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Almost half the viewers who watched Bachelor in Paradise – which ended on Monday with a surprise twist – were not captured by traditional TV ratings.
For years, the industry measured its success using a simple metric: the average number of people who saw a program, live, in the five major cities.
Sure, some viewers taped their favourite shows on video cassette. Many lived outside the big capitals. But the bulk of any program's audience was reflected in the metropolitan ratings.
Bachelor in Paradise – a spin-off of Ten's Bachelor reality franchise – proves how much this has changed.
Bachelor in Paradise proves how much viewing habits have changed.
On Monday, more than 960,000 city and regional viewers saw the "proposal" segment of the finale, while the main episode averaged 825,000. These figures will increase over the next week, once time-shifted and online audiences are added.
This compares well to the 2017 season of The Bachelor, starring Matty J, which averaged more than 1.2 million. Sophie Monk’s star power, in contrast, lifted The Bachelorette to 1.5 million.
Sam proposes to Tara on Bachelor in Paradise.
Of course, live viewers in the major cities are still the holy grail for commercial TV – simply because they are more profitable. Unlike regional viewers (who are serviced by affiliated networks such as Win and Prime), metropolitan residents watch Seven, Nine and Ten directly. And sponsors still pay a premium for ads that appear on people's TV screens.
As Australians drift away from live viewing, though, networks and advertisers are finding new ways to monetise them.
Modern commercials are often designed to have at least some impact, even if viewed at a higher speed on personal recorders. This is why you see so many giant logos lingering at the end of 30-second spots.
On the TenPlay website, ads cannot be skipped. But at least these ads are brief, and there are rarely more than a handful in each break.
More importantly, TenPlay runs pretty smoothly now. (Just a couple of years ago, viewers were routinely assaulted by exceedingly loud ads. And they were the lucky ones – many couldn't make it to the first commercial break without the website crashing.)
Networks still pay close attention to regional ratings; the higher the number, the more leverage they have with their affiliate networks.
And when a program does well on social media (Paradise is usually the top-trending Twitter topic during broadcast), sponsors are more likely to pay for these audiences, too.
It must be tempting, therefore, for Ten to consider a local version of The Proposal – yet another Bachelor spin-off recently announced by US network ABC.
They'd be wise to hold off, though.
By the end of this year, Ten will have screened Bachelor in Paradise, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (starring serial contestant Ali Oetjen, as Ten announced on Monday). Any new iterations could stretch the franchise to breaking point.
Tara, left, and Keira were fan favourites.
Indeed, The Block's ratings dwindled a few years ago amid a flurry of spin-offs, then recovered when Nine pared the series back to its original format.
MasterChef audiences have also been overwhelmed by spin-offs – but they returned once these spin-offs were axed.
Should Ten consider The Proposal for next year, it would be wise to consider it a replacement for Paradise.
Even for die-hard fans, there can be too much of a good thing.
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