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Channel 9’s HAMISH TURNER challenges SEVEN’s NATIONAL ratings claims

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The head of programming at NINE isn’t taking criticism from his rivals at SEVEN lying down

It’s ratings at twenty paces as Nine and Seven both try to claim ratings superiority. Hamish Turner from Nine explains why their focus is 25-54 in the metro cities and why he doesn’t buy Seven’s attempts to use the metro + regional figure.

Listen in the player below or read the transcript underneath.

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Rob McKnight:

Hello there. I’m Rob McKnight, welcome to TV Blackbox. It’s a special edition of TV Blackbox as we look at the end of the ratings year. Hamish Turner, from Channel 9, he’s the head of programming there, he’s on the line. Good day, Hamish.

Hamish Turner:

Good day, Rob. How are you?

Rob McKnight:

I’m all right. Here come the claims.

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Hamish Turner:

Oh yeah, there’s always plenty of claims. I do feel for you guys a little bit, in terms of sifting through the fact from fiction. So hopefully, you’ve spent a bit of time pouring your eye over the numbers and the claims, and can pull out the ones that you really want to hold onto.

Rob McKnight:

Well, I’ll get you to go through yours first because I do have some questions about the claims and counterclaims.

Hamish Turner:

Sure.

Rob McKnight:

So you guys, the Nine Network says it is number one with all key demographics, 25 to 54, 16 to 39, GS and child across the calendar year, and you are the number one network in the calendar year. Is that correct?

Hamish Turner:

That is correct. So I think the best way to encapsulate this is to say, we are number one in everything, except for total people surveyed here.

Rob McKnight:

Okay. And when we’re talking about the figures, are we talking about the five cap cities or the national figure?

Hamish Turner:

No, the certified OzTAM five cap cities.

Rob McKnight:

Thank you.

Hamish Turner:

Which is what we have and always have reported on.

Rob McKnight:

Yeah, and look, the reason I obviously ask that is, you will know that today Seven came out with a release, saying it’s number one in the 2022 survey year and calendar year. Obviously those figures were based on national figures and I want to get to the good points about-

Hamish Turner:

They’re building a patchwork quilt effectively there, Rob. So we can all pull numbers from a variety of different sources, but it’s not the certified way we do it. And I think OzTAM has some very clear guidelines. I mean, the other thing obviously worth noting is that, as part of those [inaudible 00:01:57] numbers, whether it be regional or metro, you obviously have a big proportion of people who are watching on our Vivo platforms, and obviously we have finished the year with a 49 share total people and kind of heading into the fifties when you look at the demos. So obviously a really strong result there.

Rob McKnight:

Wow. Look and it’s an interesting one, isn’t it? Because I always sometimes feel a bit old fashioned because I do focus on the five cap city, and we’re hearing the narrative of national figure, next year we will get a total TV figure overnight with BVOD included in catch-up.

Hamish Turner:

That’s right. VOZ.

Rob McKnight:

Yeah, thank you. So tell me, when I look in the morning, what is the figure I should be looking at as to how the networks performed the night before?

Hamish Turner:

Well, if you’re looking at Nine, we’ve got a very clear strategy around 25, 54s. So our focus is on delivering that audience en mass, whether it be via terrestrial or via digital. So via TVs that are connected to an antenna or via TVs that are connected to the internet. And we measure ourselves on obviously creating the best Australian content that engages that audience. That is probably what our scorecard says.

And I think it’s fair to say that our peers have also gone out and said that they’re after that demographic because obviously the commercial realities that sit around that. It does feel a little bit disingenuous and just personally, when we start talking about total people and number ones, because ultimately the world has changed, and people are watching our content in different ways, and I think the way that we report on that should be reflective of that and the nuance that lies within there.

I also think that when we talk survey, really do we just judge ourself on survey? For me it’s a year round job, our audience is there and wanting to be entertained or informed for 52 weeks of the year, and we very much measure ourselves on how we deliver all year round, and as you know, we continue launching shows deep into December. So I think for us, we think of ourselves as calendar and 20, 54. That’s our measurement.

Rob McKnight:

Well, look, even Seven has had to admit even by their national figures, that you have won in the 25 to 54s, and that is your demo as you say.

Hamish Turner:

Of course, their demo.

Rob McKnight:

Yeah, absolutely. My point being that if you cut away all the spin and no matter which way you look at it, Nine has won 25 to 54.

