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Screen Forever: Kids content unsuited to Nine

Hugh Marks: Children’s content has never made any money for Nine

Australian commercial networks are required to broadcast nearly 400 hours of children’s content every year. ACMA guidelines dictate that they must show at least 260 hours of C classified programs for children under 14 years of age and 130 hours of P classified shows for preschool children.

Children’s content has never made any money for Nine, CEO Hugh Marks said at the Screen Forever conference.

“Children’s television is problematic for us,” he said. “In the one-channel environment, before the advent of on-demand services and ABC 3, there was a licence obligation to provide content for children. That licence obligation is still there, but the fact is that children aren’t watching that content on our network any more.

“There is money from us going into that content, there is money from the government going into that content, and there is offset money going into that content. Is that the right allocation of that money?”

Marks said that the funds being injected into children’s content need to be reviewed.

“Should we be saying as an industry, ‘You know it will be better for that money to go into more adult content.’ I am not advocating that as the solution, but I am saying that that is something we should look at as an industry.”

Marks and his creative team are in the market for premium content.

“Next year, we will have 50% more premium hours in our primetime schedule. That’s the aim,” he said. “Why? Australian audiences are consuming Australian content. It’s a very, very bright picture.

“What we’ve got to really get good at doing is maximising how many hours we can deliver to that audience because that is the future of our industry. Otherwise, the Netflix model will be the audience’s consumption of the future. I can tell you one thing, they won’t care about Australian production or Australian creatives.”

In the face of rising prices for sports rights, Nine will be focusing more on packaged sports coverage, Marks said.

“If I package the sports, rather than getting two hours of viewing [with live coverage], I can stretch that out to three or three and a half hours of viewing.

“That makes the cost of sports more economical.”

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