How Long will the Negus Project Last?

Yes, I am well aware it is not in fact called the “Negus Project”, but that is in fact what many people will see it as. An attempt by Channel Ten to reinvent the way news is brought to you of an evening. More significantly, it is an attempt to make lightning strike twice after the relative success of the 7pm Project.

As any average new show starting out in Australia, it was met with considerable derision when 7pm first premiered. And why not? It was easy enough to criticise virtually any aspect of the show; Dave Hughes is a comedian, not a newsreader/commentator (and not even a funny one at that), Charlie Pickering taps his pen on the desk too much, Carrie Bickmore is annoying, etc.

Then there were the inevitable changes as it was finding its feet, ie. the focus on fewer stories to allow more room for banter to fly, the apparent removal of James Mathieson and Ruby Rose (who were promoted as being core team members, but rarely made consecutive visits to the show- even once-a-month visits for Rose became rare).

This all led to viewer confusion, as well as an increased amount of target to level potshots at. Ratings took a nosedive rather quickly, with many shrugging it off as a confused mix of news and comedy… And if people wanted “comedy” they would turn to Two and a Half Men on Channel Nine, and if they wanted serious news they could turn to ABC News. Surely the whole gamut had been covered- there was no room for any newcomers.

But seemingly against the odds, it made a resurgence. Many people, even if they disliked the format, gained respect for Channel Ten for sticking with it, despite increasingly dire ratings. Here is a look at its first 17 weeks graphically.

As you can see, there was not much improvement at all, with its lowest weekly average coming in at 613,200. Yet the format was consistently tweaked in minor ways, including Charlie Pickering’s hair transformation which seemed to symbolise a more serious skew.

Now, in the week before ratings begins, its figures are more than respectable, with Monday night’s figure 901,000 trouncing Two and a Half Men on 801,000, and only trailing Home and Away and ABC News by around 100,000. Efforts like these are more than enough to keep it safe for a long, long time. Especially when you consider that Ten’s only successful show in the 7pm slot pre-7pm was Masterchef and to an extent, the Biggest Loser. Other attempts to fill the void such as Yasmin’s Getting Married and Taken Out were complete failures, to say the least. In comparison, 7pm’s success has been the best thing to happen to Ten since Masterchef.

Now, comes the new newcomer, 6pm with George Negus, which premiered two weeks ago.  However, it is not as clear-cut as 7pm.

Many people will attempt to parallel the two shows.

Both news programs trying to appear to be “different” to every other offering.

Both are trying to place less of an influence on the tabloid style gossip mongering of shows such as Today Tonight and A Current Affair.

However, critics have been more reticent in slamming Negus. One, because he is a respected journalist with bucket-loads of presenting and reporting experience. Two, because it’s a more conventional news program more similar in style to Dateline (which Negus previously fronted), and three, because he’s George Negus.

Many have shown restraint in saying something to the effect of “Let it find its feet first”.

However, it certainly isn’t that hard to highlight its fairly average to terrible ratings.

It debuted with 605,000 viewers on a Monday.

Tuesday it had 505,000

Wednesday 443,000

Thursday 429,000

and Friday 439,000

In Week 2, the Monday show drew 540,000, with 487,000 tuning in for the Ten Evening News

Tuesday 443,000 – 471,000

Wednesday 465,000 – 413,000

Thursday 398,000 – 362,000

Friday 411,000 – 384,000

Now, while 7pm had low ratings in the beginning, it only stooped to the 500,000s a handful of times; mostly on a Friday… let alone the 400,000s.

However, if you afford it some leeway because it’s in a 6pm timeslot- fine, 6pm slots tend to draw lower ratings than later in the night (less people home, etc.). However, Ten would be worried about the fact that the Simpsons, in the final week of ratings, in the same timeslot drew, from Monday to Friday;

446,000

446,000

482,000

495,000

515,000

This is almost the same as Negus’ Week 2 ratings. However, for a show that would cost considerably more to put to air, you would need to see an improvement to at least 500,000 to 600,000 a night to make it worth their while. An even bigger factor is the element of having a good lead-in to the Ten Evening News, which, as you can see, almost loses viewers. And that would need to be at least 550,000 to merely match what Neighbours was pulling in the final week of ratings;

565,000

581,000

587,000

523,000

467,000

Possibly 6pm’s ultimate failing will be its failure to stand out from the crowd. Now that 7pm has established itself it has become a show people can tune into to catch a snapshot of the days news, but also see the lighter side of things. It is also boasts a great rotating roster of experienced journalists such as Jennifer Byrne, Steve Price and Gorgi Coghlan.

Its Metro Whip-Around really hit the ground running and became one of the most successful segments on the show. It is now sure of itself and is significantly different from anything else on TV. Once again, Ten and Roving Enterprises need to be commended. While it isn’t perfect (Dave Hughes still doesn’t quite seem to be the right fit for a predominantly serious news-based show), it is now a fixture of many people’s daily viewing schedules.

It would be hard to imagine Ten pulling Negus (hmm) before the end of the year, as the 7pm Project is the best of example of good things coming to those who wait. However, it will be hard to justify (not to mention the embarrassment involved) when or if ratings regularly languish in the 400,000s… or God forbid, the deadly 300,000s…

One really has to wonder if the $20m news shake-up will have been worth it.

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Posted on February 7, 2011, in Channel Ten, TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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