Hamish Turner:

Yeah, I think for us, really it comes back to the content and the brands, and so I think what we are really proud of is those shows like Married at First Sight, that really capture the imagination of the nation, The Block, obviously this year our schedule is kind of book ended by those two brands and they’ve had exceptional years.

And it’s also about delivering that consistency across the year. And I think when we look back at this year, we’ve also been able to achieve that, but also bringing in new brands to the market. I think we’re always pressuring ourselves and testing ourselves, to ensure that creativity and those ideas and trying to really engage Australians and our audience continues.

Rob McKnight:

All right.

Hamish Turner:

And so again, go back to the scorecard, it’s like have you done that? Have you tried new things? Have you tried to engage, entertain, and inform our audience, and I think yes, on all fronts.

Rob McKnight:

Well, you certainly have. And speaking of Married at First Sight, obviously next year it’s going to go up against one of the biggest competitors it’s had in years. Is the network confident up against Australian Idol?

Hamish Turner:

Yeah, I’ve seen the first few episodes and it’s a brilliant season. We’ve got an amazing cast and I don’t think those people who love Married at First Sight will be disappointed. It’s a beautifully made show by Endemol Shine, beautifully cast and the format just continues to deliver in terms of the content, and it will again get the nation talking. So yes, I’m very confident in our product and look forward to everybody seeing it again in January.

Rob McKnight:

When you look at your slate this year, I think one of the disappointments for me was My Mum Your Dad, which is a show I really, really like. Why do you think it hasn’t hit the way… I thought it would actually, I love the concept of it. I love everything about it, the way it’s handled and yet it just doesn’t seem to have resonated. Is there a problem with dating shows at the moment?

Hamish Turner:

No. I think it’s how do you view the performance of the show.

Rob McKnight:

Sure.

Hamish Turner:

The way I’m looking at it is that it’s delivered a really strong cross-platform audience. It’s done over 150,000 average audience on 9Now and that’s growing. I think the sentiment towards the show has been very strong, and so I think we like the brand, we like the show and we’re thinking about ways in which we can bring that back next year. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say the overnight numbers, we probably would’ve looked for another a 100,000, but in terms of its BVOD performance, I think it’s done a very strong number and as I said, great sentiment. So yeah, I’m pretty happy.

Look, we get to this time of the year, it does get less people around the TV, so I think that needs to be part of the way we analyze that show and its performance as well.

Rob McKnight:

Well, that’s a really interesting point, about what makes a show worth commissioning for another series. Obviously these days it’s not just the overnights, it’s how it performs on digital platforms. But when you look at a show like Your Mum My Dad, it sounds like you’re keen for another series. What will be the determining factors of that?

Hamish Turner:

I think we’ll get to the finale on Monday and then really analyze that performance over the kind of 28 day catch-up period, and then look at the sentiment as well. Look at some of our retention metrics and see if people stuck with it. I think what we have seen is that the people who’ve watched the show have really enjoyed it, and they’ve kind of come back. So the retention of that audience has been strong and we haven’t seen our BVOD numbers drop off over that period either.

So look, I think, those things all considered, will then make a decision on what we do with that brand next year. And what the idea that sits behind the show, because obviously you’ve seen the show, the [inaudible 00:08:44] what you go in next year with.

Rob McKnight:

Yes. How would you define Nines 2022 year performance?

Hamish Turner:

Sorry, how would I define 2022?

Rob McKnight:

Yeah.

Hamish Turner:

Again, I think consistency. I think being able to iterate brands, going to continue to surprise our audience and think of different ways to do that as well. I think for us, as a programming and content, we never want to stand still and we always want to challenge ourselves but also challenge our audience. So for us, I think we’ve done that again and we’ll be looking to do that again next year. We have quite a few new brands coming into market, whilst also retaining those core strength entertainment brands that have done so well for us this year.

Rob McKnight:

Are you surprised at how well The Block still goes?

Hamish Turner:

No, not really. If you watch the show, especially this season, we changed the format, we kind of sent them into the country. We had amazing cast, a couple walked off on day three.

Rob McKnight:

That was crazy.

Hamish Turner:

It was a hot start and there was plenty of drama, but at the heart of that show is about the great Aussie dream, like buying your own home. Look, it did take it to the next level in terms of aspirational. I kind of looked at the size of those houses and went, okay, that is the next level, but it never stops surprising you, that show.

Rob McKnight:

What are you most proud of this year, of what you’ve put to air?

