If you
believe the newspaper headlines this morning, then PBL is prepared to abandon the
ratings race with the Seven Network to be more like the Ten Network and maximise profits through tough cost
controls. “Packer
puts profit above TV ratings” blared the Fin Review‘s front page headline today. Well, if you
believe this then you’ll believe all sorts of fairy tales coming from
Park
Street: including the one that Kerry Packer was an “everyday Australian” and deserved a State Memorial Service.

As a
business strategy it’s hardly news – it’s been the mantra around Nine
and PBL since the late 1990s, but Nine has been unable to achieve it
because of its broader based approach to the business. In
short, Nine is targeting all viewers, especially the 25
to 54 age group where 80% of the $3.3 billion a year is spent on TV advertising
across the country. Seven
does likewise, with a slightly broader attack because of its greater depth of
programming – Nine’s 2006 approach has been dictated by its smaller
inventory. The
rule of thumb in TV is that the broader your approach to ratings, the
higher your costs. Ten, by narrowing its
target to a younger demographic, can keep control on costs.

After
the first week-and-a-half of official ratings (and the summer ratings), Nine is
skewing to the top end of the 25 to 54 age group, Seven is on track and Ten is
targeting the 16- to 39-year-old age group with its now customary
precision. But
Nine has the Commonwealth games, the AFL and the NRL and, with its existing programming
(depleted as it is), that should be enough to give it a small win over the full year.
Will it give that up? Not on you’re life. Seven
will win up to the Games, but the AFL
and NRL games on Friday night will give Nine a win
through the season, and the Sunday afternoon games will deliver enough viewers
to Nine News and the early evening programs to beat whatever Seven and Ten have
on until the footy
ends. They are the facts of TV ratings this year and no manner of spin from
Park
Street will change that.

Peter Fray

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