Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The reality is: we still love reality TV

Aussies prefer drama to reality TV? Bollocks - it's all how you read the data.

After writing this blog recently on how Australia's end of year TV ratings were dominated - nay, verrily greased, spanked and whipped into submission - by reality shows I was quite surprised to read this story from today's Adelaide Advertiser: "The reality is, we prefer a good drama".

"Hooray," I thought. "We're not such boring thickos after all!"

Well, wait a minute.

The article cites figures from Roy Morgan Research that show that while three of the top five rating programs for the year were of the reality genre, viewers were most "engaged" with the two drama offerings - Downton Abbey and Packed to the Rafters.

"I will not stand for misleading ratings figures."

The article implies that although reality show Australia's Got Talent had the most viewers in 2011, Packed to the Rafters was actually more popular because "three quarters" of its audience said they specifically tuned in to watch it each week, whereas only "half" of AGT viewers did. More than 40 per cent of AGT viewers said they only watched the show "because someone else in their house did", or because there was "nothing better on".

Similarly, the article suggests that Downton Abbey was actually a more popular show than The Block for the same reason - more than 70 per cent of Downton Abbey viewers tuned in specifically to watch it, whereas only about half of The Block viewers did.

It can't have escaped attention that AGT, Rafters and Downton Abbey are all on Channel Seven, while The Block is on Channel Nine, although I'm not necessarily suggesting any bias here - the research only looked at the top five shows and three of those happen to be on Seven. So be it.

But I did note the article failed to mention that Ten's reality show Masterchef, the year's fifth most-watched show, had more than 60 per cent of its total viewership tuning in specifically to watch it. You can see this information in Roy Morgan's press release.

That's not a far cry from either Rafters (about 72 per cent) or Downton Abbey (about 73 per cent), the figures being used to support the argument that Australians are finding drama more "engaging" than reality TV.


And if you go by sheer numbers rather than percentages of audiences, many more people - almost double - tuned in specifically to watch Masterchef (2.86 million) than did Downton Abbey (1.9 million). Call me crazy, but I reckon a greater number of actual viewers might suggest Masterchef is a more popular show.

Furthermore, Masterchef performed well in Roy Morgan's third measure of "engagement": whether or not viewers would say they "really loved" a show.

Rafters was the most loved show, with 2.3 million viewers saying they "really loved" it, but Masterchef came in second with 1.75 million, streets ahead of the supposedly more popular Downton Abbey at 1.25 million.

So I guess the reality is the headline on the Advertiser's story - "Reality is, we prefer drama" - is a tad misleading.

And we really are still a nation of reality-TV-loving thickos, as suspected.


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