Masterchef 2012 episode 1, Channel 10.

Feeling the heat ... MasterChef wins its first real pressure challenge.

In the most competitive environment seen in years, Ten's reality TV behemoth Masterchef last night opened to an audience of 1.36 million viewers nationally.

To the Ten Network, after a difficult year of cutbacks and negative press, and a poor performance overall during the first half of the ratings year, that result will seem like manna from heaven.

The result is slightly down on last year's debut - 1.51 million viewers - but factoring in current market conditions, Ten's performance overall and the age of the format, a result of 1.36 million is a solid, confident start for Ten.

It was not enough, however, to take the top slot last night. Nine's The Block was the highest rating non-news program with 1.47 million viewers. Nine also drew a big audience, 1.29 million, to 60 Minutes.

Significantly for Ten, however, Masterchef was the number one program in the 18-49-year-old demographic.

That's Ten's declared demo, and also a segment of the audience which is a magnet for advertising revenue.

Seven's Dancing with the Stars continued to struggle with 1.11 million viewers.

Its first few weeks were  pressured by Nine's drawing huge numbers into The Voice, but The Voice has since vacated Sunday nights as it begins a set of mid-week live shows.

Masterchef has subsequently entered the fray, but Dancing has shown no signs of recovery, despite the reduced pressure on audience volumes, which means its problems may be closer to home than first thought.

Free to Air Ratings Sunday 7th May
1 Seven News Seven 1,565,000
2 Nine News Nine 1,481,000
3 The Block Nine 1,476,000
4 Masterchef Australia Ten 1,368,000
5 60 Minutes Nine 1,290,000
6 Dancing With The Stars Seven 1,110,000
7 Bones Seven 1,015,000
8 The Biggest Loser Ten 936,000
9 ABC News ABC1 793,000
10 Midsomer Murders (R) ABC1 721,000
11 Castle Seven 711,000
12 Touch Ten 703,000
13 Two On The Great Divide ABC1 660,000
14 The Mentalist E1 Nine 652,000
15 Seven's AFL: Sunday Arvo Football Seven 536,000
16 The Mentalist E2 Nine 478,000
17 Ten News At Five Ten 469,000
18 Machu Picchu Decoded SBS One 451,000
19 Nine's Sunday Football Nine 383,000
20 Compass ABC1 367,000
SOURCE: OzTam Ratings