SYDNEY: Despite a fall in viewer ratings for all three Australian commercial TV networks, researchers say the broadcasters have launched their most successful debut programs in nearly a decade.

Primetime audiences for Seven, Nine and Ten networks slipped 6.6% during the first five weeks of 2007, with audiences aged below 40 down 7.6% [WARC News: 23-Mar-07]. But researcher ADA claims this year has seen the greatest number of new season "must-watch programs" since it started tracking in 2000.

MD David Castran believes the figures reveal that people are continuing to select a few "highly engaging" shows and then switching off their TVs.

He says: "There's less wallpaper viewing. People are spoilt for choice, so if TV is not engaging then they'll do something else."

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff