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Eleventh heaven as Ten Network hails debut

TEN Network Holding's new digital channel, Eleven, enjoyed a solid rating debut yesterday.

This, in a much-needed sign the network will gain market share with its latest offering.

Eleven, which launched yesterday at 11am, secured a 4.4 per cent share of commercial television viewing, with flagship program Neighbours attracting 254,000 viewers.

While it is early days -- widespread coverage of the Queensland floods on the free-to-air networks makes it an atypical week -- Ten executives were pleased with the debut.

"It's only the beginning but, even so, we're delighted with Eleven's first night ratings -- and we're particularly pleased with these results at this time of year as there are fewer people watching television during summer," said programming chief David Mott. "Typically, key programs on other multi-channels have achieved about a quarter to a third of the audience they attract on the main channels.

"Last night's strong result for Neighbours already suggests the audience will follow the folks from Ramsay Street to their brand new neighbourhood on Eleven."

Ten's only multi-channel before yesterday was the sports-only offering, ONE, which has failed to attract audiences as big as Nines' GO or Seven's 7Two.

Ten argues that this was always part of its strategy and Eleven, which is pitched at 13-29 year olds through programs such as The Simpsons and Dexter, will broaden its audience and share of the advertising market.

Eleven is a joint-venture with US studio CBS.

Neighbours and The Simpsons were taken off the primary channel due to poor ratings and will be replaced by an hour of news and current affairs between 6-7pm. The news coverage, which will be launched later this month, represents the more risky part of Ten's strategy for 2011.

Ten shareholders -- which now include gaming mogul James Packer, mining magnate Gina Rinehart and Lachlan Murdoch, the director of News Corporation (publisher of The Australian) -- will be hoping Eleven is a success.

Ten's ratings have slumped over the summer, a not inconsiderable period as far as revenue goes for free-to-air networks.

Total viewers during prime time are down almost 5 per cent over the past six weeks during the non-official ratings period.

Revenue data collected by research house SMI also suggests the network's total media agency bookings fell by 18 per cent to $34.9m in December compared with the previous corresponding period.

SMI does not claim to provide a complete picture of the television industry but is meant to account for the bulk of direct advertising booked by the big media agencies.

The latest data has become a point of contention between the commercial networks -- which rarely agree on the performance of their peers -- with Seven questioning figures that have it down 11 per cent to $46.5m in December.

"We've already queried the data with SMI because we were up by 13 per cent during December which means, clearly, that it is inaccurate," said Seven chief sales and digital officer James Warburton. Seven does not subscribe to SMI.

For its part, Ten has said it will not participate in the revenue-share numbers issued by Free TV Australia twice a year after CEO Grant Blackley said the results released in July were inaccurate.


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