Sea Patrol: articles

Sea Patrol slams opposition out of the water

At last the Nine Network has something to boast about and laud it over Seven.

Sea Patrol worked a treat Thursday night, watched by an average 1.971 million people and pushed the network to a win on the night and into the lead for the week with two nights to go.

The program was well made, with high production values, was well acted, the scripts were OK: a bit wooden in places, but it is supposed to be the navy.

The storylines were a mixture of the for troches shells, a marine biologist who dies in mysterious circumstances, crab fisherman hiding on the island where she was killed. As well there was 'that thing' between the captain and his executive officer, AKA The Love Interest, Lisa McCune.

We know 'That Thing' will fester between them and cause eyebrows to be raised on the bridge. So will they get it on by ep 13, or will it be held over in case there's another series?

In fact it had a touch of The Flying Doctors about it. (Andrew McFarlane was in that and in the original Patrol Boat series on the ABC). The Flying Doctors was a well made long running success for Nine and SP has the potential to be another in the same vein, if Nine has the guts to commit the money and take a risk.

But there were enough lose storylines left dangling over the side to hook some viewers last night, while others would have gone away satisfied that it was self contained.

(CSI would have spotted the minute puncture wound on the ill marine biologist, found the toxin secreted by illegally caught fish and used to kill her by the crab fishermen. And had an arrest, all by around 23 minutes past the hour, or about 42 minutes into the program).

But Nine would have been very happy with a breakdown of the quarter hours.

It started at 1.961 million at 8.30 pm, 1.977 million from 8.45 pm, 1.912 million from 9 pm. It jumped to 2.01 million in the last quarter hour as people joined for the Footy Shows.. the audience fell to 1.68 million from 9.30 pm to 9.45 pm and the Footy Shows averaged 1.2 million over 90 minutes, which shows the value of a strong lead in (so why not give The Nation a start like that?).

But Nine and its advertisers won't like the demographics. The program had 50.2% of all people watching, but 35.2% of 16 to 39s. Seven had 41.6% of those.

SP did OK in the 18 to 49 group, with a leading 40.5 per cent share, 44.3% of the 25 to 54 group, 68.8 per cent of the 55 plus viewers and a huge 73 per cent of people over 65. Seven had 7 per cent of that group, and Ten had 19.2%.

In other words, Sea Patrol is yet another 2007 program for Nine which has cemented its control of the over 50 viewer demographics. Its how the network has managed to keep in touch with Seven for most of the year.

The Over 50 viewers are growing because baby boomers are aging, but they die more quickly than the under 50s. Advertisers like people who live longer.

It was a great bit of PR for the Australian Navy and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and his Supreme Commander, Johnny Howard with a foreign flagged trawler intercepted for allegedly fishing illegally in Australian waters.

We didn’t know from which country the trawler hailed from, but they spoke an Asian language. With the strong appeal to the older demographic, Nine and its producers chose a storyline that would have resonated not only with many viewers, but with those handing over the boat and technical assistance in the Howard Government.

Certainly the Nine Network needed Sea Patrol to work, and work it did.

And we are all the better for it in some small way. Actors, writers and others have been employed, producers have produced and been paid for it, technical staff have done what they love, and been paid for it and Nine has got a pay off, with the help of the taxpayer through the money from the old Film Financing Corporation and the help from the Navy.

And, if you compare this Patrol Boat to the one the ABC screened back in the 1970s and 80s, there's not much difference, except there far more women in this series, on the boat and in major starring roles. And that's to be applauded.

Jul 6, 2007 eNews