Nine’s Michael Stephenson on Married and the remainder of 2017

Nine ready to welcome advertisers fleeing YouTube and Facebook

• Nine ready to welcome advertisers fleeing YouTube and Facebook – “Nine is brand safe, measurable, viewable, and most importantly television is the most effective medium”

Nine’s Married At First Sight has finished the year strongly for the broadcaster – winning its timeslot with the two-part reunion episode, both episodes setting franchise ratings records on successive nights.

Nine’s chief sales officer Michael Stephenson likes the big all people numbers, but he remains steadfastly focussed on the key demos. For the final episodes, he told us the number for viewers 25-54 was 720,000.

“I think back to the strategy we had when all of this started and we were just focused on doing a couple of things,” he told Mediaweek. “We wanted three demographics – 25-54, 16-39 and grocery buyers with kids – and we wanted to grow our audiences against those age groups.

“We have a show that doesn’t have a better demographic profile. We have never seen anything like it.”

Nine’s demo growth, using consolidated OzTAM data for the survey year metro primetime 2016 v 2017 is: 25-54 +7.4%, 16-39 + 9.0%, GB with children +8.6%.

Stephenson worked the phones on Tuesday morning, responding to interest about Nine’s ratings resurgence. When asked if there were many calls this time last year about ratings performance, Stephenson said: “We were fielding calls, but for different reasons.”

While Nine has been able to build its nightly 7.30pm timeslot, the business has been able to exploit the brand across multiple platforms. “We are now a fully integrated media company and we use all of our assets to promote all of our assets. Married At First Sight is a great example of working the brand across Nine, 9Honey, Today, A Current Affair and It is a great example of the promotional power of the Nine Entertainment Co in full flight.

Married At First Sight

“The video player numbers for Married At First Sight within 9Now are staggering. To be doing between 100,000-150,000 devices monthly has never been seen before. Our promotional ecosystem is working brilliantly.”

Nine is not expecting any quick financial uptick from its Q1 ratings turnaround. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Stephenson, a popular catchphrase about ratings performance. “We are very pleased with that performance so far, but in the most humble way. Revenue generally follows ratings and sentiment. We have to keep proving to the advertising market and our clients that we can be deliver longterm sustainable growth by delivering great Australian content and distributing it across every platform and allowing advertisers to leverage those formats.”

As to any clients moving more money to Nine, Stephenson said Nine would be working hard to get money that advertisers had been holding funds for this year that had not yet been committed. “We have to offer real value to our advertisers and that comes in ratings, the way we can help them tell our story across all of our assets and the way in which we can use Powered to help them launch new brands and new products.”

Stephenson said all the sponsors and partners linked to Married this year were happy with the investment. “I would hope next year we can build on that.”
As to the ratings outlook for Nine over the rest of the year Stephenson is very bullish. “We have only just got started. We have success with Married, and we think The Voice could have its most successful season we have ever seen. The blind auditions and the battle rounds look fantastic and Boy George and Kelly Rowland work so well with Delta and Seal. Layer on top of that Love Child and Last Resort, then go into Ninja or The Block and then Family Food Fight at the end of the year. That is a super strong slate of programs at 7.30pm.

“That is even without mentioning Hamish and Andy, This Time Next Year, Doctor Doctor, State of Origin and Ashes cricket.

“All of that Australian content has been created for television but it extends to our digital assets. We have the promotional eco system to promote the content but also for advertisers involvement in it.”

Nine’s ratings turnaround couldn’t come at a better time. The FTA networks are all ready to take any of the ad bookings moving out of YouTube and other digital properties reeling under the flight to safety. Stephenson said: “I can guarantee that The Last Resort is 100% viewable and 100% brand safe. As a television industry we hold ourselves to account. We should be measurable, we should be viewable and brands should feel good about the environment they are in. With all the challenges Google and Facebook have around those particular issues we are already seeing increased inquiry into a our digital business for online video, and that flows through into television. It is brand safe, measurable, viewable, and most importantly television is the most effective medium because it delivers the best results.”

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