Tonight we are going to see just how Seven Network’s chief Kerry Stokes is turning up the sporting heat on the Ten and Nine networks. And it’s Ten that is most vulnerable.
Seven will be covering the opening of the AFL season with the Adelaide versus Essendon game in Adelaide.
Seven also covers the racing on one of its extra digital channels. Tonight one of the major racing events of the year will be the running of the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley. Back Caviar won the event two years ago and is running again.
Here Seven has pulled off a coup. The timing of the big race has been delayed so it can be screened live at half-time of the football. My guess is that the starter will not start the William Reid Stakes until he has been told that the half-time siren has been blown in Adelaide.
This event represents Channel Seven showing Australia how it can cover multiple sports and coordinate them to gain maximum ratings.
On April 6, Seven will provide another illustration: AFL, horse racing and V8 Supercars will be televised simultaneously on three Seven channels.
Channel Nine can theoretically undertake a similar exercise but does not have the spread of sports. But Nine uses its extra digital channels very effectively to target different age groups and markets.
Suddenly the Ten Network finds that is competing against six free-to-air commercial channels instead of two. And of course there are the other networks, pay TV and the internet, etc.
Suddenly TV has become much more competitive.
Perth-based Kerry Stokes has been one of the few TV network chiefs to understand that the main Australian TV viewing audience is in Melbourne, not Sydney. On average, over all networks, the Melbourne audience is about 15 per cent greater than Sydney. Sport is a key to winning in Melbourne.
That’s why AFL football and the tennis are so important to Seven. The Seven Network also has a strong base in Melbourne.
All this makes the restoration of the Ten Network a hard task.