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First episode of The Block rates as MediaWorks' biggest show of 2012

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There was plenty of pomp, ceremony and promotional activity to celebrate the airing of the first episode of MediaWorks' big reality show The Block last night. And the Nielsen TAM numbers have given the network something to crow about.  

In the target demographic of 25-54, the first show claimed a 29.7 percent share of the total TV viewing audience, which is more than the first episode of this season's MasterChef on TV One, which gained a 27 percent share. It also nabbed 33.2 percent of the household shoppers with kids audience. And MediaWork's publicist Rachel Lorimer says those numbers mean The Block is already the best rating show of the year for TV3. 

Encouragingly, she says the audience grew significantly across the hour and there was plenty of social media engagement with the show, most of it positive. And like many of the other big reality shows—or as Eyeworks producer and TV doyenne Julie Christie prefers to call it, 'unscripted programming'—she expects that growth to continue as the season progresses past the "set-up episode" and gets into the exciting stuff. 

"Never count your chickens, but all the signs are pointing to the show growing," she says.  And she's looking forward to seeing the consolidated ratings, as there are expectations there will be a fair bit of time-shifted viewing going on for a family show screening at 7.30. 

She says MasterChef had a season average of 12.9 percent share of all the 25-54s in New Zealand, so everyone's pretty stoked The Block got off to such a good start with 12.1 (that number includes its plus 1 channel, a rating TV ONE now also uses after TVNZ7 was switched off over the weekend). 

Lorimer says another positive stat is that the 7.30 Wednesday timeslot is up 109 percent year on year, with The Block following on from another solid—but much more controversial—rater, The GC.

She says the level of sponsor integration into the show was certainly noticed and discussed online, with some wondering how many shots of broadcast sponsor Bunnings were really needed and some fairly gratuitous mentions of the Mazda BT-50 utes by host Mark Richardson. 

"But it's very much like New Zealand's Next Top Model. People are aware of it. And they know how the show's funded. But I didn't clock too much negativity about it."

One interesting aspect of non-integration was the trip the contestants made to the 'large furniture store'. Those scenes were shot in Freedom Furniture in Auckland, which is thought to have decided against being involved as a sponsor, which meant there were no mentions or logo shots for them. 

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