Seven's supernatural highs

Debut ratings for Seven blockbuster 'Resurrection' ram home the group's superior performance and the extent to which Ten is lagging in viewers, engagement, personnel and corporate value.

The phenomenal 1.9 million metro viewer debut for Seven’s ‘Resurrection’ proved yet again that Seven is the one to beat in the world of free-to-air TV.

The US series, well marketed by the network since the start of the year, beat all competition on Tuesday night to be the number one program nationally and lifted Seven’s share (including multichannels) to 38.7 per cent to easily win the evening.

With Resurrection, My Kitchen Rules, Seven News, the AFL, Revenge and The Blacklist, Seven is stacked with high performing programs.

Compare Resurrection’s 1.9 million debut with the 404,000 metro audience that Ten managed to generate for the debut of Australian drama Secrets and Lies and you can see the striking differences between Seven and competitors such as Ten. This Monday just passed Secrets and Lies, in metro markets, generated just 288,000 viewers nationally.

Ten right now is struggling to launch any of its programming. The Biggest Loser, Secrets and Lies, So You Think You Can Dance and Puberty Blues have all underperformed. It’s the same story for Wake Up, which manages most days to only generate 15 per cent of the viewers of Seven’s Sunrise.

This is impacting audience share. On Monday night Ten’s total share - including multichannels - was just 12.4 per cent. Its Sunday result the night before was even worse - 11.1 per cent. Respected advertising publication Mumbrella reported this result, as well as Ten’s primary channel share of just 6.2 per cent, as Ten’s worst result of the year. Ten corrected them - alerting them that Ten had in fact performed worse on January 31 this year. It’s hardly the sort of news story the network wants to promote.

Combine this with the almost comedic tone of the John Stephens case - the veteran Seven and Nine programmer Ten had apparently lured across to network (and heavily promoted) who then changed his mind about joining Ten, blaming the effects of pain killer medication adversely influencing his decision. Documents unveiled during legal proceedings between Ten and Seven outline correspondence between Ten CEO Hamish McLennan and Stephens around how his appointment and power would work with current Ten programming chief Beverley McGarvey. Stephens, according to the emails, was fine with McGarvey working under him as long “as she was a team player.”

It seems unlikely Stephens will ever work for Ten, which leaves a situation where McGarvey as programming chief is clearly aware the network felt it important to place someone above her.

Meanwhile, with shares sitting at 27 cents at the time of writing, Ten is worth around $700 million. Meanwhile, according to Ten’s last annual report, the group’s values its television licences on its balance sheet at $785 million. Its current lacklustre performance makes it challenging to place a fair value on the operation, but if you take that valuation as accurate the Ten business, excluding its broadcast licence, is viewed as worthless.

The situation would be pleasing for Seven. Seven is continuing to connect with audiences and generating significant buzz with its key programming. Viewers connect with Seven -- they talk about the network’s programming and clearly trust it. Their marketing generates results time after time. At Seven success appears the only option, and the commencement of AFL season now gives it extra ratings fuel from Friday to Sundays.

Ten is the opposite. The only people talking about the network are industry insiders and finance writers. Viewers have disconnected from the network -- as evidenced by not only new shows failing but past successes like Modern Family and Elementary struggling to generate even 400-500,000 metro viewers for first run episodes. And having no marquee sporting rights will create ratings challenges for the network over winter across the weekends.

Right now it’s hard to see this industry dynamic changing.