Why doesn't anyone watch the most talked about show on TV?

Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore & Peter Helier host THE PROJECT


There is no show on Australian television that gets as much coverage as THE PROJECT. But all the headlines, publicity and viral videos just doesn’t translate into ratings.


The Project is a show that makes a LOT of noise. The recent editorial Waleed Aly presented on the Christchurch Shooting was viewed more than 12 million times on social media but the episode itself was only watched by 347,000 metro viewers, coming fourth in its slot.

It can be argued that some content only really takes off after its initial broadcast, meaning the show can’t capitalise on its initial airing and this editorial piece is a perfect example of that.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Waleed Aly

So, why didn’t the show get a halo effect the following week, especially considering Waleed’s editorial continued to make news, especially with Prime Minister Scott Morrison taking issue with the piece and even threatening defamation?

Less than a week after the highly praised editorial, Morrison and Aly went head-to-head in a commercial free special edition of the program that did experience a lift but failed to pull stellar numbers.

The PM special from 6.30pm - 7pm pulled 387,000 metro viewers with the 7pm portion lifting to 434,000. That was enough to beat Home & Away on 414k but was way behind A Current Affair on 481k (which also didn’t air in Adelaide due to NRL) and ABC News on 602k.

Will Connolly with Hamish MacDonald

Last Monday the program had two big exclusives; an interview with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the infamous Egg Boy, Will Connolly.

On Tuesday morning 10 was ecstatic at the lift the program received with the two exclusives, tweeting the result was;

“its highest average audience since July 2018”

There’s only one problem; the program still came in 4th behind Home & Away, ABC News and A Current Affair.

At the end of Week 13, the rankings at 7pm are the same as the week before;

Which brings me back to my original question; why doesn’t the most talked about show on television rate higher?

I decided to ask my colleagues at TV Blackbox for their thoughts on the matter. Kevin Perry pointed to the tough competition in the 7pm timeslot and the fact it targets a younger demographic that has moved away from traditional television.

He also critiqued the content, saying;

“Gotta say I've given up on The Project in recent years, It feels like it trying to be too many things at the same time. It's part news, part comedy and part Celeb gossip, yet it doesn't really do a good job of any of those things,”

“The show is capable of creating good moments, but it's also so inconsistent” - Kevin Perry

My podcast partner, Steve Molk, also had some views on the content;

“The Project can be hit and miss with content, however when it's a hit then it's almost always a home run as far as sharing the content online or making headlines in other media. It competes in two of the most consistently tough timeslots (but don't move it again - that'd be suicide!). The panel format gives many opportunities to new faces and voices, and we are the better for having someone like Waleed Aly commenting on what makes news.” - Steve Molk

We also talked about this issue on the podcast, which you can hear below;

The Project is one of the best produced shows on television, without a doubt. From slick presentation to well-researched investigations, this is a show many in the industry would be proud to work on.

But it’s on channel 10.

And Channel 10 has a major issue in that viewers have no faith in the network. Skewing young doesn’t help the show either. As Kevin pointed out, younger viewers are consuming content very differently which is why a clip from the show can be viewed more than 12 million times but only watched by a small number through traditional broadcasting.

There’s also the question on whether the show appeals to the media bubble more than the general public. I’ve always been impressed with the number of articles the show generates but that could be more to do with the fact news editors are desperately looking for content at 7.30pm each night due to the rest of the world still be asleep at that time and very little breaking news around.

Some also criticise The Project for leaning to the left and lecturing viewers. Considering there are a lot of shows that lean to the right, isn’t there room for a show that’s perceived as left-leaning?

With great production values, a great team with great chemistry it’s certainly a shame more viewers are not watching.