11 July 2014
TV Ratings – the TV executives live and die by them. If you believed the hype about Eurovision’s popularity in Australia, especially after Jessica Mauboy appeared as the interval act for semi final 2, then you’d think TV viewing numbers would increase. In a small part, they did. In a bigger part, they did not.
Overall, the total of peak audience numbers across all the shows of the Eurovision Song Contest this year was 2.971 million. That’s marginally up from 2.930 million of last year. Peak audience refers to the most number of people watching over a 5 minute period of a show – essentially, the biggest spike in audience. The host broadcaster, SBS, used these to boast about Eurovision’s continued increasing popularity.
In terms of average audience – the average number watching across an entire show – there was a decline. The final in 2013 in Malmo was watched by 750,000 people. In 2014 it was 618,000 – a 17.6% decline. Audience share – the percentage of people watching a show against all people watching TV – was down too. In 2013 the share was 13.8%; in 2014 a measly 9%, representing a 35% decline.
Statistics can be meaningless without context, so let’s look at the three commercial channels. They returned a share of 34.15%, 25.3% and 15.9%, respectively. The country’s other main channel, the government run ABC, returned a 15.7% share.
SBS is also government run, specialising more in “multicultural” viewing, and barely gets above 5% for anything. So 9%, in that context, is twice or three times as good as, say, a foreign movie from Denmark about a disgruntled man and his daily walk across a bridge to toss left-over black bread at tourists on canal boats.
Figures for individual shows Metro and Regional combined for 2014…
Semi final 1: peak 881,000; average 623,000
Semi final 2: peak 1,028,000; average 784,000
Final: peak 927,000; average 618,000
Here are the average figures for the final over the past five years, Metro viewing only…
What explains the decline?
First, the jump in peak audience was no doubt due to the hype about Jessica Samboy. Once the extra people joined in, saw it was still tacky Eurovision of old, reaffirmed continually by the commentators with their insipid jokes and cackling and also by the trashy and insulting tweets running between songs, the people tuned out. Confirming a negative preconception about the show will never retain, much less build, viewers – ever. SBS still concentrate on promoting frocks, shocks and wind machines, rather than songs and artists.
Why was Saturday much higher than the Sunday?
It always is – and that’s irrespective of Mauboy appearing on Saturday’s show. Saturday is a weak night for TV viewing, so ESC becomes more a default choice. Saturday would also be the premium night for Eurovision parties and drinking games, before then going out to get really trashed. Sunday is the blockbuster night for TV in Australia, and that’s where ESC is swamped.
In all fairness to Eurovision this year, it had to contend with a juggernaut as competition: The Voice Australia. Season 3, featuring Kylie Minogue as one of the new judges, debuted the same night as the Eurovision final and smashed the ratings. Almost 2 million watched in metro areas – four times that of the ESC final. The same channel then followed with the stalwart 60 Minutes. ESC was just the 17th ranked show of the evening. Expect the numbers for the Eurovision final to recover next year if it’s not facing such stiff competition like The Voice.
On the weak TV night of Saturday, ESC ranked fifth – even if audience numbers were almost half that of the fourth ranked show of ABC News. In fact, news bulletins of two commercial channels came first and third, with a murder-mystery on ABC coming in second. The top news bulletin had just under double the audience of ESC. Combining the figures for two 6pm news bulletins (as they are essentially the same show, just with different talking heads), ESC had just more than a quarter of the viewers.
Friday night, a much stronger night for TV, ESC was in 19th spot on Metro numbers with, again, about half the audience of the top show on the night – news. The news bulletins of the two leading commercial channel’s came first and second. Combining those, ESC’s numbers were less than a quarter, whereas they were more than a quarter on Saturday. That shows you the niche ESC finds on a Saturday. On Sunday, those two news bulletins combined for 2.5 million viewers. That’s five times ESC’s number and shows the power of Sunday night viewing.
For further context and perspective, Australia vs Chile at the World Cup, with live coverage at 8am on a Saturday morning on SBS: 2.3 million viewers average; 2.8 million peak; and a massive TV share of 47.8% Metro (partially attributed to the low total of all people watching TV at this time). Note that soccer would only be the fourth most popular sport in Australia behind Australian Rules football, rugby league and cricket.
