The Project on Three has finally hit its sweet spot, beating its TVNZ 1 rival Seven Sharp consistently in the past two weeks with viewers aged 25-54.
Executive producer Jon Bridges puts that down to Kiwis, slow to adjust their viewing habits, being gradually won over by his team's lively take on current affairs over the course of the past 20 months.
"We used to beat Seven Sharp rarely and occasionally, the last couple of weeks it's been more often than not," said Bridges.
When the programme debuted on February 20, 2017, it reached 77,000 viewers in the lucrative 25-54 age bracket. A week later that audience had fallen off a cliff, dropping to 30,900.
So Bridges and the team are rightly proud of their recent success in the 7pm slot, reaching an audience of 98,500 viewers aged 25-54 on September 24.
"We just have to keep using our imaginations to make compelling TV and funny TV," said Bridges. "[Switching channels at 7pm you find] the party is over here and we want to keep that feeling."
Original co-host Josh Thomson was replaced by Jeremy Corbett in April. Bridges says that is not a reason for recent viewership gains.
"We didn't want to lose Josh. It certainly hasn't hurt us. Jeremy is extremely popular, the vibe is really great, as it is when Josh is there on a Thursday [when Corbett films 7Days]."
Likewise, reports that Jesse Mulligan's days on the programme might be numbered were incorrect, said Bridges.
"Jesse is awesome and he is only growing in stature. "
While young, cashed-up viewers have recently been drawn to The Project, Seven Sharp remains the most watched programme with all viewers aged 5-plus.
When averaged out across the week, Seven Sharp pulled an average of 85,400 viewers per night for the week of September 10, and 83,280 for the week of September 17.
The Project averaged an audience of 85,400 for the week of September 10, and 80,180 the following week.
In March 2017, one month after The Project's launch, Seven Sharp was averaging 96,000 viewers per night in the 25-54 demographic, while The Project trailed behind on 63,000 per night in the 25-54 demo.
The slip for Seven Sharp comes eight months after Jeremy Wells and Hillary Barry took over from popular duo Toni Street and Mike Hosking.
When speaking on the recent shift in ratings, Seven Sharp executive producer Alistair Wilkinson said, "Seven Sharp is always evolving to retain its place as New Zealand's most watched daily current affairs magazine - but that has nothing to do with the competition - it's about what our viewers are telling us.
"We're proud of what Jeremy and Hilary have achieved in their first year to date - and we think they're going from strength to strength as a presenting team."
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