New Aussie drama House Husbands has proven to be a hit for Channel 9

There’s been a lot of discussion of the ratings results from last Sunday night within media circles. It was a big night, particularly at 8:30pm – a new Australian telemovie in Jack Irish (ABC1), the season eight premiere of successful US series Bones (Ch7), a new episode of successful House Husbands (Ch9) & the season two premiere of the Emmy-winning US drama Homeland (Ch10).

The night also heralded the ‘return’ of Ch10’s Super Sunday, this time featuring the season return or premiere of 5 new shows from the US, all designed to reignite interest in the network’s schedule by dropping big ticket, “marquee” programs.

The problem for Ten: It didn’t work.

The dissection of Sunday’s results has largely focused on the ‘fast-tracking’ (or lack thereof) that Ch10 promoted as they way they were delivering the 5 programs in Super Sunday 2.0. All five shows (Merlin, Modern Family, The New Normal, Homeland, Vegas) were at least 2-3 weeks old by the time they were aired in Australia – hardly warranting the fast-tracking tag. The suggestion however that the reason the programs tanked in the ratings was because the audience that would watch them had already seen them via means nefarious or otherwise is false. Statistics can be made to say anything you want, but numbers don’t lie.

When Homeland S01E01 premiered in Australia on 22/01/2012, it had stiff competition then too – the Round 4 Tomic v Federer match at the Australian Open Tennis – and it still managed to draw an audience of 1,223,000* (this is before the ratings year even started). Sure, it’s a new show and people wanted to see what all the fuss was about, though the show maintained an average of 997,000 viewers across the 11 episodes that aired against the Tennis and the One Day Cricket, as well as other programmed offerings from the other networks. Homeland S02E01 launched on Sunday with a meagre 633,000 viewers; 14th for the night. Aussie drama won the night for Ch9, followed closely by ABC1.

It’s tough to compare the market from January to October for Ch10, but it’s simply incorrect to suggest that nearly 600,000 viewers had already seen the season two premiere of Homeland before it screened in Australia on Sunday.

No question some fans will have. Not 600,000 of them. We can expect to see the figures for Homeland lift by at least 150,000-250,000 when the consolidated OzTAM figures are delivered in a week’s time showing the audience that recorded the program to view at a later time. That won’t include official Ch10 web “catch-up” views.

In a business where success begets success, Ch10 can’t even buy a hit show. Homeland scooped the pool at the 2012 Emmy Awards, taking out 6 gongs for it’s premiere season. The promotion of that alone should have been enough to draw in more viewers to what is one of the smartest dramas seen on free-to-air television in a long time. On the flipside, Ch7 can show almost “any old shit” (former Ch7 boss David Leckie once claimed they could promo Cougar Town and it would win anyway – which, for a time, it did) and it’ll pull a decent result or even win its timeslot. Such is the wave they are riding at the moment.

Just as when you’re winning you can turn anything into a success, when you’re sucking everything else is dragged down with it – with very few exceptions.

Ch10 are suffering through a ratings drought of their own making. Their programming offerings this year haven’t been anywhere near as successful as they’d hoped. There’s been a number of high profile cancellations, lacklustre returns for marquee programs and ongoing ratings failures. The viewing audience have, on the whole, fallen out of love with Ch10 in a way that now sees almost everything they throw at their schedule under-perform.

Competition was fierce on Sunday night. As much as the viewing audience can bemoan the networks conspiring against them and chastise them for “wasting” good programs by lining them up against each other, it’s the nature and reality of commercial TV – Ch7/9/10 play good shows so they can gain revenue from the advertising shown as a part of it (while some think the ABC may do it out of the goodness of their heart, it’s a part of their charter). The commercial networks will roll out their brand-name programming in an almost spiteful scheduling battle of “mine’s bigger than yours”. Just like school boys at the trough, and about as subtle.

Channel 10 didn’t see their Super Sunday fail because people had already seen the episodes in question. The market has grown tired of a litany of dull, vacuous, boring, unsuccessful programming coupled with the constant reminder that their programs are being delivered as quickly as possible when they very clearly are not. Ch10 needed Super Sunday 2.0 to work to help lift the vibe of the conversation around the network and it didn’t happen. They went to the bank and rolled shows they would have kept for 2013 earlier, hoping to help repair the relationship.

Ten’s 2013 schedule launch just became the most important thing CEO James Warburton can deliver, and his job is now very clearly depending on its success.

*All figures quoted are OzTAM 5 City Metro Total People, not including consolidated figures, all available here.