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.