Ratings by Numbers
SO YOU’VE had two days to absorb Countdown. I’m not going to ask what you think of it. He’s no Richard Morecroft, is he, Jeff Stelling? I don’t seem to recall Richard Morecroft ever expressing any interest in Lily Serna’s trousers. Of course, I didn’t look at it that often — Richard made me feel as if I was in the headmaster’s office. And that was the problem, apparently — not enough of us watched it (now, if they’d done what they did with Countdown and installed a sports guy in the chair— I’m thinking Craig Foster — things would’ve been different).
Are ratings a consideration at SBS? From a network that brings us the Urdu News? Which I’m happy about, as happy as a nonUrdu speaker can be, but there are plainly factors besides audience size at play there. But SBS has sponsors. Stakeholders. I’m sorry, I hear ‘‘ stakeholders’’, I see vampires.
The complaints flooded into SBS when they axed Letters and Numbers, which somehow didn’t reconcile with the tiny number of viewers SBS thought it had. I think of this as being very similar to Mad Men. Only on a terrifically less significant scale. Nobody watches Mad Men. Yet everyone talks about it. Letters and Numbers is nothing like Mad Men. Except in this: its impact was wider than its audience reach. Mainly this says something about Australia’s TV ratings system, and how small and exclusive the sample is. Why didn’t SBS just tweak what was a really well-liked show — because don’t tell me it really was a shock when they got all those complaints — and turn it into a winner? And here’s a question: is it better to have bread and butter shows, such as Letters and Numbers, or one or two big hits a year, like the Tour de France and Go Back to Where You Came From? It looks as if they’ve decided they can’t do both. And by better I mean for us watching at home. Because we’re who they’re doing it for, after all. Aren’t we?