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Schapelle Corby's first moments of freedom

Channel Seven's Sunday Night program gave us Schapelle Corby's first moments of freedom but very few words from Schapelle herself.

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INXS has kicked Schapelle Corby, again.

Channel Seven's Sunday Night interview with Mercedes Corby, sister of the convicted drug smuggler, drew 1.09 million viewers in the five major capitals last night.

This is well down on the 1.91 million people who watched Sunday Night's INXS special last week. Last night, the show was beaten by arch-rival 60 Minutes on Nine, which had 1.21 million viewers, achieving its best result of the year.

INXS band member Tim Farriss speaking about Michael Hutchence's (inset) last days on <i>Sunday Night</i>.

INXS band member Tim Farriss speaking about Michael Hutchence's (inset) last days on Sunday Night.

It follows the thumping that Nine's Schapelle telemovie received last month (1.02 million) against Seven's INXS: Never Tear Us Apart telemovie (1.97 million viewers.)

But all this has resulted in misguided commentary suggesting Australians are no longer interested in Corby.

A closer look at the figures tells a different story. One week after the initial Schapelle screening, the consolidated ratings revealed that almost two million Australians watched either the original broadcast, the encore screening or a digital recording in the metropolitan or regional areas. This is a huge success, by any measure.

Schapelle Corby with her niece Nyleigh.

Schapelle Corby with her niece Nyleigh. Photo: Seven Network

And the relatively soft ratings for last night's interview with Mercedes can be explained by the fact that Schapelle herself was not probed on camera. (The key word here is "relatively". Any million-plus figure is a strong result. And when regional figures are added, Sunday Night climbs from seventh place to fourth with an audience of 1.77 million – ahead of 60 Minutes, which had 1.73 million).

If Sunday Night can overcome the considerable legal hurdles to land an interview with the parolee, its ratings will soar.

Continued interest in Corby's case is also evidenced by the fact she's been on all the cover of the weekly gossip magazines – the editors wouldn't put her there if she didn't drive sales – and stories about her appear regularly in the "most-viewed" lists of top news websites.

While Seven's My Kitchen Rules had its lowest-rating Sunday episode of the year, the reality behemoth comfortably won the night with a massive metropolitan audience of 1.62 million, climbing to 2.47 million when regional ratings are added.

Nine's The Block: Fans v Faves came in at second place with 1.5 million (2.16 million including regionals) – its highest-rating episode of the series.

Australian drama also did well last night. Nine's Tony Mokbel dramatisation Fat Tony & Co had a metropolitan audience of 1.13 million, claiming fifth place, while ABC1's Rake ranked at No. 12 with 638,000. (And after just two episodes, Nine has renewed its period drama Love Child – focusing on the sexual revolution of the 1960s – based on its strong Monday night ratings.)

Channel Ten's top show was its Eyewitness News with 438,000 viewers. Its So You Think You Can Dance reality series had a metropolitan audience of just 408,000 – barely a quarter of rival My Kitchen Rules' audience.

Despite season four of Downton Abbey premiering last night – almost half a year after its UK debut – the show was a success for Seven with 991,000 metropolitan viewers, ranking at No.8, and 1.52 million including regionals.

"The shows that get illegally downloaded tend to be more younger skewing, cult-y shows and [Downton] doesn't fall into that category," Seven's head of programming, Angus Ross, told Fairfax Media last week.

Rounding out the metropolitan top 10 were the news bulletins: Seven in third place (1.25 million), Nine in sixth place (1.12 million) and ABC1 in ninth place (779,000). David Attenborough's Natural History claimed 10th spot with 764,000.

Overall, the Seven network won the night with an audience share of 34.1 per cent, well clear of Nine's 30.8 per cent. Again, the ABC channels' share of 15.7 per cent beat the Ten network's share of 13.3 per cent, followed by SBS's 6.1 per cent share.

mlallo@fairfaxmedia.com.au