- Read a recap of Sunday night's episode
- Join us for a live chat with Marco Pierre White and Matt Preston at noon tomorrow
MasterChef: The Professionals launched last night to 1.16 million viewers.
MasterChef: The Professionals
The Professionals is a new take on a very well known franchise, where professional chefs put their credibility on the line.
It's a modest result, but understandable given the show was launched out of official ratings and the serious damage the Ten schedule is presently carrying after a series of ratings disasters in 2012.
The results were delayed this morning due to a "problem with production" at the official ratings measurement agency, OzTAM.
MasterChef: The Professionals is the elite level spinoff of the franchise, replacing the amateur foodie contestants of the regular version with food industry professionals, including caterers and cooks.
The show peaked at 1.39 million viewers.
It was also the top-ranked program in the 18- to 49-year-old, 16- to 39-year-old and 25- to 54-year-old demographics.
One factor which weighs heavily in Ten's favour is the depletion of Australian firepower at the Australian Open, which airs on Seven.
Seven's tennis last night drew only 890,000 viewers, despite a five-set, five-hour clash between Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.
In past years, with a strong showing from Australian players, Seven's coverage has delivered 2 million-plus audiences for prime-time singles matches and sapped up much of the competitive potential in the schedule in January.
But with an extraordinary 11 Australian players knocked out of the Australian Open singles draw in the first, two more in the second, including Samantha Stosur, and Bernard Tomic gone in the third, Seven's tennis firepower has been dampened.
The tennis can still deliver strong numbers for Seven, but the network's hopes of key matches in the singles draw delivering audiences of 2 million-plus are almost certainly dashed, with the possible exception of next weekend's finals.
That effectively gives MasterChef: The Professionals a clean run to get a solid footing in the schedule, something Ten needs desperately as it hopes to shake off its ratings woes of 2012 and start the new year with a clean slate.
Ten will be hoping to build its 1.16 million audience this week.
The ratings year does not officially begin until Sunday, February 10.
Ten has clearly launched MasterChef: The Professionals early in the hope of gaining a firm foothold against the very strong opposition of Seven's My Kitchen Rules.
My Kitchen Rules was originally launched as a MasterChef knockoff but has built itself into a legitimate, very successful franchise for Seven.
Its third season, which aired in 2012, finished with an audience of 2.186 million viewers in the five mainland capital cities.
Seven's tennis commitments mean it is unable to launch key series until the end of January. Nine is similarly hamstrung by cricket commitments.
Lacking a high-profile summer sport with January fixture dates, Ten is not bound in the same way.
Last year Ten launched The Biggest Loser one week ahead of its knockoff Excess Baggage on Nine and managed to win the clash of near-identical formats.
Nine's has also used the strategy to great effect. In 2011 it launched The Block one full month before Ten's The Renovators and seriously damaged it.
And last year Nine launched The Voice only one day ahead of Seven's Australia's Got Talent but was able, through a combination of factors, to grab a firm hold of its audience and flatten its rival.
As theories go, it isn't guided by the firmest logic, but but there is clear evidence to suggest that if two similar formats are likely to clash, the first to market has a strong change of winning a solid audience and depleting its rival.
All eyes are on Ten's ratings performance at the moment, as the embattled network tries to rebuild market confidence after its worst annual performance in recent memory.
Following a series of management blunders, executive sackings and program failures in 2012, Ten is going into 2013 with enormous commercial pressure on it: to lift its numbers, and revenue, as soon as possible.
First cab off Ten's rank was last week's launch of the US talent series American Idol, to a lacklustre result.
Ten is fast-tracking new episodes of the US franchise – the local version finished production in 2009 – airing them only five hours after their US broadcast.
But Ten's hope to capitalise on the popularity of Australian judge Keith Urban, who quit his gig on Nine's ratings juggernaut The Voice to take up the post, did not bear fruit.
In Australia, American Idol launched to national audience of just under 550,000 viewers.
Ten claims it was happy with the demographic skew of the audience and the fact that the numbers built across the telecast, but overall those numbers are soft, reflecting the extent of the damage caused by last year's ratings crash for Ten.
In the US, similarly, American Idol posted its lowest debut in history, drawing only 17.9 million viewers, a significant drop of roughly 20 per cent on the 2012 season premiere.
That won't be good news for its producers, who have assembled the most expensive judging panel in the show's history – Mariah Carey ($17 million), Nicki Minaj ($12 million) and Keith Urban ($4 million) – to rejuvenate it.
It will also be bad news for Urban, who gave up record-setting hometown audiences and almost universal acclaim on The Voice for a format which is far more restrictive in artistic terms.