American dramas struggle on Aussie TV

With some television fans sourcing their favourite shows by "other means", fewer and fewer viewers are tuning in each week. Compared to just three years ago there simply aren't as many of us tuning in to free-to-air television.

That spells doom for both networks and viewers alike.

Last week the top international drama on our screens was NCIS with 1.38 million viewers. It was 1 million behind Underbelly.

It was followed by Criminal Minds on 1.33 million, Lie to Me and CSI both on 1.1 million, The Mentalist on 1.04 million, and Desperate Housewives on 1.01 million.

The most popular shows on Australian television remain Australian made, though only two (Underbelly and Packed to the Rafters) are considered high-rating dramas. The rest are predominantly factual, news and light entertainment.

As a result of diminishing returns, programmers continue to drop or move shows from schedules. Seven has decided to push 24 back to an 11pm start beginning this Sunday.

Worried that Desperate Housewives is being thrashed by Underbelly, it has also slated a marathon on Sunday March 15th in the hope of hooking in new fans.

TEN has similar problems with Dexter, now set to switch from Monday nights to late on Sundays, although in double episodes. Life on Mars will end after one season. House isn't getting the huge Aussie audience it once enjoyed.

Flashpoint has vanished from Nine. Gossip Girl lasted all of three episodes.

Some shows that have already aired on Pay Television aren't getting good audiences by the time they finally screen on free-to-air.

And while audiences don't turn up to American dramas, programmers will be quick to remove them. Meanwhile fans are fed up with having to wait and with networks moving shows around.

It's a very big Catch-22, and in the current economic climate it's not likely to improve.

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