickly. The plot was silly and the characters were written inconsistantly when compared to the 100s of other episodes they have appeared it. It’s poor attempt to make a point was muddled and failed.

  15. I think some of it is that networks are loose with time and I’m not prepared to watch the last 10 or 20 minutes of a reality program I have no interest in before a program starts.
    Then when a program doesn’t rate it’s continually bumped and you have to chase the schedule and even the station a program is on.
    Lastly, streaming services offer a better quality of choice in my opinion so I invest my viewing hours in drama there.

  16. I think streaming also gives me an ad free option. If you don’t want reality TV or sport on the night you get spoilers, but it’s not the same with drama so we tend to fall a bit behind with it in my household. We’ve discovered so many of the shows we watch are on streaming services (The Good Doctor, New Amsterdam, The Resident) so we prefer watching them over there where we don’t have to stop and fast-forward through ads, even if we’re watching them a little late. And they’re not always late. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Million Little Things were dropping on streaming before FTA. I’m still watching the dramas, but I’m not relying on FTA for them.

  17. Maybe if Channel 7 were still doing ‘Just hours after the US’ for The Good Doctor, I would be watching via 7Plus.

    They are currently 4 episodes behind (and would have been more if it was not for multiple 2 week breaks in the US) and I am now caught up to the US/Canada via other means.

  18. I remember NCIS taking a big hit against Packed to the Rafters and after a second season clash 10 started to air new episodes around the schedule (Sundays first) and it didn’t work but after a couple of years of NCIS on multiple nights etc 10 tried new EPs on Tuesdays again but it’s punch was well gone.
    But at least it’s the “Boss” now on Bold.

    1. US model is completely different and all programs start directly on time and you know the schedule months in advance usually. I think viewers react positively to that.

  19. With streaming platforms having gained traction in recent years, I think that the audience has gravitated to episodic dramas on streaming platforms as opposed to the formulaic procedural shows that once dominated FTA (where it didn’t matter if the audience missed an episode here and there as very little carried over to subsequent episodes).

    I’d be interested to see what the uptake is of procedural shows on streaming platforms (I think Grey’s Anatomy was ranked quite high), but I can’t imagine there being too many people clamoring for cop shows when there is so much else out there (and without being at the mercy of temperamental programmers).

  20. TV drama just does not work on FTA anymore, due to the saturation of reality TV, and the inconsistent time / day changes of programming.
    It’s easier just to wait for the show to appear on a streaming service and watch it commercial-free.

  21. Trouble is Free to Air channels wait weeks or even months to show programs. Fans have already seen shows on streaming services and read on social media what happens in each episode.
    When we do get to see a show they constantly move them around, not show for weeks, and take it off because it doesn’t rate! Viewers are no longer prepared to watch shows when there is no guarantee you will see entire series. Free to Air channels Ned to show US and UK dramas within hours of overseas broad act if they want to attract viewers!

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