What a country we live in. So many other ball sports dominate the year – cricket, AFL, NRL, A League – and yet for the last two weeks in January while Channel 7 broadcast the first international tennis grand slam for the year in the Australian Open, the rest of the television industry basically lays down and let’s them walk home with two weeks of ratings.
In short: if you’re not a tennis fan, television becomes a fucking wasteland.
Sure, it’s just prior to the start of the official ratings year (in 2013 it starts Sunday 10 February) so it doesn’t really matter, but with so much at stake for all the commercial networks you’d expect them to put up a fight. But they might. Or sorta will. They’re all so fickle.
Instead what will happen is this:
Seven get a free hit for two weeks (and that remains solid as long as the Aussies stay in the comp – we’re nothing if not blindly parochial). They usually use the second week to start Home and Away up again and reasonably use the inflated audience to over-promote their upcoming schedule of shows (all of it coming “after the tennis”). Mostly reality and older US/UK hits they’ve been banking to take advantage of the assumed mass of goodwill that comes out of screening the small ball game. There’s horribly wedged-in promos and “stars” from their upcoming shows spotted in the crowd and their shows somehow magically discussed at length. It hurts and it burns. The commentators might even mention Fango one or two thousand times.
Nine lay low. So low you might think they’d stroked out and nobody noticed. They dare not start any of their new shows for fear it might go all Excess Baggage on them, so instead it’s repeats of The Big Bang Theory up the wazoo and the occasional One Day International Cricket match which so few people by comparison care about because Cricket Australia have rested the Aussie’s three best players for the entire series (fools!). Oh, the irony given how many people watched the nostalgic drama Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War in 2012 about the birth of the game so roundly ignored. Just as the tennis finishes they’ll “go early” with one or two shows to capture viewers ahead of the ratings year – about the same time as Seven start their new shows.
Ten… well, they can’t help themselves, and have to go real early with something. At least one thing, if not more. As ratings juggernaut is firmly in camp Seven it usually means that whatever they toss forward get soundly ignored – though Homeland and Modern Family from 2012 are two notable and reasonable exceptions. 2013 is a very important year for the network so they need more than a few things to work, and given Nine are basically rolling over it’s a great chance to snag some share from viewers that don’t want tennis all the time. Here’s to something getting a decent amount of attention!
Why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we accept it from the networks? And why is the ratings year only 40 weeks long and not 52 weeks long – What makes television so special?!?
If you watch the tennis, you’re complicit in all this. You only encourage them to keep doing it. STOP IT, NOW. I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not g… ahh, who am I kidding. Of course I’ll keep watching stuff. Hugs TV. Just not the tennis.
You’ve not noticed that Ten are launching American Idol and MasterChef The Professionals while the Aus Open is on? They’ve been promoting both shows in every ad break for about the last 6 weeks. I think it’s fair to say that they’re hoping for some non-tennis viewers to get on board.