Historic Television Ratings

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The McNair Anderson television ratings survey for June 17 to June 23, 1979 reveals what Sydneysiders were watching 40 years ago.

TCN 9- 33.2%
TEN 10- 27.4%
ATN 7- 26.8%
ABN 2- 12.6%

The highest rating program of the week was Nine’s Sunday night movie Love Story (33%).

Seven had introduced a second edition of Willesee to the early evening line up the previous week. Willesee at 6 averaged 26% during its first week on air but only peaked at 18% during this survey week and placed third behind The Young Doctors on Nine and Ten’s Eyewitness News. The 6pm edition of Willesee dragged down figures for the 7pm edition.

The Paul Hogan Show (28) was a top rater for Nine on Monday night, toppling the previous week’s top rating Monday show Are You Being Served? (20) on channel two.

Australian telemovie The Plumber, directed by Peter Weir, won its timeslot for Nine on the Wednesday night.

Source: SMH.


Surprised to see Ten rating as well as that. In Melbourne its sister station ATV0 was probably lucky to crack the 20 per cent mark in that era. Quite a marked difference in viewing patterns between the two 0-10 channels although in programming terms there probably wasn’t that much difference between them.

Prisoner and The Restless Years were fairly big for TEN-10 back then. I certainly remember my mother watching both shows. The Restless Years theme song still sends a shiver of dread down my spine- It’s only a journey, through our Restless Years, let our hearts run free…

Prisoner, on the other hand… I’d always try to delay the 8.30pm school night bed time so I could see a little bit of it or try to listen to what was happening from bed.

Prisoner was a hit for ATV0 but I don’t think the channel had much else to be positive about that year. The Restless Years must have done well enough. The newly revamped 6.00 news was a problem while it seems Ten’s news in Sydney was doing a lot better.

I never really followed The Restless Years except for catching a few episodes in reruns in the 80s.

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Viewing habits in the early evening don’t seem to have been as entrenched as they would become by the mid-late 1980s. Just a few years before ATN’s bulletin was leading. All three commercial television news bulletins seemed to be competitive in Sydney during that period. The one thing they all had in common is that when a new news director came along and wanted to put their stamp on things or viewership dropped a little and too much tinkering took place it seemed to drive the audience to the bulletin that had remained most consistent. I guess that’s why Nine ended up firmly in first place after Ten’s victorious 1984. Hendo was always there and nothing much changed after News Centre Nine failed.


It was the Neighbours or Home and Away of the era. I remember everyone at my school was watching it in the early days. I can remember the storylines being discussed in the playground.

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The 1969 Alan Rudkin/Lionel Rose boxing match rated a 67 for ATV-0.

Some overall ratings for Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth:

Source: B&T, 3 October 1986

For a little bit of context:

  • ADS was still Channel 7, SAS was still Channel 10. The 7-10 swap happened about a year after this snapshot.
  • TVQ was still on Channel 0. Conversion to 10 was still two years away.
  • While STW9 in Perth had Midday, TVW7 still had the daytime soaps Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless. Obviously this still swayed a lot of daytime viewers to Seven.
  • Also in Perth, SBS had only been on the air a few months. In Adelaide and Brisbane, SBS was just over a year old. Clearly a lot of work was to be done to get more households UHF-ready!
  • SBS also did not begin transmission in the afternoons until around 4.30pm so that would have kept the afternoon numbers low.

Four week McNair-Anderson television ratings survey results for period ending July 3, 1976:

ATN 7 32.3% 30.4%
TCN 9 26.7% 29.3%
TEN 10 25.9% 30.4%
ABN 2 15.1% 12.2%

ATN 7 is the most watched television channel in Sydney with nine of the top ten most popular shows. Seven would go on to win the year.

TEN 10 sharing top position with ATN 7 when daytime results included thanks largely to the popularity of the Mike Walsh Show which they would lose to Nine in 1977.

Top ten programs (average number of viewers in any 15 minute period):

1 HAPPY DAYS TCN 9 745,000
5 GOOD TIMES ATN 7 605,000
9 DICK EMERY ATN 7 535,000

How times have changed. We certainly loved our American sitcoms in the mid 1970s.

