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Easter TV Analysis

Red Dwarf was a smash hit for Dave

Digital TV channel Dave recorded its highest ever audience figures over the weekend with its 3 part micro series revival of Red Dwarf but other television highlights were rather no existent. 

The half hour show which saw the crew transported back to present-day Earth to plead with their creator to write more episodes pulled in 2.1m (10%) on Dave with a further 341, 000 viewing an hour later on time-shift service Dave Ja Vu. 

The subsequent episodes in the new mini series drew 937,000 viewers between 9pm and 9.35pm, with a further 303,000 on Dave Ja Vu on Saturday. The final edition attracted 1 million viewers and a 4.6% multichannel share between 9pm and 9.30pm, with a further 244,000 on the time-shift channel on Sunday.

However despite the shows success, which completely dwarfed the channel’s slot average so far this year of 236,000 (1.1%) for all of 2008, it averaged 266,000 (1.4%), there was little else to excite viewers over the poor weather. 

BBC and ITV both failed to offer a schedule anywhere close to outshining Christmas last year, opting instead for ordinary programming which saw Britain’s Got Talent return for a third outing and Hell’s Kitchen a fourth. Whilst both delivered strong audiences for ITV1, 10.4m for Britain’s Got Talent and 5m for Hell’s Kitchen, it would have been far more enjoyable to have had more special one off programming and blockbuster films (which haven’t already aired at least 10 times on numerous occasions before). There are only so many times you can sit through Chicken Run (Easter Saturday BBC1) and don’t even get me started on the dreadful King Arthur (Easter Monday BBC1). 

The only sign of effort came in the form of the first of David Tennant’s four farewell episodes. ‘Planet of the Dead’ which also starred Michelle Ryan of Eastenders and Bionic Woman fame was good family entertainment but failed to reach the same heights as the return of the embarrassing Britain’s Got Talent managing only 8.41m viewers.

Whilst overall it was a relatively strong weekend for TV viewing. It seems that in the midst of the credit-crunch, controllers are merely playing it safe, rather than investing in quality programming. Surely the viewing public deserved more than just wall-to-wall repeats and reality shows.

As Broadcast reported last week TV viewing is down year on year. During the first three months of the year, the average person watched 224 minutes of TV per day, compared with 229 minutes for the same three-month period last year. Uplifting shows like Britain’s Got Talent may fill up large parts of the schedule but if audiences are to rise (and ultimately advertising revenue which helps fun quality programming) controllers are going to have to get more creative. There are only so many times that you can throw out long running formats, take Big Brother which is due to end this summer after a 10 year run and dwindling ratings, whether they rate high or not. They are one genre of programming, they don’t appeal to everyone, more diversity and originality is imperative to engaging with ones audience and beating the competition.

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