Final countdown proves Channel Nine's gift is its song
AT FIRST glance it was the clash of the titans: Seven's celebrity-powered Dancing with the Stars finale against the first of a two-night finish for Nine's ratings juggernaut The Voice. But upon closer examination it was more like David and Goliath when the two shows went head to head last night.
The Voice has commanded a weekly audience of 2 million viewers; Dancing with the Stars, its wattage dimmed by the elimination of Kerri-Anne Kennerley, has attracted only a little more than half of that.
Nine chose to run the finale of The Voice in two instalments - last night and tonight - so only Dancing with the Stars concluded last night.
Online support ... finalist Sarah De Bono and coach Joel Madden. Photo: Getty Images
The first night of The Voice's two night finale drew an audience of 2.24 million viewers nationally, a small lift on its week-to-week audience.
Nine would be expecting a bigger result tonight.
Against it, and featuring the return of Kennerley and a performance by Australian pop icon Olivia Newton-John, the Dancing with the Stars grand final drew only 1.23 million.
Dancing winners ... Johnny Ruffo and Luda Kroitor.
Nine won the night with a 33.1 per cent share.
Those figures are unadjusted overnights based on scheduled start and finish times. They will be amended slightly later today based on actual start and finish times, as both The Voice and Dancing with the Stars ran over.
Packed to the Rafters actress Zoe Cramond, 26, was eliminated first, leaving X Factor contestant Johnny Ruffo, 24, and 43-year-old Danielle Spencer, the singer-actress wife of Russell Crowe, to vie for the show's signature mirror-ball trophy.
And the winning couple: Ruffo and his professional partner, Luda Kroitor, a five-time world champion salsa dancer. Kroitor had previously won Dancing with the Stars when she partnered former Home and Away star Luke Jacobz in 2008. Ruffo and Kroitor defeated Spencer and her partner, Damian Whitewood.
To cash in on huge ratings, Nine will wait until tonight to crown the first champion of The Voice. Left in competition are Karise Eden, 19, Sarah de Bono, 19, Rachael Leahcar, 17, and, in a demographic-defying twist, 40-year-old Darren Percival.
If social media becomes the deciding factor for tonight's conclusion then De Bono holds all the aces with the most Twitter followers, the double-Twitter firepower of coach Joel Madden and his wife, Nicole Richie (a combined total of 4 million) and the most fans on her Facebook page. But bookmakers are still giving Eden the best odds and most industry observers are tipping Percival - mentored by Keith Urban - as the race's dark horse.
Percival has generated the most positive feedback on Twitter and his coach's hashtag, #TeamKeith, is used more than twice as often as either #TeamSeal (Eden) or #TeamJoel (DeBono).
Either way, none of the four will walk away empty-handed. Nine's director of development, Adrian Swift, said the three runners-up would get $30,000, $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.
The winner receives a recording contract with Universal Music, though it is understood all four finalists already have albums and tours in the planning stages.
Nine has also confirmed a second series of The Voice early next year.