In homes with a colour television Seven’s Big League was the most popular program while This Is Your Life was the most popular show in homes with “non-colour televisions”.


This week in 1984 Ten was doing the unthinkable- airing a show outside of prime time that was outrating everything else on television. Perfect Match was scoring figures in the mid to high 30s and viewers were staying on for the shows that followed. The Los Angeles Olympics were on the horizon and Ten decides to rearrange the schedule and keep the show in the 5.30pm timeslot fearing they could lose their audience to copycat programming in the works at Seven and Nine.

In prime time Nine wins the week thanks to Boy George and a Culture Club concert that was shown live from the Sydney Entertainment Centre peaking at 30. 60 Minutes was the second most watched nighttime show and the Wimbledon men’s singles final rated a strong 19 during late night.

Extensive coverage of Boy George in Australia and strong interest in an ALP conference in Canberra helped Terry Willesee Tonight overcome Sale Of The Century on Nine and MASH on Ten at 7pm. Today had a narrow victory over Good Morning Australia in breakfast television.

Nine had moderate success with an international award winning children’s program on Friday night. Danny’s Egg, the story of a country boy attempting to hatch an emu’s egg, rated 19.

Nine 30.8%
Ten 28.9%
Seven 28.0%

Source: SMH.


The Love Game from Seven with Mark Holden :nauseated_face:

Apparently Nine also had a dating show in the works to combat Perfect Match but I don’t think it ever saw the light of day?

The 84 Olympics still left a lot of Ten’s prime time intact IIRC. Daily live (or near live?) coverage was from midnight to 4.00pm, with a highlights package from 9.30pm to midnight.

I seem to recall the opening ceremony of the 84 Olympics gave Ten a 56 ratings or thereabouts on a Sunday morning

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I remember watching it and cringing throughout. Mark Holden and those silly hand gestures were laughable. It rated 28 on debut but slumped to just 4 in Sydney when Seven finally pulled it off air.

The 1984 Olympics helping Ten to a clear ratings year win and it still stands as the most successful year in their history.

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gosh what a drop! I guess Mark Holden went back to the States after this disaster :stuck_out_tongue:

Speaking of the 80’s, Did Expo '88 bring good ratings for Ten?

the opening and closing ceremonies for Expo probably rated ok but the rest of the time the coverage was mostly peripheral, especially outside of Queensland. In Melbourne, the weekly half-hour This Week At Expo produced by TVQ was shown on ATV10 after midnight and then it got shifted to 6.00am or something like that. It was not exactly prime viewing.


I remember lots of initial excitement and plenty of school friends making their way to Brisbane with their families to take it in during the first months. Interest in the opening helped Ten to a weekly win in the ratings. Beyond 2000 on Seven ran an Expo '88 special during the week before the opening which saw them achieve a 31, they usually rated mid 20s, making them the most watched show of the week.

Network Week ending 30 April 1988
Ten 31.4%
Nine 27.9%
Seven 27%
ABC 11.8%
SBS 2%

Ten had a two hour Young Talent Time In Concert at Expo '88 on May 7 but it didn’t rate spectacularly. Interest in Expo '88 had waned so much by the time it ended on October 30 that Ten didn’t air the closing ceremony until after 11pm. Ten were in third place in the ratings by the end of that year.


Any idea what the Sunday night movies were that week (if any) and how they rated?

Seven had a 1976 made for TV movie starring Robert Reed called Revenge For A Rape.
Nine was the only channel running a first run movie, Escape From New York.
Ten was airing a repeat of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

I’d assume the Nine movie was the highest rating. Seven must’ve had a very poor movie output deal at the time or they were targeting the female audience not catered to by the sci-fi offerings on the other channels.

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One thing I’d missed earlier. Look how even the three of them are. Only a few points separating 1st and 3rd?

Its amazing how competitive it was and how often the ratings lead was changing week to week in those days. Ten won six ratings survey periods in that year and Seven and Nine won one each.

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