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Kerching! Seven cashes in with House Rules ratings win

When the Seven Network says its prayers before bed, it would do well to consider this: the ratings giveth, and the ratings taketh away.

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Seven's renovation reality series House Rules came to a strong finish last night with 1.53 million people watching the final program and 1.83 million people watching the winner's announcement.

The two elements - the final program and its final segment - are coded separately to maximise the ratings potential of the latter. While that may seem slightly absurd at first glance, it is standard industry practice.

Those numbers are for the five mainland capitals. Inclusive of the regional ratings, those numbers lift to 2.42 million people watching the final program, and 2.86 million people watching the winner's announcement.

All told, it's a strong finish for a series which, with respect, got off to a wobbly start with only 803,000. In starting line terms, that put it behind the debut episodes of Excess Baggage (885,000), The Renovators (939,000) and The Shire (942,000).

House Rules' numbers quickly solidified but there was a moment, at the start, where it could be fairly claimed that everyone at Seven were holding their breath.


That is mostly due to the congestion into which the series launched, notably with Nine's The Voice still in the schedule, plus another strong Nine performer The Block: Sky High, the third season of Celebrity Apprentice and MasterChef on Ten.

Within its first few episodes, however, Seven would have been confident it had a hit on its hands. The numbers stabilised above the critical one million viewer waterline and, as the congestion began to clear, the numbers started to lift.

House Rules is particularly valuable to Seven in commercial terms as the format, based on another Seven hit My Kitchen Rules, is owned by the network.

Other than Nine's ownership of The Block, most other reality formats are licensed - with hefty price tags - by networks from multinational production groups; The Voice and MasterChef from Shine, The X Factor and Australia's Got Talent from Fremantle Media and so on.

Owned by the network, House Rules - so long as its numbers stay high - is a more profitable enterprise than many of its rivals.

Against the might of House Rules, The Block: Sky High was pummelled down to 1.22 million. But that's still a strong performance considering how busy the night was in eyeball terms and The Block has, in the past, proved to be very resilient to bad weather in the schedule.

House Rules is particularly valuable to Seven in commercial terms as the format, based on another Seven hit My Kitchen Rules, is owned by the network.

Making a not so smooth entry into the schedule was the US series Red Widow.

It drew only 901,000 viewers in the five mainland capitals but with regional ratings inclusive, Red Widow lifted to 1.35 million. Given its star power - it features two Australian actors Radha Mitchell and Wil Traval - and the lead-in of the House Rules finale, Seven would have been expecting it to tip above the 1 million viewer watermark in capital cities.

Seven pitched the series to advertisers and media last year as "the new Revenge", referring to the network's past blockbuster, the US series family drama starring Emily VanCamp. That series made its debut on Australian TV with more than 2 million people watching.

In truth, however, Red Widow isn't Revenge. It is a mob drama more reminiscent of The Sopranos, while Revenge, in genealogical terms, is more closely related to the prime-time soaps of the 1980s such as Dallas and Dynasty, with more hifalutin storylines and an emphasis on style rather than subtext.

Red Widow is much tougher. Based on the Dutch drama series Penoza, it lasted only one season in the US because of soft audience numbers. Local audience awareness of its failure to secure a renewal in the US would no doubt have contributed to its struggle to cross the 1 million viewer line here.