Good Doctor saves Seven as ratings year comes down to 0.1 per cent

2017 AFL Grand Final at the MCG, Adelaide v Richmond, 30/09/2017 photo by Justin McManus. Dustin Martin celebrates a lasr quarter goal.

2017 AFL Grand Final at the MCG, Adelaide v Richmond, 30/09/2017 photo by Justin McManus. Dustin Martin celebrates a lasr quarter goal.

Seven's ratings year has been saved by a last-minute emergency intervention by The Good Doctor.

While the network comfortably secured its 11th straight victory across its suite of channels, it was touch-and-go on its primary station, which pipped a resurgent Nine only by a whisker - winning by just 0.1 per cent, the narrowest margin in more than a decade.

Nine, meanwhile, is claiming it won the year where it matters: it finished top in all demographics, the segments into which the audience is broken down for purposes of selling advertising space.

The ratings officially ended at midnight on Saturday, though consolidated audiences - those who watch a recorded show within the next 28 days - mean the final final figures won't be known for another month.

But to all intents and purposes bragging rights can be claimed now. Seven finished the year as both the strongest network and the most-watched channel, with a 29.6 per cent network share (across Seven, 7Two, 7Mate, and 7Flix), ahead of Nine's 28.1 per cent (across Nine, Go!, Gem and 9Life).

Nine (up 1.6 per cent) and SBS (up 0.4, to a 7.2 per cent share) recorded increases, while Seven (-0.6 per cent), Ten (-0.8, to 18 per cent) and the ABC (-0.6, to 17.1 per cent network share) were all down.

But on the primary channels, it went to the wire.

Seven beats Nine by slimmest margin in a decade

Had it not been for the surprisingly strong run of The Good Doctor, which debuted just five weeks from the end of the ratings year, and the disappointing showing of Nine's Family Food Fight, the result could have been upended.

The US drama about an autistic medico has delivered an average audience of 1.348 million* across its nine episodes to date. Regional audiences take that figure up to 2.019 million.

It has been the clear stand-out drama of the year, a hit on time-shifted viewing and catch-up (streaming) as well as initial broadcast.

The episode that aired on November 23, for example, drew 1.654 million across Australia (regional and metro combined), but added another 429,000 over the following seven days and 68,000 via Seven's catch-up player - a staggering 30 per cent increase.

The ABC's Utopia was another show that gained massively in catch-up and delay, with its average audience lifting by 35 per cent within seven days of broadcast, from 717,000 in the mainland capitals to 970,000. It is also understood to be a strong performer on iView, though the ABC has not released figures.

We like to watch - but only when we're good and ready

Those who watch on devices other than the TV are now measured by ratings agency OzTAM, and comprise an increasingly important audience segment.

On Ten, The Bachelorette's numbers were boosted by 18 per cent thanks to online viewing, which added 179,000 viewer to an average overnight audience of 968,000. Overall, Ten claimed the show recorded a 57 per cent lift on its numbers from 2016.

Sophie Monk's decision to pick Stu Laundy as her beau was watched by 1.694 million viewers, making it the 17th most-watched TV event of the year, and Ten's highest.

Little wonder Nine has swooped on Monk, making her the host of its dating show Love Island and the face of its female-focused brands for 2018.

Nine has six of the top 10 shows

Nine had six of the top 10 regular programs (more than three episodes) of the year, including the top-rating show, Australian Ninja Warrior (1.64 million).

The Block and Married at First Sight also did well for the network, the winner announced segment of the former finishing as the most-watched non-sports event of the year.

Seven's My Kitchen Rules was still a strong performer, though its average ratings this year were the lowest in its eight seasons to date, pointing to potential difficulties ahead if the franchise really is running out of steam.

Live sport rules, OK?

The most-watched program in the country overall was the third match of the rugby league State of Origin, which drew a national audience (metro and regional combined) of 3.705 million, ahead of the men's final of the Australian Open tennis (3.636 million) and the AFL Grand Final (3.562 million).

