With Netflix, Stan and Presto Entertainment all set to launch in the early part of 2015, there's a lot of focus on which shows will be available on each service. In that context, ratings data from 2014 provides a sobering reminder that when they pay for TV, Australian viewers care far more about sport than they do about drama or comedy.
Picture: Getty Images/Quinn Rooney
TV Tonight has a roundup of the most popular shows on both free-to-air and subscription TV in 2014. (For all practical purposes, subscription TV means Foxtel.) The data includes both live viewing and catch-up viewing later.
Sport is prominent in the free-to-air listings, with the highest rating show of the year being the AFL Grand Final, which scored 2.8 million capital city viewers. The rest of that list is largely comprised of reality TV finales (for which the ratings are counted separately to the rest of the episode because commercial TV networks are completely shameless).
On paid-for Foxtel, the dominance of sport is absolute. All 20 of the most popular programs were sporting broadcasts, with AFL broadcasts making up more than half the list. If we're paying, we're paying for sport above all else.
Those sporting rights won't be going anywhere else soon, so Netflix et al will have to rely on drama and comedy to attract viewers. From that perspective, the mainstream TV ratings do provide one promising sign: those are the shows which people are most likely to record and watch later, which is similar behaviour to using a view-on-demand service. Every single one of the "most timeshifted shows" on free-to-air television was a drama. On Foxtel, timeshifting was dominated by movies (and by Frozen, which appears five times in the top 20).
One other point: out of the 20 most-timeshifted shows on free-to-air, 17 were produced in Australia. Whether that means that on-demand services need to pay more attention to local production isn't clear: it might well be the case that there are plenty of existing illegal sources for US and UK content, but fewer for Australian shows.
2014: The Final Word [TV Tonight]