Seven’s prime-time audience soars

Network Seven has drawn first blood in the 2012 television ratings battle.

This year Seven has broadcast nine of the 10 highest-rating shows, and raised prime-time audiences 13.1% so far on its primary channel, Seven, according to new OzTam figures.

Seven is number one for total viewers in the vital 6pm-midnight time slot. Seven also dominated with its new digital channels, 7TWO and 7mate.

In the battle of the tabloid shows Today Tonight (1.107 million) is up 156,000 viewers on nine’s A Current Affair – a 16% audience advantage.

New Network Seven chief executive officer Tim Worner told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) he predicted the network would continue its ratings performance and widen its “historic” audience lead over commercial rivals Nine and Ten.

“We try really hard not to get carried away, but I think we’re better than a sneaky chance of widening the gap,” Worner told the AFR.

“I don’t think they can sustain it,” Peter Horgan, chief executive of Omnicom Media Direction, told the AFR. “What we are seeing from them at the moment is pretty incredible.”

“Seven couldn’t have asked for a better start. Ten couldn’t have feared a worse start. While it is plainly clear Seven is going to win the year by a large margin, I do think you will see viewing patterns start to normalise.”

After Easter Ten will have new series of MasterChef and Offspring – both proven ratings winners along with new miniseries Bikie Wars.

Nine has the NRL rights – vital for the Sydney and Brisbane markets – as well as the Olympics later this year, but Seven has AFL for the next four years.

According to Free TV Australia, advertisers spent nearly $4 billion on Australian free-to-air television advertising in 2011, with Seven’s share the biggest at about 37- 38%. Next was Channel Nine with about 34%, followed by Ten with 27-28%.

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