But the AFL grand final won the top-of-the-table clash of the codes in the cities. Its audience of 2.715 million was the largest for any program in the five mainland capitals.

Of non-sporting events, reality contest finales were the stand-out performers. The "winner announced" segment of The Block was watched by 2.523 million (number four event overall), the final stage of Australian Ninja Warrior by 2.227 million (number nine) and the grand final of the same show by 2.158 million (number 10).

Scripted television did not follow the script

It was a tough year for drama and comedy, though, with only seven scripted shows among the top 50.

The Good Doctor, with an average 1.348 million, was the third-most-watched regular program of the year, while The Doctor Blake Mysteries - recently dropped by the ABC but picked up for a series of telemovies next year by Seven - was the most-watched Australian drama or comedy of the year, attracting an average 984,000 viewers (number 28). Utopia, with an average of 970,000, was number 31.

Where drama excelled was in time-shifted viewing. In terms of viewers added over the seven days following broadcast, all but three of the top 20 shows were drama or comedy. Seven claimed boosts of 27 per cent for The Good Doctor, 30 per cent for 800 Words, and 27 per cent for Blue Murder: Killer Cop, for instance.

But while that's good news for fans of scripted television, it's not so much for the commercial networks. They are obliged to make scripted television, but the business model that underpins them (the selling of advertising) is seriously undermined by viewers who are time-shifting and, in all likelihood, skipping those ads when they watch.

It's little wonder, really, that if left to their own devices they'd likely serve us a diet of nothing but sporting, reality and live event television.

* Unless otherwise stated, all figures are for the five mainland capital cities, +7 consolidated. Source: OzTAM

Top 10 TV events of 2017

1. AFL Grand Final Adelaide v Richmond (Seven) 2.715 million (3.562 million metro and regional combined, #3 overall)
2. AFL Grand Final presentations (Seven) 2.713 million (3.558 million, #5)
3. Australian Open Tennis men's final (Seven) 2.686 million (3.636 million, #2)
4. The Block winner announced (Nine) 2.523 million (3.553 million, #6)
5. State of Origin Rugby League game 3 Queensland v NSW (Nine) 2.521 million (3.705 million, #1)
6. State of Origin Rugby League game 2 Queensland v NSW (Nine) 2.402 million (3.513 million, #7)
7. State of Origin Rugby League game 1 Queensland v NSW (Nine) 2.371 milllion (3.562 million, #4)
8. NRL rugby league grand final Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys (Nine) 2.308 million (3.378 million, #8)
9. Australian Ninja Warrior final stage (Nine) 2.227 million (3.199 million, #9)
10. Australian Ninja Warrior grand final (Nine) 2.158 million (3.076 million, #10)

Top 10 regular programs

1. Australian Ninja Warrior Monday (Nine) 1.64 million
2. The Block Sunday (Nine) 1.474 million
3. The Good Doctor (Seven) 1.348 million
4. The Block Monday (Nine) 1.314 million
5. My Kitchen Rules Wednesday (Seven) 1.29 million
6. My Kitchen Rules Monday (Seven) 1.288 million
7. Married at First Sight Sunday (Nine) 1.267 million
8. My Kitchen Rules Tuesday (Seven) 1.266 million
9. The Block Tuesday (Nine) 1.238 million
10. Married at First Sight Monday (Nine) 1.232 million

Top 10 unique shows (excluding news)

1. Australian Ninja Warrior (Nine)
2. The Block (Nine)
3. The Good Doctor (Seven)
4. My Kitchen Rules (Seven)
5. Married at First Sight (Nine)
6. Little Big Shots (Seven)
7. The Voice (Nine)
8. House Rules (Seven)
9. The Bachelorette (Ten)
10. True Story with Hamish & Andy

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This story Good Doctor saves Seven as ratings year comes down to 0.1 per cent first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.