The most-watched TV programs of 2018 revealed

THIS was the year that Married at First Sight abandoned its “social experiment” pretence – and viewers did not mind at all.

Thanks to an unholy alchemy of contrived conflict and clever casting, the Nine Network reality show became Australia’s top-rating series of 2018.

Its trio of relationship counsellors – an attempt to lend credibility to the spectacle – were reduced to comically obvious sound bites: lying is bad, manipulation is bad, trying to pash someone else’s wife at a wine-soaked dinner party ... also bad.

The conflict-heavy Married at First Sight was a ratings winner for Nine. Photo: Nigel Wright

The conflict-heavy Married at First Sight was a ratings winner for Nine. Photo: Nigel Wright

As the nation absorbed these revelations, contestants restated their desire for a serious relationship; their claims somewhat undermined by antics rarely seen outside of schoolies week.

Nationally, the series averaged almost 2 million viewers, displacing last year’s winner Ninja Warrior, which fell to seventh place. My Kitchen Rules came in at No.2, followed by The Block and US drama The Good Doctor. Nine also had the No.1 "event" broadcast with the first QLD vs NSW State of Origin game pipping Seven’s AFL Grand Final.

But it was Seven that won the year – its 12th consecutive victory – by growing its slice of the audience to 30.5 per cent. The quiet achiever was SBS, which hit a record high of 7.7 per cent. Caught in the middle were Nine and Ten, which lost market share, and the ABC, which declined marginally.

While the ratings season officially ended on Saturday, programs recorded and watched within the next 28 days may have a small effect on the final results.

Seven's royal wedding coverage was among the most-watched TV events of 2018. Photo: Gareth Fuller

Seven's royal wedding coverage was among the most-watched TV events of 2018. Photo: Gareth Fuller

Still, Seven can rest easy. Its Sunrise breakfast program, with 453,000 viewers, overshadowed the 351,000 watching Today. Its 6pm news bulletin is No.1 and its 7Mate station is the most popular secondary channel. A silver lining for Nine was 60 Minutes beating Sunday Night.

Aside from The Good Doctor, the only international series in the top 10 were Death in Paradise and David Attenborough’s Tasmania, both on ABC.

One thing's for sure: American comedies and films are not the ratings power houses they used to be.

In 1998, Friends averaged 739,000 viewers in Sydney alone; today, a sitcom does well to reach that number across all major capitals.

Twenty years ago, Blue Heelers and Water Rats cracked top 10; in 2018, no Australian drama did. Even Die Hard with a Vengeance made the list back then – a full three years after its cinema release.

While ABC, SBS and Nine offered live broadcasts of the royal wedding, Seven’s coverage, averaging 2.64 million viewers, was the clear winner.

Top-rating regular programs, 2018

  • Married at First Sight, Nine, 2.00 million
  • My Kitchen Rules, Seven, 1.80 million
  • The Block, Nine, 1.61 million
  • The Good Doctor, Seven, 1.53 million
  • Seven News, 1.47 million
  • The Voice, Nine, 1.41 million
  • Australian Ninja Warrior, Nine, 1.37 million
  • Death in Paradise, ABC, 1.35 million
  • House Rules, Seven, 1.34 million
  • David Attenborough’s Tasmania, ABC, 1.34 million

Metro+regional ratings combined. Source: OzTam and RegionalTam

Top rating TV events, 2018

  • State of Origin Game 1, Nine, 3.44 million
  • AFL Grand Final: West Coast vs Collingwood, Seven, 3.40 million
  • AFL Grand Final presentations, Seven, 3.33 million
  • State of Origin Game 2, Nine, 3.20 million
  • NRL Grand Final Day, Nine, 3.06 million
  • The Block: Winner Announcement, Nine, 2.89 million
  • Commonwealth Games: Opening Ceremony, Seven, 2.79 million
  • State of Origin Game 3, Nine, 2.67 million
  • Royal Wedding: Harry and Meghan Ceremony, Seven, 2.64 million
  • Married at First Sight: Finale, Nine, 2.59 million

Metro+regional ratings combined. Source: OzTam and RegionalTam

Network audience share, 2018

  • Seven, 30.5 per cent (up 0.9 percentage points)
  • Nine, 27.4 per cent (down 0.7)
  • Ten, 17.4 per cent (down 0.5)
  • ABC, 17.0 per cent (down 0.1)
  • SBS, 7.7 per cent (up 0.5)

Metro only, main channel and multichannels combined, excluding Easter and Commonwealth Games. Source: OzTam