'Team effort': ABC's 7.30 ratings lift after Mark Humphries' arrival
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'Team effort': ABC's 7.30 ratings lift after Mark Humphries' arrival

Exclusive interviews and lighter content has helped lift 7.30's ratings out of the doldrums.

November has seen the ABC's flagship news and current affairs program reach its highest average audience all year, with October coming in second. The ratings boost has coincided with satirist Mark Humphries joining the program.

Around 610,000 people have tuned in to 7.30 every night this month, according to an analysis of capital city averages. October saw an average metropolitan audience of 590,000 people. The program started the year with an average nightly audience of 550,000 but dipped as low as 524,000 in April.

7.30 staffers rejected the suggestion that Mark Humphries is responsible for the program's recent ratings boost, pointing to incremental growth over the past few months.

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However, ABC employees admit that Humphries' fortnightly skits have gained a lot of attention on social media and is likely a nostalgic reminder for older viewers who miss the days when the late John Clarke would imitate everyone from Paul Keating to George Bush.

Comedian Mark Humphries joined the ABC's 7.30 program in early October.

Comedian Mark Humphries joined the ABC's 7.30 program in early October. Credit:AAP

'We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here," one 7.30 employee said. "We have a long history of satire."

7.30's executive producer, Justin Stevens, said the ratings boost was the result of a "team effort".

"Leigh Sales has been doing fantastic, compelling interviews this year, including the Australian exclusive with James Comey, Catherine Marriott, Emma Husar and Shane Warne," he said.

"Having Laura Tingle join the team as chief political correspondent has been an invaluable addition to the program's political analysis. We are also building on the huge reputation and high standards the program has always had over many years."

7.30 host Leigh Sales.

7.30 host Leigh Sales. Credit:ABC

There have been a number of big news events over the past few months – from the ABC's leadership crisis to the Bourke Street stabbings – which likely helped 7.30's numbers. Staff are also focusing on making better graphics and tackling specials that run over a number of nights in a bid to retain viewers.

Whatever the reason for the ratings boost, it is welcomed by 7.30 staff, who are breathing a sigh of relief. Last year, there were rumours the ABC could shift the flagship current affairs program to a different timeslot. There were serious concerns about the show's numbers given it occupies prime time.

While a change to the ABC's TV schedule was floated as a possibility, management decided to hire some big names and tweak 7.30's mix of stories in the hope of patching up its ratings. There is now a focus on chasing different stories to the 7pm news bulletins. Host Leigh Sales has also been interviewing singers and sporting legends towards the end of the program.

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The show's audience share is currently growing by 0.2 per cent year-on-year. While that figure is very small, 7.30's audience share has only increased three times in the past decade.

Humphries, who shot to fame doing political satire on SBS made the shift to the Ten Network earlier this year to host its new game show Pointless. His impact on the numbers at Ten hasn't been quite as profound. Instead, the show has been performing worse than its predecessor, Family Feud, which was hosted by Gold Logie winner Grant Denyer.

On Monday, ABC confirmed 7.30 would return in 2019.

Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at Fairfax Media.

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