The high-profile season debuts come weeks ahead of the official Feb. 12 kick off for the official TV ratings period.
The Seven Network has taken the early lead in the 2006 TV ratings war after locking down major numbers last week for its two-hour debut of Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution's "Prison Break."
The series debuted with an average 1.9 million viewers across its two hours and 50% plus shares last Wednesday, beating repeats of "House" and "Third Watch."
The result makes "Prison Break" one of Australian TV's biggest premieres in recent history. Seven also re-broadcast the series premiere Monday.
The drama's debut was heralded by a massive print and on-air promo campaign, with Fox providing interviews with cast members and other promotional support.
Disney's "Lost" was another big winner for Seven with a 2.1 million audience average for its second season premiere.
Nine and Ten networks will begin rolling out their schedules this week ahead of the official season launch. Nine will debut a new season of "C.S.I." and "C.S.I.: NY," while Ten is promoting the new season launch of "House."
The launch of new season programs two weeks before the start of the ratings season -- designed to build its primetime audience for key shows with heavy promotional support -- is a strategy begun by Seven last year.
The Sunday night primetime final of the Australian Open Men's tennis on Seven, while not reaching the dizzying 4.3 million viewers of the 2005 final, still drew 2.75 million, make it the top-rated program of the summer.
"There's just one word to describe 'Prison Break's' launch numbers -- exceptional," said Seven director of programming and production Tim Worner. "We look forward to a real success story here."
Australia's No. 1 network, Nine, is countering Seven's challenge with a new on-air logo and promos developed by broadcast designers Bruce Dunlop and Associates.
Network Ten began rolling out its new season schedule this week with a teaser to viewers in the form of a DVD giveaway. Allowing viewers to sample complete episodes of new programs when they want, Ten provided 800,000 DVD's with premiere episodes of "House," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Supernatural" via News Corp. newspapers around the country on Sunday, in what's believed to be a first for a TV network here.
The giveaway was supported with a major on-air campaign and full page newspaper ads last week, with anecdotal evidence that newspapers had 'sold out' of the DVD by Sunday afternoon in Sydney helping brand the Ten campaign a success.
With two weeks still remaining before the end of the summer ratings period, "we're anticipating a tough and competitive year," one network executive said.