Ratings shock: Spice girls rock the Block

Most people tuned in for Jessie and Biswah's episode of <i>My Kitchen Rules</i>.
Most people tuned in for Jessie and Biswah's episode of My Kitchen Rules.
Mark Bowyer, second right, and teammate Duncan Miller with the cast of <i>The Block All Stars</i>.

Mark Bowyer, second right, and teammate Duncan Miller with the cast of The Block All Stars.

Television, you have crowned a new king.

Seven's My Kitchen Rules send a shockwave through the ratings last night, with 2.22 million people watching in the mainland capitals.

That result battered Masterchef: The Professionals to a season low of 628,000 viewers.

But soaking up that many eyeballs also ensured that the Nine Network's heavily publicised launch of The Block: All Stars was stalled at 959,000 viewers.

With a hefty price tag to its name and enormous marketing resources at its disposal, that's a poor result for The Block.

In particular, failing to crack the "one million viewer watermark" - the benchmark for success and failure in commercial TV - is a particularly damaging blow.

In truth, The Block: All Stars may well do that, once correct start and finish times are factored in and "+7" data (that is, the additional audience of people who taped it and played it back within a week) is added in a week's time.

But for a long time the Australian television market has made itself overly dependent on "overnight" results. And the perception of failure, particularly with less than a week to go until the start of official TV ratings, is something Nine cannot afford.

This year is, in Nine's terms, the year it has the best chance of toppling Seven, given Seven only retained the top rung of the ratings ladder in 2012 by the slimmest of margins.

The 2013 NFL Super Bowl, which was screened live on Ten's digital channel One, drew an audience of 146,000.

There is no doubt that Seven has, with My Kitchen Rules, a ratings blockbuster on its hands. MKR is delivering them the kind of numbers that MasterChef delivered Ten in its best years, and The Voice delivered Nine last year.

But as the ratings year for 2013 gets underway - official ratings begin this Sunday, February 10 - the biggest issue already appears to be congestion in the schedule.

Ten tried to avoid it by launching Masterchef: The Profes-sionals early, but could do little against the onslaught of My Kitchen Rules.

As a result, Masterchef is struggling. And particularly galling for Ten, last night's three-show pile-up pushed Masterchef down to 8th place in Ten's key demographics of 16-to-39-year-olds and 18-to-49-year-olds.

Nine was confident that launching The Block: All Stars into that fray would effectively serve as a bowling ball knocking the pins to the gutter, but has been punished with a result that is almost the opposite.

In that sense, The Block: All Stars is getting a taste of Ten's experience with The Renovat-ors, launching into heavy program congestion, particularly in the reality genre, and ending up in a position where it is struggling to find a toehold.

The Block launched in 2012 to around 1.4 million, so on a opening night basis, year on year, that's a sharp drop of around 400,000 viewers.

The regular weeknight episodes of the show settled around 1.3 million viewers last year, and built to around 1.8 million for Sunday night episodes. The finale was watched by 2.7 million people.

Nine's expectation will be that The Block: All Stars build its audience, but most new shows trend down slightly, something Nine will be desperate to avoid, and that The Block, in this environment, cannot afford.

Last Night's Top 10

1. My Kitchen Rules (7) 2.22m

2. Revenge (7) 1.49m

3. Seven News 1.23m

4. Nine News 1.18m

5. Today Tonight (7) 1.16m

6. The Big Bang Theory (9) 1.06m

7. Home and Away (7) 1.02m

8. ABC News 990k

9. The Block: All Stars (9) 959k

10. A Current Affair (9) 950k

This story Ratings shock: Spice girls rock the Block first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.