Channel 10 in crisis: The Project, Bachelor and MasterChef in ratings decline


The future of Channel 10 as a viable commercial network is being questioned after a horror year which saw tentpole shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette bomb in the ratings.

In addition to a string of crushing defeats in prime time – including the failed launch of Making It Australia – flagship current affairs program The Project is losing viewers year on year, and Studio 10 and 10 News First are on a worrying downhill trend.

While 10 has a decent audience on its streaming platform 10 Play, it is struggling badly in the overnight five-city metro ratings, which is still considered the most important market for advertisers.

There are now fears the ViacomCBS-owned network simply can’t go on like this if the numbers don’t improve, with former TV executive Rob McKnight saying: ‘This is a network that is dying in front of our eyes.’ 

However, Channel 10 has rejected these concerns, saying some of the figures being bandied about in the trade press are misleading – especially given that TV viewership is down across the board.

The future of Channel 10 as a viable commercial network is being questioned after a horror year which saw tentpole shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette bomb in the ratings. Pictured: Brooke Blurton on The Bachelorette

The future of Channel 10 as a viable commercial network is being questioned after a horror year which saw tentpole shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette bomb in the ratings. Pictured: Brooke Blurton on The Bachelorette

Mr McKnight, a former 10 executive, said on the TV Blackbox podcast this week: ‘I know they’re making a play for streaming [but] how low can these ratings go before they can’t make revenue? I find it extraordinary. I just do.’

He added that 10’s American owners don’t seem to care about the dwindling ratings.

‘This is a network that is dying in front of our eyes. I always supported the idea that there could be three free-to-air commercial networks. What this is showing me is that that is not the case anymore,’ Mr McKnight said.

‘They’re all struggling but 10 seriously is the wounded animal limping and the fact is they keep running the same s**t and recommissioning the same s**t and it’s not flying with the public.’

There are now fears the ViacomCBS-owned network simply can't go on like this if the numbers don't improve, with former TV executive Rob McKnight (pictured) saying this week: 'This is a network that is dying in front of our eyes'

There are now fears the ViacomCBS-owned network simply can’t go on like this if the numbers don’t improve, with former TV executive Rob McKnight (pictured) saying this week: ‘This is a network that is dying in front of our eyes’ 

Perhaps the most alarming example of the ratings decline is The Project, which has lost almost a third of its audience since 2011.

The program, hosted by Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Lisa Wilkinson, has seen its metro ratings plummet to an all-time low of just 367,000 this year.

That’s a 30 per cent decline from its five-city audience of 538,000 a decade ago.

The national audience, which includes regional viewers, has also seen a similar percentage drop from 725,000 in 2011 to 490,000 in 2021.

These figures have made The Project commercial TV’s worst-performing nightly premium program.

The biggest losses have been on the east coast, which is considered the most important market from an advertising perspective.

Perhaps the most alarming example of the ratings decline is The Project, which has lost almost a third of its audience since 2011. Pictured (L-R): Tommy little, Peter Helliar, Hamish Macdonald, Carrie Bickmore, Waleed Aly, Lisa Wilkinson and Gorgi Coghlan

Perhaps the most alarming example of the ratings decline is The Project, which has lost almost a third of its audience since 2011. Pictured (L-R): Tommy little, Peter Helliar, Hamish Macdonald, Carrie Bickmore, Waleed Aly, Lisa Wilkinson and Gorgi Coghlan

In Sydney, it’s fallen to just 96,000 viewers per night from a high of 130,000 in 2011.

The show’s celebrated home of Melbourne has also been tuning out, with ratings down to 133,000 from a 2011 high of 180,000.

Brisbane has seen the worst decline of all, shedding almost half its audience from 120,000 in 2011 to just 68,000 in 2021.

These grim numbers are despite the fact Channel 10 is reportedly paying Wilkinson more than a million dollars as a panelist and host of the Sunday edition.

However, a 10 spokesperson said comparing ratings 10 years apart is ‘unfair’.

They pointed out that total TV viewing in the time slot is down a similar amount from 2011, with Seven down 26 per cent.

These grim numbers are despite the fact Channel 10 is reportedly paying Lisa Wilkinson (pictured) more than a million dollars as a panelist and host of the Sunday edition. However, a 10 spokesperson said comparing ratings 10 years apart is 'unfair'

These grim numbers are despite the fact Channel 10 is reportedly paying Lisa Wilkinson (pictured) more than a million dollars as a panelist and host of the Sunday edition. However, a 10 spokesperson said comparing ratings 10 years apart is ‘unfair’

Ratings for Studio 10 have also fallen precipitously since peaking around 2016 to 2017 when the morning program absorbed some of Sunrise and Today’s viewership.

In the five years since, the show has fallen back to its launch figure of 42,000 metro viewers, with its audience collapsing in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Channel 10 again challenged this analysis, noting that overall TV viewing is down 15 per cent across the board in Studio 10’s time slot, with Nine down 10 per cent and Seven down eight per cent.

