Gladiators vs. Australian Open: Who drew the viewers last night?

This year, the Australian Open launched on a Sunday for the first time ever. The organisers say this is to avoid games stretching into the early hours of the morning by spreading the fixtures over a longer schedule. However, we know the real reason for the move.

The Australian Open has the Demon, sure, but how can this stack up against Dragon, Cyclone, Comet, and Cobra? Impossible, right?

After seeing the stacked lineup over on the rebooted Gladiators, which launched last night on Ten, Australian Open organisers wisely moved the opening day to the Sunday. At least, this is a narrative we are going with.

However, De Minaur’s first round match was scheduled at 7pm on Nine, with Gladiators starting at 7.30pm over on Ten. What did fans of heated competition (intercut with commercials) do? Was it tennis rackets, or pugil sticks? Elimination rounds, or The Eliminator?

A lot has changed since the ’90s. Back then, people smoked in pubs, lollies were sold at school canteens, and concussions were treated with orange quarters and a slug of Lucozade. Health wasn’t a priority.

But, aside from all the wars and the bushfires and floods and political dissent, 2024 is a softer, safer time. Hence the disclaimer at the start of Gladiators, delivered by a Lycra-clad battler.

“Hey guys, us Gladiators love a big hit and a big fall, but we’ve got super-sized muscles and a soft landing, so don’t go trying this out on the playground, alright? Grab your popcorn at let us take care of the take-downs, we need you and your mates in tip-top shape to cheer us on.”

Post-dinner popcorn aside, this focus on safety was apparent during the battles, with the Gladiators trying hard not to mash the brains of the challengers, or to deliver any hip-throws that may end in a visit to the spinal ward.

The disclaimer was a good idea, because – as with the original 90s version and the first 2008 reboot – Gladiators is the ultimate “let’s try this at home” program. Last night, kids around Australia weren’t pretending to deliver a devastating forehand in the lounge room, but were definitely battering their siblings with pillows in a hastily constructed obstacle course.

So, which battle drew the viewers? Aussies being Aussies, we of course tuned in to watch our greatest Aussie tennis player battle a non-Aussie on Aussie home turf (clay?).

The Australian Open easily topped the non-news ratings for the evening, with the night session drawing 643,000 viewers across the five metro areas. As the game stretched on, the audience dropped off to 468,000. Given this domination, it’s not too surprising that Nine commanded 35.8% of the total prime-time audience.

While it didn’t outrank the tennis, Ten will be nonetheless thrilled with the Gladiators launch, which debuted to 395,000 metro viewers, coming in as the eighth-highest-rating show of the evening. With the 10Play stream and regional viewers, the show averaged 589,000 national viewers.

It trumped Seven’s BBL coverage, which drew 265,000 metro viewers, and even beat the perennial 7.30 over on ABC. It even got close to Home and Away’s 427,000 – quite a feat considering the lack of bush-graves and kidnapping attempts in last night’s Gladiators (unless I missed something while I ducked to the bathroom).

It topped under 50s, and 18 to 49s, beating the Australian Open for both these demographics, and was the top entertainment show of the night in 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s.

This is a solid debut for the reboot, and the addition of 10Play catch-up viewings over the week will no doubt bolster this viewership even more.

Now, if only Ten can convince De Minaur to trade his tennis racket for a pugil stick, Gladiators will be unstoppable.


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