Saturday, 8 September 2012

Countdown viewing figures

Recently David Knox wrote a piece for TV Tonight where he provided some much-wanted statistics for how Countdown has been received (compared with Letters and Numbers).  It pretty much confirms all expectations: Viewership has dropped by almost 100,000 viewers from 128,000 to 36,000 (weekly average).  This has had flow-on effects for their news viewership as well, which has dropped around 24,000 viewers.

That's a pretty clear demonstration that Letters and Numbers had been doing exactly what it had been commissioned to do: Acting as a feeder to increase viewership for SBS news.  I suspect that other shows have also suffered a little as people who might normally have seen ads for them during Letters and Numbers no longer do so, but it would be hard to draw any compelling connection there.

Such figures do give me a little hope for the eventual reinstatement of Letters and Numbers, as I can't imagine that the drop of 92,000 viewers in such a key timeslot would be viewed with much favour.  Maybe it's time for some more letter-writing.


Sam Gaffney said...

Thanks for the post, Geoff - I'd tried researching this in the past, but it is hard to find public data for TV shows outside the most-watched 20 programmes in a week. I expected that Countdown ratings would be less than L&N, but not 3.5 times as low.

Maybe I'll get another run after all!

Geoff Bailey said...

Yes, I was lucky enough to stumble across that posting after noticing a few more people posting on the petition site. The figures surprised me, too -- I expected them to be bad, of course, but that bad was a surprise to me.

Jan said...

I had been wondering too, what the figures would be. It certainly does give some hope. Thanks.
I am not surprised at the low numbers for Countdown. It is such a poor show in comparison to L&N.

Mike Backhouse said...

Thanks Geoff.

We appreciate being kept apprised of news and progress in this unfortunate saga.

Bob said...

Thanks Geoff. I'm still amazed at the decision to "rest" the programme. I'd love to know the real reason(s) for this decision.

In June, I emailed (two or three times) and (once). Replies from two members of Audience Relations gave no inkling as to the real reason for the decision. Indeed one reply said, "Unfortunately, we haven’t been told more than what I have told you!"

Rhys Benjamin said...

I'm from the UK and have watched Countdown for years and years. Ever since Richard Whiteley died (who was "Mr Countdown") it's really failed to take off. In 2003/2004 it was averaging about 3-4 million viewers in the UK (and top-of-the-list programmes get about 10 million). Now, we're down, on some shows, to lower than you.

Geoff Bailey said...

Nice to hear from you, Rhys, and thanks for that information. It seems to me that the post-Whiteley Countdown era really suffered from a lack of longevity in the hosts; there was never a good chance for the cast to develop a good rapport and cameraderie before someone was replaced.

That said, I have a great deal of trouble picturing it dipping down to 36,000 in the UK. Are we interpreting the figures differently?

Rhys Benjamin said...

Well, Countdown traditionally went out at 4:30pm (or thereabouts) between its inception and 2001. It was top of the Channel 4 ratings very often in the late 90's and early 00's, watched by the elderly and students. But to accommodate Countdown's new, longer, format, it was cut to 4:15. Then they made a decision to put it back to 3:15pm and replace the 4:15 slot with "A Place in the Sun" - a ridiculous property show. Incidentally, it pushed another UK daytime favourite to the fatal time of 2:45pm.

Immediately the show fell out of the top 10, as Channel 4 had deprived a students' show of - that - students. It seemed to me as if it was being killed off. However, Whiteley's death gave it more publicity and pushed it back into the top 30. Since then, it's hovered around 3:20pm and then was pushed back to 3:10pm and, ultimately, 2:40pm. You'll notice Nick Hewer says "teatime" teaser...

Enough with all the claptrap - I once came across the Aussie show, "Letters & Numbers", on YouTube. I really thought that it didn't have that pizzazz (although your Series 1 winner did appear on our show in 1991). The clock music, I felt, was not memorable, and just looked a little bit like a Countdown copy.

But Nick Hewer (UK Presenter) has put me off for the first time since Whiteley's replacement, Des Lynam.

I would be fascinated to hear about how the Aussies are repeating - at what time, etc.

Geoff Bailey said...

Fair enough, Rhys -- I was pretty sure this was down to cultural differences. Most Australian watchers I have spoken to tended to prefer L&N to Countdown, but that's what one would generally expect. I will note, however, that the cast rapport was rather better in series 3 than series 1, as one would naturally expect.

Sadly, SBS has killed off the show; they were repeating L&N (series 1) at 3:00 on weekdays still but they have now stopped that. They also stopped showing Countdown after episode 90 of a 100-episode series (series 64). Rather shabby on their part, quite frankly. The net upshot is that fans of the genre over here have neither the local nor the UK version to watch.

Your comment about it being a show for students is a good one; I think this is where SBS really missed an opportunity. If they'd kept going for another couple of years they would have had the student crowd coming through strongly to bolster numbers.

As for Nick Hewer, I've not had a chance to see much of him. I'm hoping he will settle into the job with time, but if he also jumps ship after a year or two then there's not much to be done about it.