Despite an outcry from fans of Coronation Street when the TV soap was axed on Saturday nights, its replacement has proved a hit.

Saturday screenings of the long-running drama were dropped from September 1 - and replaced by Come Dine With Me, a series about British strangers competing for the title of best dinner party host.

TVNZ's decision means soap addicts must now get their Coro fix from hour-long screenings on Thursday and Friday at 7.30pm.

News of the switch prompted diehard supporters to take to internet fan forums in disgust.


However, it would appear the people have spoken. Latest viewing figures show that Come Dine With Me attracted 37 per cent more viewers in TV One's key demographic of 25-54 year olds on its debut than Coro St pulled the previous Saturday. Across the Thursday-Saturday that week, 180,000 more viewers tuned in, a TVNZ spokeswoman said.

"We were the most watched channel of the night among all New Zealanders aged 5 and over and Come Dine With Me was the most watched show in its time slot."

The Coro St axing means New Zealand will again fall further behind the UK. New Zealand was already running about 19 months behind their transmission dates. TVNZ said the ratings spoke for themselves.

Coro v cheerful twaddle

I've seen just enough of Come Dine With Me to be satisfied it's cheap and cheerful twaddle with no nutritional value.

But it's not like I was a fan of Coro either. I can appreciate it's a fine example of its genre, but it's simply not my cup of tea.

The most significant thing about Coronation Street's being shunted from Saturday night for Come Dine With Me is what it suggests about the evolution, or perhaps devolution, of the TV One brand. For most of my lifetime, TV One was associated with relatively high-minded British programmes. That's not been the case for some years, though. Prime has largely picked up the "best of British" mantle.

That change seemed to create an identity crisis for TV One - other than news and a decreasing amount of current affairs, it seems much like TV2 to me, only slightly stodgier.

I was interested to note new TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick was able to rattle off TV2's brand values ("escapism and fun") when he was interviewed by the NZ Herald last month but was stumped when it came to One, admitting: "There is a need to provide a sharper focus on what TV One stands for".

Come Dine With Me's taking over Coronation Street's Saturday slot would seem to be part of that refocusing and, if the move is rewarded with better ratings, then it could be the start of a slew of similar changes.

- Nick Grant