Media agency worries grow over 30% TV audience fall

Concerns are beginning to mount among Australia’s media agencies over a dramatic decline in TV audience figures so far this year.

However, it is unclear whether the shift – which has seen off peak ratings fall by nearly a third – is due to genuine changes in viewing behaviour or alterations to the OzTam panel at the start of the year to take in time shifted viewing (TSV).  

For agencies who are remunerated by clients based on their ability to buy audience reach against a specific benchmark, the result could see them missing targets and significantly losing income as a result.

Among those agencies where alarm bells are bringing is Ikon. An email from trading manager Michael Selden has been widely circulated within the industry:

Hi All,

Would love to get everyones opinions on some ratings drama’s we are experiencing at the moment.

Since TSV has started all off-peak ratings are down by 30% YOY (peak has been down by about 10-20%). Now we are wondering if this is caused by the shift in the panel to include PVR homes and the fact that now total TV is being reported to include these guys, the ratings are dropping because these guys are simply fastfowarding or PVR homes dont watch offpeak TV.

Our concern is not how much is being timeshifted (we know this is minimal), but overall the drop in ratings v same time last year is seeing a greater than 30% decline. Is there a difference in the viewing habits of the new PVR panel members versus that of the old panel that didnt have digital TV nor PVR’s. (So was TV being over reported on last year???)

However, Initiative’s trading boss Jackie Edwards told Mumbrella that it was too early to start panicking yet, and that things would become clearer after Easter.

Factors leading to the dramatically changed numbers included the move to a younger panel, along with one-offs such as Nine’s daytime coverage of the Winter Olympics.

She said: “My impression is that things are starting to stabilise. But it is too early to say for sure just yet.” But she conceded that agencies whose performance is measured by clients on their delivery of a specific CPM could be “in a spot of bother”.

She said that the drop varied across programming; Ten’s new The Circle was particularly badly hit – down 38% on the same timeslot last year.

A further factor is the newly available digital multichannels, which has been taking audience from the main channels, but in some cases, said Edwards, has also increased overall network audience.

She said: “The consensus is that the jury is out until after Easter.”


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