Sport tops for viewers in 2016
Led by State of Origin coverage, sporting, cooking and renovating contests dominated free-to-air television viewing across southern NSW in 2016.
And despite the costly and confusing mid-year swap of network allegiances by its commercial rivals, Prime7 was the year’s clear No. 1 over the 40-week TV ratings season, which finished at the weekend.
Full-year audience data for southern NSW shows the Network Seven content carried by Prime7 and its 7Two and 7mate channels won the ratings with an average network share of 28.9 per cent between 6pm and midnight – a comfortable margin, though not nearly as emphatic as in regional Victoria.
In the combined southern NSW TV market – which includes the Canberra, Wollongong/south coast and Orange, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga viewing areas – Nine’s content ran second overall (with a 25.1 per cent network share), ahead of the ABC (20.6 per cent), Ten’s content (17.5) and SBS (7.9).
THE BIG SWITCH
Since July 1, when Southern Cross Austereo switched over to Nine's programs and branding and WIN began showing Ten’s shows, Prime7 has remained unchallenged (averaging 28.1 per cent of the nightly audience).
Over the second half of the year, while WIN’s overall ratings have fallen with the loss of Nine’s programming, the Wollongong-based network has grown the audience for Ten content (18.3 per cent audience share).
Seven of the 10 most-watched shows across southern NSW this year were sports telecasts, led by the first State of Origin match (which averaged 315,749 viewers) and Cronulla’s NRL grand final win (296,780).
Reality TV contests The Block and My Kitchen Rules rounded out the top 10. Eleven of the 20 most-watched programs were from Nine, seven were on Prime7 and two - the Bathurst 1000 and Masterchef Australia’s winner announcement - were from Ten.
The ABC’s top-ranked show, the David Attenborough documentary Great Barrier Reef, came in at No. 36 with an average audience of 120,697. SBS didn’t have a show among the top 100.
The most-watched news program was the Nine News bulletin on Sunday nights, which ranked 42nd with an average audience of 116,285.
The top miniseries was the Molly Meldrum saga Molly on Prime7, followed by Ten’s Peter Brock biography on WIN. The most popular drama series were Rebecca Gibney’s Wanted on Prime7 and the Mudgee-shot Doctor Doctor on Nine.
Prime7 was quick to claim overall victory, putting out a media release even before the official ratings period finished at midnight on Saturday.
Describing itself as “the most watched television network across NSW (including the ACT and Gold Coast) and Victoria for the fourth year in a row”, Prime7 said its lead over its commercial rivals in those markets had never been bigger.
Prime7 claimed wins in 38 of 40 survey weeks in those markets, and said The Chase was the year’s most-watched game show, Sunrise was the top breakfast program, Sunday Night was the most-watched public affairs program and the final season of Downton Abbey was the top international series.
After another year of frustration as his industry’s pleas for the scrapping of media ownership rules that prevent mergers between regional and metropolitan TV networks went unheeded, Prime Media Group chief executive Ian Audsley welcomed the ratings results.
“In a year which saw a once-in-a-generation change where our competitors switched affiliation agreements, it’s great to see that our consistent brand and programming continues to resonate strongly with viewers,” Mr Audsley said.
WIN’s overall share of nightly viewers in southern NSW may now rank behind the ABC’s, but Bruce Gordon’s broadcaster is doing better with Ten content than Southern Cross Austereo did.
In a statement, WIN claimed the largest year-on-year commercial audience share growth across the full week in the Orange, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga market since the change in network affiliations.
WIN said its network commercial share of total people watching Ten content between 6pm-10.30pm was up by 18.3 per cent on the equivalent period in 2015. Viewers aged 16-39 were up 18.4 per cent and viewers 25-54 were up 14.5 per cent.
On weeknights, when WIN begins its prime-time line-up with its 6pm local news, its growth was even stronger.
WIN’s top programs among viewers aged 16-39 included Australian Survivor, The Bachelor and The Project Special: President-Elect Donald Trump’s First Interview.
WIN CEO Andrew Lancaster said Ten, in which Mr Gordon is the largest shareholder, had always been known for having a strong hold on the 16-39 demographic.
“Our end of year results have shown significant growth for Ten programming when you compare the 2016 results on WIN to the 2015 performance,” Mr Lancaster said. “Growth is important especially as consumers access a more fragmented media landscape. We couldn’t be happier. Our commitment to growing the audience for Ten product … across regional Australia will continue in 2017.”
Local news bulletins did not rate a mention among the 100 top-rating shows in southern NSW this year.
But plans by Southern Cross Austereo and Nine to launch 15 weeknight regional editions of Nine News in early 2017 will intensify direct competition for local news viewers.
The squeeze on audiences may be felt most at WIN, as it counts the overall revenue impact of Ten’s lower-rating programs.
The roll-out of the new hour-long Nine bulletins in the 6pm timeslot on weekdays begins in February in Canberra and Wollongong, with other markets to follow.