Increased appeal to older TV viewers is allowing the Nine Network to remain in the ratings battle with Seven and a bit closer than many thought possible.

While Nine has lost audience share and viewers against all networks, and Pay TV, it is doing a bit better in the three way battle with Seven and Ten.

But how Nine is remaining competitive tells you more about its weakness and more about the stronger positions of Seven and Ten.

In the commercial share zone 1 timeslot of 6pm to 6.30pm All People group, Seven’s share has edged ahead to 37.8% from 37.2% in 2006 (the 2006 figures exclude the Commonwealth Games), Ten’s share has dipped to 28.1% from 28.7% and Nine is steady on 34.1%, which is a good result seeing it has lost every week so far to Seven.

But looking at the major demographics you find Nine has lost share in all bar two — people over 55, and people over 40 — which is driven by Nine’s higher share among people over 55.

Nine’s share in the over 55 has jumped sharply to a market leading 43.9% from 41.5%; Seven’s is down to 41.3% from 43.5% while Ten, with programs like BB and The Biggest Loser, isn’t really a contender among the wrinklies and its share is down to just 14.7% from 15.0% in the same weeks of 2006.

That saw Nine’s share in the over 40’s segment rise to 39.5% from 38.8%, Seven’s fall to 40.3% from 41.3% and Ten’s pick up slightly to 40.2% from 40.0% as it stepped up its targeting of viewers in the 18 to 49 age group as well as its core 16 to 39 group.

Nine’s share in the over 55 group is the highest share in any of the major audience groups for a commercial TV network.

TV advertisers do not like viewers over 55 and towards the older end of the 18 to 49 group: they are not big buyers of consumer products. They tend to buy more financial advice, not mortgages and they are low spenders across the board, except for some travel and pharmaceutical related products and services. They just don’t consume as much or have young children.

The most important demographic is the 25 to 54 group: it’s where around 80% of ad money is spent on TV. Seven’s share is up to 37.3% from 35.8%, Nine’s has fallen to 31.8% from 33.2% and Ten’s is all but steady on 30.9% (31%).

Among the most prized group of advertisers, the so-called Upper Socio AB’s (the most wealthy TV viewers) Nine’s share is down to 33.5% from 35.0%, Ten’s has slipped to 30.2% from 30.6% while Seven’s is up to 36.3% from 34.4%.

This is probably the most interesting change because it was only a couple of years ago that this group was one of Nine’s strong points: High ABs tend to be older, above 40 and 55 in many cases.

What these figures are saying is that while Nine’s share among the over 40’s and over 55’s has risen, it has been among less wealthy viewers in lower socio economic groups.

In other worlds Nine’s audience is going blue collar at a time when Seven’s is both getting younger and more white collar, with Ten’s audience remaining decidedly younger.

And, figures from Fusion Strategy in Sydney confirm the overall slide in Nine’s audience, compared to last year.

Fusion says that including the Commonwealth Games, Nine’s share among the five FTA networks and Pay TV is off more than 15% after 11 weeks, with Seven’s share steady, Ten down 4.3%, the ABC up 3.8%, SBS up 9.8% and Pay TV up 11.15%.

Stripping out the Commonwealth Games and Easter out of 2006 and this year the figures are: Seven down 3%, Nine down 5.84%, Ten down 7.9%, the ABC up 2.8 per cent, SBS up 10.8% and Pay TV up more than 12%.