The television industry has entered the last week of ratings before the two-week Easter survey break. The Q1 schedule is defined by the time Easter falls every year and in 2020 that means there are eight survey weeks in Q1, leaving 32 weeks to run uninterrupted starting April 19.
Nine has managed to win all of those weeks and the final episodes of MAFS should guarantee that the channel and the network wins the current week too.
Married at First Sight has done another good job this year and the 9Now numbers are bigger again.
Nine’s program director Hamish Turner told Mediaweek the opposition threw up some challenges this year.
“There was more competition this year demographically from Survivor. Survivor‘s done a good job carving out appeal to a core audience. I’m a big Survivor fan.” But it still remains some distance behind MAFS, the market leader. “Demographically MAFS’s has been pretty robust and sat around the same level from launch through to now, with live viewing on 9Now up significantly. The 9Now VOD numbers are strong again as well.”
How strong? Twenty-one episodes of MAFS have a VOD VPM in excess of 300,000, with episodes 4, 8, 12 and 16 in excess of 400,000.
Turner noted how times had changed, impacting viewing and schedules in recent weeks. “We’re in a very different climate now with what’s happening in the world and we’ve got Lego Masters coming up.
Sitting down with the family in confinement is going to be the perfect antidote to what’s going on. I’m looking forward to seeing Lego launch post-Easter, because it’s the kind of content we need right now.”
Nine’s schedule has been restructured to track the progress of COVID-19, and no one knows how long that might take.
“We’re catering to the news cycle. The new cycle is so rapid and changing so quickly that there’s clearly a real hunger for news.
“Those numbers at 9pm are remarkable. There’s an appetite for news, and as a broadcaster, we’re here to serve the audience, and be the outlet that can provide that information.
“All the free-to-air’s are doing their job in that space. I know that certain commentators have said that we need more entertainment. We will go back to entertainment, but it will be at the right time, and at the moment there’s clearly an appetite for news, and the fast moving news cycle, because it’s affecting everyone. We’re in unprecedented times where people are losing their jobs and losing their future with decisions that are made out of Canberra.
“Once we move into a different stage of the shutdown process, the frequency of those news specials, and the times of those news specials will change and will evolve with what’s happening.”
For viewers wanting a break from the news cycle, Nine has plenty of viewing alternatives. From next week it will have four other multichannels when 9Rush launches, [more on that tomorrow] plus a growing 9Now library.
Turner noted how fortunate he and his colleagues at Nine, most working remotely from home, were to be still employed.
“Everyone’s kind of in this balancing act, but we’ve still got jobs and we should all feel very lucky and thankful that we’re still employed, because there’s many Australians who are not, and it’s very sad, very sad.”
To accommodate the 9pm COVID-19 news specials, Nine put Doctor Doctor and Paramedics in hiatus. Turner said he expects they should return after Easter.
“We’ve tried to protect those brands, as a broadcaster, if the prime minister is talking about shutdowns, then we need to be providing that information on a free-to-air platform.”
Other programming challenges include filling the gap on Thursday and Fridays where there is no live NRL across Nine and Gem.
Once Lego Masters finishes, Nine will have The Voice to take its place. It’s not quite finished yet though.
“We’ve got a plan for The Voice. The majority of the series and has been shot. We’ve still got the live episodes that haven’t obviously been put in the can yet, but we’re confident we’ll be able to deliver those.”
Nine has been able to complete filming earlier this month of Australian Ninja Warrior, but The Block has been closed down with construction of the new properties about half complete. Nine still has some time up its sleeve and is hoping the complete the series.
Turner noted: “We wanted to ensure that the Blockheads could go home to their families in this time of uncertainty. You’ve got to ensure that you’re looking after the participants and the people behind the show as well. This is what we are faced with, but we’re confident that we’ll be able to fully deliver what we said we would at our up fronts.”
One of the disappoints for Nine is that it is unable to screen Travel Guides. The season has been filmed and is ready to go, but for obvious reasons it won’t go to air. Turner explained because of the current climate it would not make sense to promote overseas or Australian travel. The program also has commercial partnerships linked to the various segments which also prevents the broadcast.