In a year dominated by the sweeping changes in TV, as linear ad spend began its decline and advertisers followed audiences onto new platforms. Mediaweek is ending the year by catching up with content and sales executives from each network, and next up is Nine’s chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson, and director of 9Now and programming, Hamish Turner.
When asked about what their highlights for 2023 were across the Nine Network, Stephenson and Turner said that demographic consistency and strategy were standouts.
Stephenson: “A clear highlight for me is that we’ve got a very clear strategy. That strategy from a content point of view was to make strategic investments into content in news, sport and entertainment, to ensure that we had a strength across our linear schedule. From January the 1st, right through to the end of December, across all of our channels, from the minute we start broadcasting in the morning to the minute we finish in the afternoon.”
Turner: “For me, it’s really about the divergent strategy of total television. By that, I mean attracting audiences and where they want to consume. I think people kind of overcomplicate the story but in simplistic terms, the ability to drive audiences on big TVs in your home is the quarter of the strategy. We continued that this year with demographic wins in all demos online as well as on our BVOD platform continuing to go from strength to strength.”
The full rollout of VOZ and VOZ Streaming will inevitably change the TV landscape and market, with Stephenson expressing that there is a big opportunity forthcoming, not just for Nine, but for the industry.
Stephenson: “VOZ will be an interesting development in the industry. VOZ allows the creation of products that give advertisers and agencies access to viewership data for their benefit. It will give access to agencies and clients to something we call a positive ID, and every single person in Australia if you like, has been assigned that ID and it allows them to buy those audiences across various platforms. I’m proud of the big opportunity that will come for agencies, clients and publishers as a result of this new measurement system.”
Nine is betting big on their Olympic coverage in 2024, with Turner stating that from a BVOD perspective, Nine is seeing continual growth in live content and the biggest goal will be keeping audiences after the Olympics and Paralympics wraps up.
Turner: “Next year, the Olympics is so important for us because it’s such a huge international event and from a digital perspective, it’ll be a game changer in terms of the amount of people who come and try out our platform (9Now). Then, the job for us is to keep the people watching, which extends to the Paralympics once the Olympics is finished.
“I don’t think you’ll see a Paralympics, given more focus and airtime than the Paris ones next year. It’s core to our strategy to push that and ensure we tell these stories and get people engaged with it.”
Turner said the Olympics will be the centre point of Nine’s 2024 schedule but will elevate their content offering by utilising their big legacy brands, but also mixing it up with new brands.
Turner: “We have the Australian Open and MAFS kicking off the year, then, it’s really about driving new audiences into those brands and flagship programs, retaining those audiences and then using the Olympics to reset the schedule and drive momentum into the back half of the year.
“But I think it’s very important to find new ways to iterate and tell meaningful stories within those individual brands. We don’t want to ever be boring, and the core of our brands needs to have relevancy. We need to show viewers something new each year, something that’s in the zeitgeist or part of that social vernacular, especially as the world around us changes and evolves at the rate it currently does.”
Nine’s highest rating program of the year was the NRL Premiership decider between the Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos which recorded a Total TV audience of 3.6 million. It also secured a streaming audience of 605,000 on 9Now – the largest for a rugby league game in history. This year’s NRL season boasted year-on-year growth of 22.6% in BVOD and 2.8% in Total TV.
The NRL is another big masthead for Nine, and Stephenson believes moves made by the NRL have allowed the game to flourish, bringing in new audiences and fans.
Stephenson: “It was a fantastic season. The inaugural season of the Dolphins and the rising popularity of the NRLW league are all great additions to the game. I think the game has never been in a better spot, especially from a broadcast point of view.
“What we are starting to see is this combination of terrestrial audiences with live-streaming and we are seeing an enormous amount of growth coming through 9Now for the consumption of sport, and that’s the reason why when we buy sports rights, we only buy all rights for all platforms, if you’re not doing that, your missing a massive tick.
“Ultimately, we are seeing that the linear television numbers are strong, but the growth and the excitement is coming through what we’re able to do with dynamic.”
Top Image: Michael Stephenson and Hamish Turner