HDTV Ratings: November 28

It was a big surprise to see TV One’s terrific new LA law drama, Southland, was in HD last night given the broadcaster didn’t promote this fact in the billings it sends media.

Less surprising were the show’s ratings. It averaged only half of HD lead-in Criminal Minds’ viewership and about a third of SD rival Rookie Blue’s on TV2 and TV3’s HD re-run of X-Men 2.

The New York Times dubbed the pilot “one of the most gripping opening episodes of any network crime series” and those who did tune in seemed to agree, with the premiere posting only a modest decline over the hour with most age groups.

It averaged 3.8% of 25-54 year-olds, 2.9% of 18-49s and 18-39s, and 2.6% of household shoppers with kids.

But unless the series improves over the next few weeks, Southland’s likely to go west and wind up late-night like the last unconventional crime show TV One tested in primetime, Justified.

Could these be the kind of series TVNZ has lined up for its new pay-TV venture with Sky, codenamed Igloo, which will deliver a mix of pay and Freeview channels over Sky’s digital terrestrial spectrum?

They’re not popular enough to justify a free-to-air peak-hour slot but would appeal to viewers who might be willing to pay $25 a month for a suite of channels that offers them exclusively?

Other examples would be Damages, which never delivered TV One the ratings it deserved, Shameless (which last night dipped in viewership) and the acclaimed Ray Romano comedy/drama, Men of a Certain Age, which debuts midnight Thursday on TV2.

TVNZ has the ongoing rights to each of these series, all of which would sit comfortably on SoHo (indeed, SoHo next month will screen a box-set marathon of Damages’ first season, albeit not in HD).

So TVNZ could do worse than launch a pay channel that was a mini-SoHo, mopping up series through its costly, high-volume output deals that are of niche appeal only.

Niche, however, doesn’t describe The Mentalist’s appeal. Last night’s HD instalment easily won the 8.30 hour, averaging 11.1% of 25-54s and 18-49s, 10.6% of 18-39s and 15.1% of HHS/kids.

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