Hamish Turner:

Most proud of? I think the combination of shows like Married at First Sight and being able to continually redefine that show, and how it has this great ability to capture the nation’s imagination, but also really kind of hit the zeitgeist and be part of the conversation. It is absolutely a cultural phenomenon, and you can see that in terms of the numbers in its consumption and the voracious way that the audience consumes, and wants to comment and talk about that show, and everything from its linear, to BVOD, to social metrics, it kind of hits it out of the park.

I think another one is Love Island. We’ve had two years where we’ve kind of been hampered by COVID, we have to do it in Fiji and Byron, we were hit by La Niña, it was bucketing down with the rain a lot of the days. So to be able to get back to Spain and rejuvenate that brand and have the way it’s performed this year, we’re up 38% in terms of VOD minutes. It’s a 9Now first, so it’s really redefining what you can do with Australian formats, especially within the audience that we’re trying to target.

So I think being able to bring that brand back and really kind of strengthen that brand, obviously with the team at ITV and obviously Married at First Sight with ESA, but I think continuing to just evolve the format, and evolve our strategy with how Australians are changing the way they consume, and being the kind of leaders in the space.

Rob McKnight:

What’s your big message to advertisers?

Hamish Turner:

Well, I think for advertisers, it’s really changing the way they view the metrics, and I think VOZ will really help them in terms of how they buy us next year and understanding that-

Rob McKnight:

I’m intrigued about VOZ year, I’ve got to say.

Hamish Turner:

Sorry?

Rob McKnight:

I’m really intrigued about VOZ next year, because I do think it’s worth noting how people are consuming in an overnight fashion in all measures.

Hamish Turner:

Yeah.

Rob McKnight:

But obviously, correct me if I’m wrong, VOZ is a national figure, isn’t it? Taking the five cap cities and adding your BVOD to that, so it sort of moves the goal posts a bit, doesn’t it?

Hamish Turner:

It does. I also think it provides that un duplicated reach, so it also provides those metrics that people are buying, obviously look for. I think also what it does is for us, there is something about… And this is for advertisers and marketers, there is something about being in a premium content environment that is regulated, that is safe, that gives them surety that they’re aligning their brands with brands that have kind of gold certified. And I think what we see in the social video market and beyond, is that that’s not the case.

And even as a father, I see that. I shudder to think sometimes what my kids are logging onto when they jump onto some of these sites.

Rob McKnight:

Believe me, I know the feeling.

Hamish Turner:

And the oldest one’s only eight, so they’re not even looking for anything yet.

Rob McKnight:

It gets worse.

Hamish Turner:

Yeah.

Rob McKnight:

And he will discover the Norris Nuts and they are one of the biggest things on YouTube, let me tell you, those Aussie kids.

Hamish Turner:

I think their mind is in Minecraft at the moment. So pretty safe.

Rob McKnight:

Right, there you go. Let’s talk about just quickly the state of play when it comes in terms to competition. Commercially Nine and Seven are in the game. They’re fighting hard, you’re doing some smart stuff, Ten seems to be really struggling. In fact, I think it’s their lowest recorded share ever since Oz 10 came. Is there room for three commercial networks, or is it just a case of if they get a couple of hits, they’ll be okay?

Hamish Turner:

I think there is absolutely room for three commercial networks. I think they’ve had some successes this year, especially with a brand like Hunted. I think it came out with some really good numbers for them. I think they’ve had a little bit of a rocky end of the year, but the way I view that is it would seem that some of those decisions didn’t come out of Australia.

Rob McKnight:

No, it doesn’t seem [inaudible 00:14:45].

Hamish Turner:

So I think it’s dangerous to make decisions for Australian audiences that are coming through the lens of Australian eyes, is probably how I would put that.

Rob McKnight:

Yeah, I think very well said.

Hamish Turner:

Or someone who’s based in Australia.

Rob McKnight:

You have mentioned 9Now a lot during this interview. So how important is 9Now and the use of 9Now to your strategy?

Hamish Turner:

It’s central. Really, our strategy is preparing ourselves for streaming first future. We know that there is a significant migration to connected TV. Now, not everybody watches via the internet on those connected TV’s, but that transition and that convergence is inevitable. And so for us, it’s ensuring that we create the best transition to follow that convergence path. And what I mean by that is, provide the best viewing experience. So a lot of the stuff, you would’ve seen in the upfront was ensuring that we’re investing in the infrastructure in 9Now, investing in the product, investing in Full HD streams, which you’re seeing on 9Now, the start over functionality which we’re introducing, which is all about providing utility to our audience.