This year saw Studio 10 rebrand with a two-anchor format, hosted by Sarah Harris and Tristan MacManus, to bring it more in line with Nine’s Today Extra and Seven’s The Morning Show.

It was previously a panel show, but most of the panelists – including Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Joe Hildebrand – were laid off last year due to budget cuts.

Ratings for Studio 10, hosted by Sarah Harris (left) and Tristan MacManus (right), have also fallen precipitously since peaking around 2016 to 2017. In the five years since, the show has fallen back to its launch figure of 42,000 metro viewers

Ratings for Studio 10, hosted by Sarah Harris (left) and Tristan MacManus (right), have also fallen precipitously since peaking around 2016 to 2017. In the five years since, the show has fallen back to its launch figure of 42,000 metro viewers

This year saw Studio 10 rebrand with a two-anchor format to bring it more in line with Nine's Today Extra and Seven's The Morning Show. It was previously a panel show featuring (L-R) Sarah Harris, Joe Hildebrand, Denise Drysdale, Ita Buttrose and Jessica Rowe

This year saw Studio 10 rebrand with a two-anchor format to bring it more in line with Nine’s Today Extra and Seven’s The Morning Show. It was previously a panel show featuring (L-R) Sarah Harris, Joe Hildebrand, Denise Drysdale, Ita Buttrose and Jessica Rowe

Things also aren’t looking good for 10 News First (formerly Ten Eyewitness News) which has shed 70 per cent of its audience since 2001, according to figures seen by Daily Mail Australia.

The 5pm news program recorded metro ratings of 1.07 million two decades ago, but now has a five-city audience of 363,000, putting it way behind Nine News and 7News.

A Channel 10 spokesperson again disputed this, saying it is ‘ridiculous to compare TV audiences from literally 20 years ago’.

Things also aren't looking great for Australia's third-place network in prime time. So far this year, Channel 10's prime-time audience is down nine per cent in total people and 15 per cent in its target market of under 50s. Pictured: Brooke Blurton on The Bachelorette

Things also aren’t looking great for Australia’s third-place network in prime time. So far this year, Channel 10’s prime-time audience is down nine per cent in total people and 15 per cent in its target market of under 50s. Pictured: Brooke Blurton on The Bachelorette

New format Making It Australia, hosted by Susie Youssef (right) and Harley Breen (left), bombed in prime time and was shunted to the abyss of Saturday night

New format Making It Australia, hosted by Susie Youssef (right) and Harley Breen (left), bombed in prime time and was shunted to the abyss of Saturday night

Things also aren’t looking great for Australia’s third-place network in prime time.

So far this year, Channel 10’s prime-time audience is down nine per cent in total people and 15 per cent in its target market of under 50s.

These declines are the same on a calendar-year basis and in terms of the TV ratings year. 

MasterChef Australia was down 39 per cent this year compared to 2020, and The Masked Singer was down 25 per cent in the same period. Pictured: MasterChef judges Jock Zonfrillo (left), Melissa Leong (centre) and Andy Allen (right)

MasterChef Australia was down 39 per cent this year compared to 2020, and The Masked Singer was down 25 per cent in the same period. Pictured: MasterChef judges Jock Zonfrillo (left), Melissa Leong (centre) and Andy Allen (right)

MasterChef Australia was down 39 per cent this year compared to 2020, and The Masked Singer was down 25 per cent in the same period.

As for dating shows, The Bachelor’s audience plummeted by 29 per cent from last year, and The Bachelorette is so far down by more than 30 per cent since 2020.

However, it should be noted The Bachelorette is gaining significant numbers in BVOD streaming, which is only made public a week after overnight ratings come out.

As for dating shows, The Bachelor's audience plummeted by 29 per cent from last year. Pictured: Jimmy Nicholson on The Bachelor

As for dating shows, The Bachelor’s audience plummeted by 29 per cent from last year. Pictured: Jimmy Nicholson on The Bachelor

The Bachelorette is so far down by more than 30 per cent since 2020. However, it should be noted The Bachelorette is gaining significant numbers in BVOD streaming, which is only made public a week after overnight ratings come out

The Bachelorette is so far down by more than 30 per cent since 2020. However, it should be noted The Bachelorette is gaining significant numbers in BVOD streaming, which is only made public a week after overnight ratings come out

The only good news was Australian Survivor, which has maintained a steady audience year on year. The Dog House Australia has also done a serviceable job.

New format Making It Australia, hosted by Susie Youssef and Harley Breen, bombed in prime time and was shunted to the abyss of Saturday night.

The series premiered on September 15 to 474,000 viewers and didn’t even make the night’s ten most-viewed programs. 

The only good news was Australian Survivor (2021 cast pictured), which has maintained a steady audience year on year

The only good news was Australian Survivor (2021 cast pictured), which has maintained a steady audience year on year

The Dog House Australia has also done a serviceable job

The Dog House Australia has also done a serviceable job

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