Sea Patrol: articles

Nine in captain's chair after rough seas

AT LAST, there's some good news for the embattled Nine Network. The launch of Sea Patrol, its expensive new drama and the latest vehicle for TV golden girl Lisa McCune, brought the once-dominant but now struggling broadcaster the good tidings it so desperately needed.

The 13-part series, which network executive director Jeff Browne announced at its launch function in Sydney two weeks ago would go into a second season, debuted as the most watched show in the country last week, attracting 1.98 million viewers.

It was also the most-watched show in Melbourne with 611,000 viewers, interestingly about 36,000 more than in the larger market of Sydney.

The successful launch of Sea Patrol, coupled with the State of Origin III match, helped Nine win its second week of official ratings nationally for the year and it also won in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. However it failed to triumph in Melbourne where rugby league isn't the code that makes the critical difference.

Nationally, Nine won an all-audience prime-time share of 29.3 per cent to Seven's 28.6. However, in Melbourne Seven (29.3) claimed the week from Nine (28.3), Ten (20.6), the ABC (16.1) and SBS (5.7).

Beyond the launch of a new local drama, which, after a long period of sadly diminished local production is news in itself, it was a week of notable returns. Monday night saw the return of Seven's 2006 hit Border Security - Australia's Front Line as well as the 2007 premiere of Enough Rope with Andrew Denton and a new season of Top Gear on SBS.

In what is perhaps a telling sign of the times, the fascination with the country's customs, immigration, quarantine and police officers appears to have lost none of its appeal as Border Security was the most-watched show on the keenly competitive weeknight with 1.77 million viewers nationally, 509,000 of them in Melbourne.

A reminder of how popular this low-key documentary series was last year: for every week of its 19-week run, it was the top-rating show nationally, at its peak attracting an average audience of 2.3 million.

It was Melbourne's No. 1 show for 17 weeks.

Less spectacular was the return of Enough Rope, which had 783,000 viewers nationally, which would be disappointing for the ABC given that some of the recent repackaged repeats rated more strongly.

Top Gear, however, roared back to take its customary position as the most popular program on SBS with 758,000 viewers nationally, 231,000 of them in Melbourne.

Also on that busy Monday night, the slightly daggy concert commemorating the life of Princess Diana on the 10th anniversary of her death attracted 1.32 million viewers nationally but failed to make the Top 20 in Melbourne, where it attracted 387,000 viewers and came in at No. 26.

By Debi Enker
July 12, 2007
The Age