Holmes' audience plunges from opening night high

By Claire Trevett

Paul Holmes' audience on Prime nearly slipped under the ratings radar on the fledgling current affairs show's third night.

On Wednesday, Holmes dropped to just 3 per cent of the audience share, from 12 per cent on the opening night.

While the audience for TVNZ's Close Up has steadily grown over the week, total viewer numbers for Prime's show slipped from 151,160 on Monday to 37,790.

On Wednesday night, Holmes was left with half the viewers of Suzy Aiken's Prime News in the 5.30pm time slot - and lower ratings than Prime's old 7pm show, Hogan's Heroes.

On Monday night, Holmes promised he would do anything to attract the viewers. He has planted a tree on One Tree Hill, and his sidekick Ali Mau talked to Cherie Blair in a hospital corridor.

On Wednesday night he interviewed golfer David Smail, and Steve Williams was his caddy. Still the viewers stayed away.

By Wednesday, his viewer numbers in the target audience of 25 to 54-year-olds were too small to register with ACNielsen.

Meanwhile, on TV One, Close Up's audience share lifted from 34 per cent to 41 per cent. Viewer numbers of 491,270 on Monday had grown to 529,060 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The head of the Christchurch Broadcasting School, former TVNZ news and current affairs chief Paul Norris, said Holmes had repeatedly shown he had the wile and power to pull out of a slough.

"You cannot make judgments on the basis of three nights and Paul is a fighter. He has been at the bottom of the heap before and he has found ways of triumphing.

"So don't write him off. But I would say the team has some work ahead of them."

Prime programming manager Andrew Shaw said he did not intend to worry about ratings for at least the first three months.

"We are small so the sampling is small and we are therefore open to volatility in audience that the others do not have.

"We are three days into something that runs for a long time. Only a fool would make changes at this point."

Bill Ralston, TVNZ head of news and current affairs, said he was happy Close Up's ratings had risen.

"We are exceeding our target. We thought we would take a knock, but it's less than we thought."

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