HDTV Ratings: January 17

A return to peak-hour quality programming has paid off spectacularly for TV One.

The network that has tarnished its legacy as the country’s flagship broadcaster with a marathon of factual entertainment and police procedurals at last looks to be stopping the rot – at least on Tuesday nights.

Last night’s natural history double-bill of Primeval NZ and Frozen Planet proved a powerhouse combination.

The former, in HD, lost against TV2’s reality bilge of Neighbours at War and Renters.

But with 25-54 and 18-49 ratings of 10.4% and 9.8% respectively, it drew 3-4 times the viewership of TV3’s HD movie repeat, Eragon.

However, it was David Attenborough’s latest, Frozen Planet, for which TVNZ would have paid the BBC a premium licence fee, that blitzed the competition across the board.

It rated 15% of TV One’s target audience, 25-54 year-olds, and amazingly was nearly as popular with 18-49s (14.3%) and 18-39s (14.7%), leaving the movies on TV2 and TV3 languishing with barely half the audience.

The biggest turnout was from household shoppers with kids: 18.3%.

These are stunning numbers and reflect an audience appetite for fare more stimulating and satisfying than the next big fat gypsy wedding or MasterChef spin-off.

It also shows that despite the proliferation of cable channels, like Discovery and Animal Planet, natural history is a big drawcard on free-to-air TV.

To its credit, TV One spent much of last year building this audience with quality wildlife docos at 5pm on Sundays but it’s a pity the broadcaster didn’t see fit to pay extra for the HD version of Frozen Planet.

The good news is it should be out on Blu-ray within weeks of the eight-part series ending – although you can already order it from the UK and Australia, where it was released in December (the best deal is £25 from Amazon, with free shipping).

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