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Audience fragmentation and the internet are not a threat say free to air network execs

Kurt Seven, Louise Barrett, Ten and Peter Wiltshire, Nine, and moderator John Sintras, Starcom MediaVest Group. Image: Jack Fisher

Kurt Burnette Seven, Louise Barrett, Ten and Peter Wiltshire, Nine, and moderator John Sintras, Starcom MediaVest Group. Image: Jack Fisher

High quality content will ensure a bright future for free to air TV, say the executives in charge of more than $3 billion in advertising at the big three commercial networks.

Moderator John Sintras, chairman, Starcom MediaVest Group questioned Kurt Burnette, chief revenue officer, Seven West Media, Louise Barrett, chief sales officer at Ten and Peter Wiltshire, group sales and marketing director at Nine, on second screen viewing, catch up TV and fragmenting audiences.

Nine’s Wiltshire told the room at the Mumbrella360 conference the challenges presented by fragmentation of audience across different devices were actually an opportunity for the TV networks.

“ I think the big opportunity is available screen time  – more screens, more users, more devices, you know more opportunities to view,” said Wiltshire.

“At the end of the day we are all content producers and publishers, we pay a truck load for the rights for a lot of the content and internally on building it – so however we disseminate it, as long as you can measure those audiences and how they are consuming your content then who cares where it’s going or being consumed.”

Barrett pointed out that while there is much talk of a rising challenge to traditional free to air broadcasters, the reality was the majority of premium content being created was still produced by old media operations.

“It all boils down to having premium quality content,” Barrett said.

“The Google’s or whoever of the world are curating content, not actually producing premium quality content yet, they are talking about it, but you know a lot of their stuff is kittens dressed in dresses, kids doing funny things when it’s really about delivering premium quality content and delivering it across any device on any platform.”

Burnette would not be drawn on what Seven West Media was putting into online and second screen investment versus traditional free to air broadcast, instead emphasising the amount was significant through the joint venture with Yahoo in the shape of online arm Yahoo!7, which operates the companies catch up and streaming sites and apps.

He added: “I think a great example of that which epitomises most of our content is that Home and Away in the last four years the ratings are exactly the same, averaging 1 million people but it’s also in one month streaming 1.3 million full episodes.

“That’s where we are trying to grow it out (the audience). It’s not about diminishing returns on that investment and content, its about growing that real opportunity for all of us there.”

Wiltshire pointed to the recent first State of Origin match which received 560,000 streams, up from 118,000 just 12 months ago at a time when the broadcast live match received a record audience as well.

“That’s a five time increase in 12 months, so consumers are hungry for it, they’re driving to it so there’s good examples of growth”, he said.

On the question of whether they see companies like Google as a friend or foe the trio seemed confident their content offering remained superior and was not going to come under threat anytime soon from the internet and technology companies.

I don’t think they are friend or foe like I said before they are not yet producing premium quality content – we are, said Barrett.

The three also ruled out joining forces to build a shared second screen app.

“I think we have been down that track I don’t think its going to happen but I don’t think there’s an appetite, said Barrett.

“There’s challenges to it. Getting all three networks to do anything is a challenge.

“It’s not about one place to go for everything – if you want a second screen experience. I think it’s less about whether the networks come together its about what is the model that delivers the best outcomes for viewers and business.”

Robert Burton-Bradley

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