Opinion

Encore Score: The newsreaders

Encore ScoreWith the battle for early evening eyeballs increasingly important for commercial TV networks Amanda Meade looks at the numbers to see if the most popular newsreaders are the most watched.

Despite dramatic changes to the media landscape in the past ten years, the traditional 6pm commercial news bulletin on free-to-air television remains a key building block in a network’s schedule – get it right and you can carry big audiences over to your primetime shows. Some bulletins have even expanded from 30 minutes to an hour in the main markets of Sydney and Melbourne.

Mark Ferguson

Mark Ferguson

But getting the right reader is tricky. When the legendary Brian “Hendo” Henderson retired from Channel Nine in Sydney, the bulletin slowly slumped into second place and it took years and three newsreaders for Nine to regain its ratings crown. After Hendo, Nine went through Jim Waley and Mark Ferguson before ditching them for Peter Overton, the incumbent who leads the pack between 6pm and 7pm in Sydney.

Similarly, over on Seven, when veteran Ian “Roscoe” Ross retired at 70, ratings began a long, slow decline and Chris Bath – the first woman to front a number one commercial bulletin in Sydney – wasn’t able to hang on to first place and she was recently replaced by Ferguson who had defected to Seven.

Overton, Bath, Ferguson – and Ten’s Sandra Sully – all have high Encore Scores, a measure of their standing with the public which was tabulated from a survey of 3,500 respondents last year.

Encore score Sydney newsreaders 2013

The respondents were shown a series of pictures of Australian on-air personalities and asked how they felt about them from “one of my favourites” to “I hate them”. In the entire Encore Score list of 1,000 personalities, only five got a score over 200.

Surprisingly, Overton, who has more viewers than Ferguson (96), also has the lowest score of 52 of the four Sydney personalities. But Nine’s ratings may be due to the strong stories and live crosses than the newsreader alone. Overton also scores highly among women, some three times more than with male viewers.

Chris Bath (140) who was recently moved aside for Ferguson and Sully (110) performed much stronger than Overton and the other men in the Sydney market.

Sandra Sully

Sandra Sully

Sully is one of the nation’s most popular and enduring newsreaders. Having both a strong national and Sydney profile, Sully is particularly popular among the older (25 to 54 year old) demographic and is more than twice as popular among men than women. No surprises there.

Perhaps because she presented the national late news on Ten for so many years, Sully has a strong Encore Score among all Australians (98) rather than just in Sydney.

In Melbourne, the reigning king of news is Nine’s Peter “Hitch” Hitchener and his Encore Score of 164 reflects his enduring popularity. But not far behind is Seven’s Peter Mitchell with 141.

However, while Ten’s veteran newsreader Mal Walden has an Encore Score of 59, his replacement Stephen Quartermain, who moved across form the sports desk to replace him, scored just 45 in the study conducted last May, and we would expect his profile to be higher now, although he resonated better than Walden in the 25-54 demographic.

Encore Score newsreaders victoria 2013

Sharyn Ghidella

Sharyn Ghidella

Brisbane’s Sharyn Ghidella is very popular with a high Encore Score of 144. Ghidella has been reading the Seven News in Brisbane since January 2013 and has also presented the local edition of Today Tonight, which perhaps accounts for her high recognition and popularity.

Ghidella is four times more popular with over 25s than she is with the 18 to 39s and twice as popular with men as she is with women, which is interesting for a female newsreader. Andrew Lofthouse, a former ABC personality, reads the Nine News in Brisbane and has a high Encore Score of 96. Lofthouse has twice the recognition among older viewers in Brisbane than he does in the under 25s, which is unsurprising as all news bulletins have an older demographic.

Encore Score newsreaders QLD 2013

In Perth Ten’s Narelda Jacobs, an indigenous role model for young women in Western Australia, has always been a strong performer, with an Encore Score of 101.

Narelda Jacobs

Narelda Jacobs

But Susanna Carr who reads the news on Seven has an Encore Score of 189 in her home State, no doubt due to her longevity. Carr has been presenting the news in Western Australia since 1985.

Jacobs, Carr and Seven’s Rick Ardon (99) all perform better with the older demographic than the younger respondents in the Encore Score survey.

Encore Score newsreaders WA 2013

The Encore Score is a ranking of on-air talent across TV, radio, film and the media. The project launched in 2012 with a second round of data compiled in June 2013. The results chart how widely more than 1,000 Australian celebrities are recognised, as well as how positively and negatively they are perceived. Click here to see the full interactive rankings.

Amanda Meade

The Encore Score is a joint venture between Focal Attractions, Pure Profile and The Acid Test.

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