Network Nine 2014 Upfront Summary

Two days before their public float on the Australian Stock Exchange, Nine Entertainment Co visited OMD Sydney last week to present their 2014 programming slate. In a more pared-down, up-close-and-personal upfront presentation than previous years, Nine explained that this approach was due to the IPO. They still came prepared with a slick looking reel and presentation, and over the course of an hour they took us through their plans for next year.

 In terms of their business overall, they highlighted three areas of importance for them.

 1. The buyout of Mi9 from Microsoft, which now means they have 100% control over this asset. This is a major benefit moving into the era of data and development of HBBTV. The evolution of these areas is a priority for all marketers over the next couple of years and this asset ensures Nine are well set with the knowledge and technology to enhance the delivery.

2. The acquisition of the Adelaide and Perth markets in 2013 which were previously owned by WIN. These channels have been neglected and now Nine are taking control of these markets they will be implementing thorough local marketing campaigns, which is sure to increase audience with the added support.

3.The importance of sport for a TV Network, and their renewal of the NRL and Cricket rights this year. Both were very costly for Nine and saw them paying considerably higher rates than previous years due to other Networks competing.

 They reflected on the past year and their performance and noted that in the buying demos of People 25-54, People 16-39 and Grocery Buyers, they are number one. This continues to be their focus for moving forward and they acknowledge that Seven is number one in Total People. However they know that Total People is not a demo that clients buy. 

They have great confidence in their 2014 line-up but this year they are not out in market guaranteeing an increases in audience. 2014 should largely be a two horse race, with Nine now also able to offer stability and consistency across their format, like Seven. In 2013 they tackled their considered weakness of Monday-Friday 1900 strip which had been preventing them from drawing audiences to the Network in early evening, but this was addressed in 2013 with great success. 

Moving forward, Nine are focusing on four key programming pillars: local Australian productions, news & current affairs, sport and event TV. The laydown of their schedule for 2014 ensures that they have the support of these pillars right across the year, which sets them in good stead. Outside of the four core pillars, there was little talk of new US content coming down the pipeline.

Australian content 

In addition to the return of House Husbands and Hamish & Andy (this time in South America) in 2014, Nine are investing in a lot of new Australian content. They have two new drama series in production. Love Child, starring Jessica Marais, Jonathan LaPaglia and Mandy McElhinney (a.k.a. Rhonda from the insurance ads), looks like a high quality production that will appeal to broad female audiences. The other is Fat Tony & Co.,the prequel to the first ever Underbelly series and based on the true story of Tony Mokbel. With all of the original cast returning to reprise their roles, given the first Underbelly series is still considered the best, it is likely to deliver solid audience numbers for Nine. 

They have two local reality programmes next year focused on dating and romance. When Love Comes to Town looks like a slight evolved version of Farmer Wants A Wife, which was still averaging a solid 970k viewers in its final season. Married at First Sight is based on a Danish format that was apparently the most talked about format at MIPCOM 2013 (just like Celebrity Splash the year prior – anyone remember that gem?) that sees eight single Aussies matched into four couples who meet each other for the first time at their wedding. We expect this to be the weaker of the two shows. 

Nine also have a number of specials or mini-series that will be marketed as must-see event TV in 2014, with Schapelle, Gina and Mayday Mayday – The Story of Flight QF32. The biopics of Schapelle Corby and Gina Rinehart should both deliver large audiences, whilst Mayday Mayday should also do well given it’s a local story about a recent incident with Qantas, our national airline.

News & current affairs 

They have committed to producing a minimum of 6 hours of news and public affairs every day of the year. Launching next year, they have Inside Story, a local current affairs brand that they will be running weekly. 

Sport 

NRL and Cricket remain Nine’s flagship sporting events. We have now seen sport move to the digital channels with successful ratings as seen with the Ashes this year on GEM and previously the Tennis on 7TWO. It will be likely that Nine will utilise GEM further with other sport as it is a priority.

Event TV 

Key to Nine’s success in 2013 was their approach to ensuring they had tent-pole programming running right across the year, and they are taking the same approach again in 2014. Big Brother will be returning but AGT is unknown at this stage.

Nine will again run two series of The Block franchise, with The Block: Fans vs Faves kicking off the year.  As long as these formats are suitably refreshed (and it looks like they have been, with the Fans vs Faves renovation an old Theatre building that starts as nothing but basically a hole in the ground), we expect audience levels to hold year on year.

The Voice will also be getting a re-fresh in 2014, with two new judges – Kylie Minogue and Will.i.am. Given this will be the third series of The Voice, we are expecting a slight audience drop YOY again. It will still remain as one of the highest rating programs across the year. The Voice Kids will debut next year which is a risk (think MasterChef Kids). We don’t expect this to be a powerhouse, but it still will hover around 1.1-1.2M.

In summary

On the back of strong performance in 2013 Nine look to have another solid offering in 2014. They have invested a lot in local content and sport, which are vitally important to a Networks’ success. They are confident about 2014 without the over confidence seen in 2013, however they are aware that it is 2 horse race in ratings and play that to their advantage. On the back of the purchase of Adelaide and Perth, they can probably already bank increases in these markets with the additional marketing support. The key we see this year is the quality that they have right across the format and evenly across the year. They will be looking strong to hold onto the number 1 position for core buying demos of People 25-54, People 16-39 and Grocery Buyers.

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