Seven serves up against Nine

Seven has caught some flack for its perceived ratings miss this year with the Australian Open. But the numbers show Australian competitors have no problem drawing a crowd.

If you wanted evidence that on the whole Australian viewers are much more interested in watching Australians compete in sporting pursuits than watching non-Australians, take a look at the evening ratings performance for this year’s Australian Open.

It’s been reported by some that broadcaster Seven has taken a ratings hit broadcasting the tennis this year, and indeed it has on some evenings.

The most striking was the year-on-year change for the Saturday evening matches – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.

In 2013, ‘Super Saturday’ delivered an average metro audience number for Seven of 1.467 million viewers. In 2014 this figure was just 684,000.

Seven took another big hit on the opening Monday night. In 2013 average metro viewership was 1.246 million; in 2014 it had dropped to 858,000. And the first week’s Thursday evening draw generated 679,000 metro viewers in 2014 compared to 930,000 in 2013.

But Seven’s also had its wins. Aside from the three evenings mentioned above, Seven’s rating performance for the tennis has been broadly similar to 2013; on some evenings it’s even fared better than last year.

2014 ('000s)

2013 ('000s)

Change YOY ('000s)

Change YOY (%)

Night 1

858

1,246

-388

-31.14%

Night 2

1,060

917

143

15.59%

Night 3

828

723

105

14.52%

Night 4

679

930

-251

-26.99%

Night 5

880

797

83

10.41%

Night 6

684

1,467

-783

-53.37%

Night 7

733

893

-160

-17.92%

Night 8

1,060

1,034

26

2.51%

Night 9

896

971

-75

-7.72%

Source: OzTam 2014

From the chart above, it’s easy to see that on the first nine nights of the tennis, Seven took a hit on only three. So what happened?

Well, basically on the nights Seven took a hit, Australian names were nowhere to be seen on the schedule.

In 2013, Super Saturday delivered 1.467 million off the back off a hotly anticipated clash between Bernard Tomic and Roger Federer, with Tomic having recently come off a solid Hopman Cup and a tournament win in Sydney. Meanwhile, the opening night saw Lleyton Hewitt battle Janko Tipsarevic, and the first Thursday evening gave viewers the tail end of an epic Tomic clash against Germany’s Daniel Brands, followed by fan favourite, Roger Federer.

In 2014, there were no Australian matches of wide appeal on Super Saturday. The opening night’s only Aussie was Sam Stosur, and Thursday was headlined by Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

Ultimately, week one of the Australian Open and Seven’s ratings performance is highly contingent on the successful performance and scheduling of local players. Strong matchups featuring local names can be the difference between 700,000-900,000 viewers and 1.2 million-plus. Week two – at least in recent times – hasn’t typically featured any Australian players and will likely rate in a similar way to past years.

Nine is enjoying the upside of our longing to see fellow countrymen succeed in sporting pursuits. The ratings for the one-day international contests between Australia and England are remarkably improved on the previous year’s efforts, and the Ashes test ratings were superb. Last year’s mid-January Sunday one-day international against Sri Lanka delivered 945,000 average metro viewers for Nine. In comparison, this year’s one-day international against England on the same weekend generated 1.43 million viewers.

It seems if Australia is winning, the broadcaster generally wins too.