When asked about the importance of television versus the digital sites within the rebranded nine.com.au, the Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks told Mediaweek: “It is all content. Television continues to be our main front of house where we engage with most of our audience. Digital is becoming increasingly important and for us as a content company we need to focus on content not just for TV but for our digital ecosystems as well.”
Marks was speaking after the recent launch of nine.com.au, the rebrand of ninemsn.
In terms of revenues, Marks said the split between TV and digital was 85% and 15% respectively. “I have set a target for us to grow our digital share to in excess of 30% in the medium term. Both 9Now and nine.com.au will be an increasing source of advertising revenue.”
Marks made a brief reference to the unexpected troubles the network got into with 60 Minutes in Beirut, but noted it had not been a distraction or something that slowed down work being undertaken elsewhere within the business.
“The world is changing quickly and we need to change with it. 9Now is a world class product and the nine.com.au ecosystem is a world class product. We are also ensuring our ad serving is better and our sales system makes it easier for people to use.”
Nine made what some thought was a bold decision to ask for registration from users wanting to use 9Now from launch, but with close to 1.5m registered users it doesn’t seemed to have held back the platform’s growth. “Audiences now understand why sign-ins are important,” said Marks.
During the nine.com.au presentation to advertisers, Nine executives used the word investment several times. When asked if this was new money the company had found, Marks said: “Spending smarter is key. We have been cutting our foreign content spend where we have seen prices dropping significantly. We are taking the opportunity to reallocate that money into local content.
“In terms of digital we are investing in those properties but it is not a huge additional spend. Again it is about spending smarter and wiser with regard to how the business is evolving. There is some capital expenditure involved, which has been important to modernise the business, particularly sales systems.”
Marks was been keen to bring all the Nine content teams together to make sure they all understood the different requirements of the various divisions within NEC. “Having them sit down and talk to each other about their experiences and their changing landscapes and how their audiences are responding is as important for television people as it is for digital teams. Our organisation is full of creative people and creativity is a shared endeavour.”
Marks has spoken with Mediaweek previously about Nine competing harder at the start of the 2017 TV year and he talked to us this time about spending on big shows, big brands and big stars. “We have made a big commitment to launch with Married At First Sight at the top of the year which will go from eight hours to an extended run.
“We have also announced Australian Ninja Warrior, The Voice will return and we will also have Hamish and Andy back – big entertainment shows and big personalities.
“There will also be more announcements to come over the next couple of months. We are very committed next year to make Nine the home of big entertainment.”
One of the issues that saw Nine split with WIN TV was the concerns the regional affiliate had with live streaming. Neither Nine nor its new partner Southern Cross Austereo sees it as a potential problem. “Streaming is something that is important to offer, but I don’t see it as being a significant part of our business,” admitted Marks. “When we use the word streaming we are also talking about catch-up. Streaming live channels remains a small part of our total viewing and we don’t expect it to ever become a huge part of the total audience because of the data usage involved.”
Marks said TV network is looking forward to not having WIN TV inserting its own content into the Nine schedule.
“Our schedule is carefully crafted with the shows programmed to fit together and flow from one to the other. When you get that schedule interrupted in some markets it impacts the audience. If it impacts the audience then it impacts the revenue opportunity which affects both our regional partner and ourselves.
“Having the purity of the Nine service as it is intended to play across the nation, with the right local news product added into it is the perfect service. It is something we have wanted for a long time.”
Although Southern Cross Austereo and Nine are yet to reveal their regional news plans, it is believed they are looking at inserting a regional news block into the one-hour Nine news in each state.