Seven's flogging Ten in the numbers game

Channel Seven is having a flying start to the year, winning both the ratings and marketing wars. Combine this with Nine's resurgence, and Ten has its work cut out to escape last position.

The ratings season may have started officially on Monday, but Channel Seven has been performing strongly right from the beginning of the year.

My Kitchen Rules, Packed to The Rafters, Revenge, Today Tonight, Seven News, Downton Abbey, The Force, Border Security and Sunday Night have all performed strongly so far in 2013. My Kitchen Rules in particular has enjoyed unmatched success – rating over 2 million in the 5 metro markets this Wednesday, February 13, 2.12 million on Wednesday February 6 and providing Seven with nightly viewership in the metro markets above 1.8 million.

In the weekdays since the tennis finished, Seven has achieved an average free-to-air audience share of 33.1 per cent, and in the lucrative 18-49 demographic over half of the top 5 shows per day have been Seven programming. There has not been an evening since Monday January 28 where Seven hasn’t had a minimum of two shows in the top 5 for 18-49. Sure, the ratings year is a marathon not a sprint and a lot can change as the year goes on and audience tastes alter, but Seven has gotten off to one hell of a head start in a business where advertising is all important and an advertising market which is still incredibly short. These early wins are vital.

This year has also been kind to Seven West Media’s share price. Since January 1, it’s up 48.8 per cent to $2.44, solidly outperforming other media stocks such as APN (up 20 per cent), Fairfax Media (up 7.63 per cent), Southern Cross Austereo (up 15.24 per cent) and Network Ten (up 3.45 per cent)

In terms of wins, Network Ten wouldn’t mind a few more than it’s currently seeing. Its share performance for 2013 is below the performance of the S&P 200 (which is up 8.34 per cent,) with Ten increasing only 3.45 per cent after shedding 65 per cent of its value in 2012. Ratings wise it’s mixed for Ten. Its Sunday lineup of Masterchef, Elementary and Modern Family delivered the network three of the top 10 programs last week, however for the remainder of that week Ten could only muster one program in the daily top 10 programs – with Ten News sneaking in on Friday 8 with 573,000 viewers. This means from Monday February 4 to Thursday February 7, Ten didn’t have one program in the daily top 10. Masterchef has been steady for the network on Sundays – steady at the around the 1 million mark – however its performance during the week has not been as strong. Last Tuesday February 5 it slipped to 533,000, the same night My Kitchen Rules pulled 2.128 million.

What’s more, Seven and Nine have muscled in on Ten’s strength in the 16-39 demographic, with shows such as My Kitchen Rules, Seven News, Big Bang Theory, Home & Away and The Block leading the way. Only on Sunday’s can Ten break into the top 5 for 16-39. Shows such as Glee and The Project aren’t delivering what they once did – Glee achieved only 363,000 on Wednesday and The Project is sitting around the half a million mark. Ten will be hoping for stronger audience numbers when it premieres Mr & Mrs Murder next week; new series Reef Doctors, Secrets & Lies, Recipe to Riches, Come Date with me, Wonderland and Batavia; and new series of Offspring, Puberty Blues, Masterchef and The Biggest Loser later in the year.

Whilst programming remains the primary battleground for the free to air stations, marketing has proven to be vitally important in building and holding momentum for key programs, and there is no stronger programming marketer that Seven.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Seven has the ultimate kick-off marketing platform in the mighty Australian Open, which allows it two full weeks of unmatched public attention and programming time to properly introduce its key programming, yet Seven outperforms its rivals in other areas too. It is leading the market when it comes to second-screen programming integration with mobile/tablet devices with Fango, and deftly uses its high performing programs to ensure wide awareness of its total programming suite. It is much easier to create awareness and intent to watch a program such as Revenge, when you have an audience of 2 million people watching My Kitchen Rules to promote to. Seven demonstrates the importance of ratings momentum – using its market leading position to remain so. Ten on the other hand, has only a handful of shows that rate around the 1 million mark – making it difficult to move beyond that figure for new programs without the assistance of external marketing initiatives.

Ten chief executive officer James Warburton clearly understands the value of excellent marketing – he appointed ex-McDonalds marketer Tony McMaster almost a year ago as chief marketing officer, the first of the FTA networks to appoint such a role – however Ten has made a few missteps in marketing some shows in 2013, most notably casting Marco Pierre White as a clichd cold villainess chef in promotional material for Masterchef: The Professionals when in reality he has proven to be a warm hearted mentor; and attempting to leverage Chrissie Swan’s pregnancy smoking scandal when launching the return of Can of Worms, an error which saw it plunge to 351,000 viewers, significantly down on its performance in 2012.

Now Cricket is over for the summer, Nine will no doubt begin to unveil its key programs for 2013. Its performance so far has been steady, and Nine execs will be hopeful the group can improve on its gains in 2012 as Nine Entertainment heads towards going public. As usual, TV is proving to be an interesting area both on screen and off.

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