Australia’s
commercial TV market came crashing back to earth in the first half of this year
as growth halved, and costs ballooned, especially at the Nine Network. Revenue
growth fell 50% as major advertisers pulled in their belts.

But that
didn’t stop the Seven Network from growing viewers and revenues
faster than rivals Nine and Ten, thanks mainly to hits like Desperate
Housewives
, Lost and Dancing with The Stars.

Seven
says its performance came mostly in the second three months of the half as ad
rates in the first half were based on 2004 levels. Seven claims revenues jumped
11% in the June quarter, Ten says it’s happy and Nine says it’s the only network
still writing more sales than its audience share, which is true but that
premium is now much smaller, or has vanished.

Revenues
in these five major cities rose just $77 million, or 6.5%, half the near 13% of
a year ago when the dollar rise was more than $140 million.

Nine’s
struggle to maintain revenue growth shows that its share fell in the six months
to June. As a result Nine’s ad revenues in the five major capital city markets
rose just $10 million to $491 million. That’s
bad news for the owners of Nine, PBL (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), Southern
Cross Broadcasting (Adelaide and 42% of Perth where the other
major shareholder is Sunraysia TV).

With
big cost increases of over 7% in the half, Nine, and especially PBL, are
looking at a sharp drop in earnings from TV in the six months to
June.

The
figures, from the Free To Air TV, FTA, show that total revenues in the five
major capital city markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth),
rose 6.49% to a record $1.277 billion. That rise was half the near 13%
growth to $1.199 billion in the first half of 2004.

The
Nine Network’s share fell to 38.47%, compared with a 40.1% share a year ago.
Seven’s was up to 31.39% from 29.9% and Ten’s edged higher to 30.14% from
30.0%.

In
dollars which are a better guide, the revenue squeeze at Nine becomes more
apparent, while the very solid growth at Seven, rebounding from the disasters
of last year, is much clearer. Nine’s
share of 38.47% is equal to $491.5 million, the biggest, but only some $10
million more than the $481.1 million in the first half of 2004 (40.1% of $1.199
billion).

Seven’s
share of revenues jumped from $358.77 million (and behind Ten last year) to more
than $401 million. Ten’s share rose from $359.7 million to $384.6 million.

Peter Fray

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