There’s still a long way to go before Eurovision becomes popular in the mainstream, and there’s even a longer way to go before it’s taken seriously. The first part won’t happen without attempts at the second part being fulfilled. While blame for the ratings decline could be placed on The Voice, SBS’s mockery and unsavoury promotion of Eurovision certainly doesn’t help. Next year will reveal more.
Australia’s TV ratings are split into 6 regions: 5 Metro areas of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and 1 Regional (everywhere else). Metro refers to the 5 major cities, and is often the more relevant figure for advertisers.
As an Australian fan who takes the contest seriously and absolutely despises the SBS angle to the contest, I have found it rather bittersweet watching the “rising popularity” of the contest unfold. Whilst I am glad that more Australians either watch or have heard of the contest compared to 6 years ago, the way it’s been pitched to them by SBS has resulted in a distortion of what eurovision really is about, and therefore has formed what those viewers expect to see each year.
Hence why we’re forced to endure Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang’s narcissism, poorly-researched “facts” and obsession with gimmmicks and key changes. Because that’s what the viewers want and expect.
I would love nothing more than a commentator that focuses on songs, the past credentials of the artists and encourages viewers to take it seriously. But after 5 years of Julia and Sam, it’d be very difficult to introduce a new approach. It’s very clear that I’m in the minority when it comes to my disdain for their commentary.
SBS should’ve changed their marketing tactics for their coverage 2 years ago after the commercial revival of the contest and a restoration of its relevance and credibility after Loreen’s victory. The fact is that eurovision is increasingly moving away from the gimmicks and madness and becoming more of a serious song competition. The stage shows have become more simpler and less reliant on gimmicks and most of the songs aren’t that different from what’s doing well in charts across the globe. But they’ve chosen to continually focus on dated perceptions of what eurovision is supposed to be because they’re afraid of losing their audience. Had they treated it as a song contest from the start they might have been able to retain an audience without focusing on gimmicks.
SBS is still getting what it wants, better ratings than it usually would on other Friday, Sat, Sun nights. Whilst the ratings may have decreased this year, It still looks pretty good from their perspective. It’s definately not enough of a decline to warrant a change in tactic.
I would love to see a more serious angle, but I doubt as many people would watch it if it was presented differently. Whilst I agree with you on everything regarding how SBS treats the contest, Their perspective isn’t that far off from what many viewers tune in to see. My guess is that the declining ratings this year were a result of the fact that these days the performances are less of the traditional eurovision variety with OTT stage props, nonsensical lyrics and fashion disasters and more serious, mainstream compositions and stripped back performances that focus on the songs. That doesn’t interest the casual viewer who has no prior knowledge or interest in the songs and watches because they enjoy playing the drinking games. I think anyone who follows the SBSeurovision hashtag during the shows can see for themselves what the average Australian viewer tunes in for; I saw many times words to the effect of “where’s the astronauts and smoke machines… I’m not watching this for the songs you know”.
While I don’t doubt that their focus on the most frivolous aspects on the contest helps to trivialise the contest and does very little to change the preconceptions of eurovision-sceptics… I don’t think a more serious take on the contest would automatically boost ratings either.
Excellent blog, Mr Eurovision.
I think it would be better if Eurovision was not shown by SBS at all. It is so awful to watch how SBS degrade the show by trying to turn it into a comedy. If Julia really liked Eurovision, there is no way she would be a part of it.
As if Sam & Julia’s inane comments aren’t bad enough, SBS adds insulting tweets after every song.
SBS wants to appear cutting edge by making social media a part of the show. Viewers are prompted both between & DURING the songs to send tweets, rate the songs on Facebook or comment on their website. How can you listen to the song while you are doing all of this? The only people tweeting, rating & commenting are trolls whose hateful feedback is displayed by SBS during the broadcast. The whole show is just a shit canning of the artists.
I can’t believe SBS then have the gall to say Eurovision is popular in Australia. A false claim only believed overseas. Of course SBS want to maintain the myth & the EBU want to believe it. Eurovision will never be popular as long as SBS pander to the idea that the contest is kitsch & stupid; more about gimmicks & staging than the songs & the artists. The whole situation is very sad.