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Woohoos all round as The Simpsons' 500th episode delivers record eyeballs for Four

MediaWorks and Special Group put a bit of effort into promoting the Sunday showing of The Simpsons' 500th episode. And it worked, with nearly a quarter of a million viewers aged 5+ tuning in to the show, the most viewers since the channel was launched in February last year. The episode was also a record-breaker in the channel’s target demographic, with 144,300 18-49 year-olds tuning in. And it also had a halo effect on the channel as a whole, with the primetime schedule (6pm-10.30pm) averaging a total audience of 166,500 (5+ demographic) and an 18-49 audience of 92,000, its biggest audience yet.

“International entertainment like The Simpsons, New Girl, America’s Next Top Model and The Glee Project are key to Four’s success, and we will be premiering some great new shows on the channel in the coming months,” says director of programming, Kelly Martin.

According to MediaWorks' publicist Rachel Lorimer, the gains are part of a long-term growth pattern for Four, which is up for Media Brand of the Year at the upcoming Media Awards alongside iSite Media, MSN, TVNZ and TVNZ U and has seen primetime viewer numbers grow by 40 percent since launch (in February last year it was watched by an average of 33,100 18-49 year olds, compared with 46,500 last month).

She says the increased viewership hasn't come at the expense of TV3, but, as the graph shows, it does seem to have had an effect on Prime.

MediaWorks is obviously fairly happy with the number of viewers the channel is attracting—and with the dual-channel strategy implemented during the Jason Paris era—but it's also, as Four's channel idents say, fairly happy about the fact that it is New Zealand's most-liked channel, with 111,427 Facebook fans.

Special Group's various promotional efforts for Four have been regularly awarded in the local competitions like NAB ad of the month and the IABNZ's Creative Awards and it was also awarded in-book status at D&AD for the brave Home of Not Rugby campaign. And, while there's no doubt the enduring popularity of the show helped attract viewers to this special milestone, Special Group's creative director Tony Bradbourne says the activity to promote the 500th episode, which consisted of a few full-page print ads as well as small-space teaser ads throughout the Sunday Star Times in places like About Town on the day the show was broadcast, "obviously worked its socks off".

Special Group also 'took over' the listings page and gave Homer the chance to review the week's best shows alongside the Herald's Picks (for example: "All New Family Guy, Four, 8pm. I don’t know why everyone loves this show, I only picked it because Four made me. I hate it so much. Who writes a cartoon about a stupid fat dad and his crazy family? Boooorrring").

"Special Group is a results driven creative company. Highly creative work that produces outstanding results, in this case brilliant viewership figures, is what we are all about. Four is an incredible success story. 40 percent viewership growth in a year is great and credit goes to the brilliant team at MediaWorks, especially Amanda Wilson and Renee Colquhoun."

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