This morning I have read a number of articles reporting on the results of Channel Nine’s recent attempt at regaining some of their retreating market share. The most recent edition of the Sunday Times reveals that Nine still has a very small lead over Seven nationally, but in Perth, Seven is the clear winner. This comes despite the success of the controversial Aussie
program, ‘Underbelly’.

The future doesn’t seem to look a whole lot brighter for Nine, despite their re-brand (we [heart] tv) and re-introduction of the 9 balls in their logo. Some media commentators are boasting that ‘ Nine have got their balls back’, but in Perth, it is obvious by the Sunday Times article that this isn’t the case. With the Olympics on the way for Channel Seven and some new and exciting programs in production, I can’t see it improving much for the once
all-mighty Nine.

I’d like to offer my opinion on why Nine hasn’t experienced a rapid improvement in their ratings. Firstly, I believe their revised branding approach, (we [heart] tv) is trying to appeal to the wrong audience. It is almost ‘cute’ in the way it is designed and promoted, being very young, lively, fresh, sunny and vibrant. When I think of Nine, none of those words come to mind. I think stable, established, trustworthy, informative, provocative and stimulating. Channel Nine is the favourite of many older viewers; especially signature programs like 60 Minutes and McLeods Daughters. Indeed the ratings data reflects this, with the 18-35 group distinctly favouring Ten and Seven (aka Big Brother, Idol, Home and Away, Neighbours, etc.). I think pushing them to a younger audience is a change that will take a lot of time and a lot of investment, accompanied by a clear shift in programming. Does this then ruin the image and stability that Nine has worked so hard to create? Is there room in the younger markets for 3 stations, or should Nine just stick to what they’re good at? I guess only time will tell.

Nine’s consistent push to the top will be an exciting battle to watch, as will the effect of digital tv. The federal government has nominated 2013 as the official analogue switch-off date, and from 1 January 2009, will allow each of the commercial channels to broadcast an additional standard definition channel each. With High Definition channels as well, some are currently released, some still in development, that will increase the choice to 15 channels! Consumers won’t know what to do with all the choice they’ll have.

The consequences for advertisers will be both good and bad. More choice means more channel-hopping. However more choice means more competition which means cheaper rates. This will open the doors to many advertisers who couldn’t afford it in the past. In a highly competitive market place, however, the stations will have to work even harder to retain their viewers’ loyalty. There is no doubt that the next few years will certainly be interesting for free to air tv.