The highly anticipated launch of both season 4 of Downton Abbey and the final Underbelly instalment, Fat Tony and Co could be a key moment for the ratings race in 2014. Both programmes, whilst completely different in genre, have been big talking points for both Network Seven and Network Nine in the lead up to the start of survey as they are core series rather than one off specials used for the launch weeks of survey. Nine will be happy with the results of last night’s launch, whereas Seven will be disappointed as their strong lead in programming gave Downton the best possible platform for big numbers. It will take a few weeks to work out exactly who wins this series battle.
In what has seemingly become an exhausted franchise, Underbelly has produced one last series in homage to their first highly successful season, however without the ‘Underbelly’ tag. The first season in 2008 pulled 1.32M (excluding Vic which did 430K when aired 7 months later) against TTPL, and was consistent across its entire duration on air.
The gradual decline across each season, is due to the original series being played at a time when the real life story was being played out in court, now the excitement of action/violence surrounding real crime stories is becoming stale over 6 years. Fat Tony and Co aired its first 2 episodes last night, delivering 1.38M and 1.24M respectively against TTPL. While these are smaller numbers than the last series, Squizzy, which while launching at 1.52M dropped to average 650K across the season.
The British franchise Downton Abbey launched its fourth season on Seven against Fat Tony and Co, delivering its smallest launch in Australia for the programme. It launched to 1.13M TTPL, despite having Sunday Nights 1.9M lead in. A big factor in the smaller audience is the fact that Australia is a full season behind the UK, with season 5 commencing in the UK, you have to question how many people would have already viewed season 4. As drama is the highest genre in catch up TV, both programmes will see increased audiences with consolidated data.
Seven will be hoping that Australian viewers have not already watched season 4 of Downton Abbey, otherwise they may see declining numbers across the rest of the season. Nine are in a better situation with Fat Tony and Co as it has 2 key elements to hold audience which is that it is a brand new release and Aussie content. Both these combined should guarantee that they hold audiences for the remainder of the season. We do predict Fat Tony and Co will remain in front for this timeslot.