The return of Channel Ten's Australian drama Puberty Blues drew a disappointing 538,000 viewers in the five major capitals last night – following the disastrous debut of another local drama, Secrets and Lies, which had just 404,000 metropolitan viewers on Monday.
This is despite both programs being generally well-reviewed, each receiving a score of 8/10 from Fairfax Media's Sunday newspapers. Last night, Puberty Blues – which launched with an audience of 925,000 in 2012 – trended at No.1 on Twitter.
Though Puberty Blues suffered its worst-ever result last night, a network spokeswoman told Fairfax Media: "We're extremely proud of [the program]. It's an award-winning drama with a dedicated following and we're confident that audiences will build. We're excited to see how viewers will respond to the drama in coming weeks and on catch-up television and personal video recorders.”
The show's ratings will be eagerly watched by industry analysts, who this week rapped Ten over the knuckles for failing to capitalise on its Big Bash cricket and Sochi Winter Olympics broadcasts.
"Early indications suggest they haven't worked well as a promotional platform [for other programs]," Commonwealth Bank analysts Alice Bennett and Nathan Burley wrote in a note to clients.
The pair cut their already low predictions for Ten's slice of the free-to-air ad market to 22 per cent, while tipping Seven and Nine will claim a stake of 38 per cent or 39 per cent each.
This will increase the pressure on Ten's chief executive Hamish McLennan, who last year vowed there would be no repeat of his network's "unacceptable" low ratings.
McLennan said that sport, reality shows and "shiny floor" TV would be deployed to claw back audiences. But so far, Ten's reality series The Biggest Loser is faltering, drawing just 325,000 viewers last night, while the shiny floor show So You Think You Can Dance Australia pulled 408,000 on Sunday.
Overall, the Seven Network won the night with a 35.1 per cent slice of the audience, well clear of Nine's 28.6 per cent share. The ABC channels took third place with 17 per cent, followed by Ten on 15.3 per cent and SBS with 4.1 per cent.
Seven's win was fuelled by My Kitchen Rules which, despite experiencing its second-lowest rating episode of this season, easily topped the night with 1.61 million viewers – 500,000 ahead of the No.2 show, Seven News, on 1.11 million.
But Tracy Grimshaw claimed victory over Alf Stewart with Nine's A Current Affair (925,000) edging ahead of Seven's Home and Away (903,000).
Nine's game show also Hot Seat (603,000) also beat Seven's Million Dollar Minute (457,000).
Seven's Sunrise (355,000), however, thumped Nine's Today (273,000), while ABC's News Breakfast had 64,000 viewers on ABC1 and 45,000 on News24. Indeed, Sunrise had more than 10 times the viewers of its struggling Channel Ten rival Wake Up (33,000), which does not appear to have benefited from the axing of co-host Natasha Exelby less than three weeks after its launch last year.
Ten's news boss Peter Meakin has effectively put the show on notice, telling News Corp last month: "Any show that rates the way Wake Up does obviously does not have a long-term future and that's just a fact."
ABC1's top-rating show was its 7pm news bulletin with 766,000 viewers. Its new-look Spicks and Specks had an audience of 443,000.