When someone comes in late, they want to jump back to the start, they can now do that. And the first product updates that we’re doing as part of the new 9Now will start-

Rob McKnight:

That’s a great feature, by the way.

Hamish Turner:

It is. It is. And we’ll start seeing our push more into the live space, really looking into that curation of live channels. And I think for us, it’s really about the quality of the quantity. We want to ensure that what free DB has always been well known for and synonymous for continues, and that’s live big events and those curated environments. We often talk about the paradox of choice. Well, we want to help our consumers and our audience be able to navigate through that. And so I think that hopefully has encapsuled a little bit of the thinking around why we see that as such an important part of our future.

Rob McKnight:

Are you having a bit of a chuckle to yourself, that the streaming services are now trying to get into the ad game and put commercials in their shows? When they launched, it was always about being commercial free.

Hamish Turner:

Yeah, look it again was inevitable, because it was a disruption play. Look, I don’t know if they knew that, but disruptors often take a hit and they went direct to consumer as well, so they took their content off the market. What we’re seeing is A, content is coming back in the market from people who even have those paywalls. What we’re seeing is that they need to open up new revenue lines, and that’s why they’re going down the ad path. I can say that that is not an easy direction to go in, especially if you’ve got consumers that are used to sitting behind a paywall, not being served with ads.

Rob McKnight:

Yeah.

Hamish Turner:

And I think when you look at the numbers, and now I’m referring to what I’m seeing coming out of the UK, air slot is very good at delivering high volume content with niche verticals. And what I mean by that is that, what you get in free to air is big un duplicated reach. You create those big moments through sport, through news, through those big entertainment brands that delivers exclusive reach at a moment in time.

Rob McKnight:

Yeah.

Hamish Turner:

[inaudible 00:18:05] doesn’t do that. And what we’re seeing out of the UK is, even their biggest shows aren’t getting anywhere near the big free to air shows in terms of numbers and engagement. And that’s because you’ve got a whole set of consumers watching across a thousand different shows. Now there are bigger shows in that mix, but even if you look at the numbers for The Crown, doesn’t get anywhere near something like I’m a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here.

So I think it’s just an interesting point and I think for me, that monetization is more likely to come from social video, than necessarily from that kind of premium video environment.

Rob McKnight:

Right. Okay. Finally, I need to ask you about the big change of changing presenters. A Current Affair at the time we’re recording, Tracy Grimshaw leaves tonight. How hard is it making that choice of who will replace her in such a pivotal role in primetime, that’s a nightly current affairs show?

Hamish Turner:

Well, I don’t have to make that decision thankfully, so that’s Darren Wick and-

Rob McKnight:

But you know there’s been a lot of discussions about it.

Hamish Turner:

Hey?

Rob McKnight:

There’s been a lot of discussions about it.

Hamish Turner:

I may have been privy to some, but look, I think it’s never an easy decision obviously. Firstly, Tracy has been in that role for 17 years. She is synonymous with the role, she owns that role. She is the voice of the people and she does just an absolutely phenomenal job in terms of doing that. And tonight, we farewell her and celebrate her career, and I think for us it’s really about giving her that moment to shine and celebrating her esteemed career in the seat of ACA. And that’s the focus at this point in time.

But I think in terms of where we’re going next year, that’ll all be revealed in time. Yeah, I think we’re looking forward to obviously sending off Tracy tonight and we’ll see what comes after that moment.

Rob McKnight:

Indeed, and we’ll see what comes in 2023. Hamish Turner, thank you for your insights. It’s really interesting to just cut through the spin and find out where you’re coming from. Thanks for that.

Hamish Turner: [inaudible 00:20:12] you, Rob. Thank you mate. Cheers. Bye.

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Robert McKnight
Robert McKnighthttps://tvblackbox.com.au/robert-mcknight/
"Leading TV commentator" - The Daily Telegraph | "Known for his impeccable sources in the TV industry" - The Daily Mail | "Always first with the correct info" - Beau Ryan | Robert McKnight is a highly regarded Australian Television Producer having worked at SEVEN, NINE and TEN during his 30 years in the industry. Currently Rob can be seen every fortnight on THE MORNING SHOW (7) and heard on NIGHTS WITH JOHN STANLEY (2GB/4BC). He is also a producer on 7 NEWS SPOTLIGHT.
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