Media buyers dissect Nine’s upcoming content slate

Nine Entertainment Co was the first cab-off the rank for 2022 upfronts, and even sneaked in some additional new 2021 content not in the previous schedule. Here, Mumbrella speaks to a range of media buyers about whether the elaborate reveal of what’s in store meets the mark when it comes to the number one focus - content.

“Nine showcased some fresh, new concepts,” says Carat chief investment officer, Craig Cooper. “These should all deliver healthy ratings for Nine in 2022.”

He adds that “Nine has played it quite safe in 2022, with a return and small re-jigs of many existing formats for 2022.”


GroupM’s general manager of investment, Claire Butterworth, says she was impressed that there was a strong localisation of content. “It’s apparent that the reliance on international content has minimised considerably, which for us and our clients is a really positive move.

“It felt like celebrity was definitely top of mind again. I really liked Snacked Masters. I feel like that wil be a really nice combination of tried and tested good cooking show genre mixed in with that magic Lego Masters approach. I think that may be a bit of a ratings winner and nice family co-viewing as well. The Block going into regional is really nice for them. It ticks a lot of boxes.

OMD Melbourne head of trading Nik Doble, says the upfront had a data and technology focus, “the typical ‘wow’ of new programming was more muted for the 2022 upfronts”.

“Blending your proven performers with opportunities to unearth the next big hit is the foundation of any successful long-term programming strategy, and Nine has navigated this better than any network in recent years.

“However, few, if any, of the proven line-up remain in the upswing phase. I’m not sure if the tweaks made, for instance a tree-change for The Block, are enough to revitalise to former glory, so I will watch 2022’s performance with interest.”

However, not everyone was impressed. Chris Walton of Nunn Media tells Mumbrella: “News, Current Affairs, sport, returning franchises, even print was spoken about before new TV content. I am concerned about Snack Masters, and this is what they led with.”

Snack Master and new program Parental Guidance will air in late 2021, while Buying Byron and Australia Behind Bars and Million Dollar Murders are set to air in 2022.

Walton adds: “Beyond that there was a rather sombre voyeuristic theme – Australia Behind Bars, Missing Persons Investigations, Million Dollar Murders. And Parental Guidance won’t have you rolling in the aisles. The sound of the Underbelly theme always perks your ears up given the richness of that franchise, but what will that be – a couple of hours of content?”

This was echoed by Havas Media Australia Group investment director, Michelle Lee: “The depth of content was lacking but understandable with the current climate. Nine are relying on proven reality shows that create integration opportunities for clients or locally produced content be it crime based. They have found a slate that works and therefore not pushing boundaries.”

Meanwhile Magna managing director, Nick Durrant, thinks that Parental guidance is an “interesting proposition” and the timing is serendipitous with many families having spent more time together through lockdowns than they ever would have imagined. “I can see there being a real eagerness to see how peoples’ styles of parenting compares and indeed how you could have done it better or different,” he says.

Doble also sees Parental Guidance, as something to  rival MAFS in the controversy stakes with its “no holds barred” coverage of an incredibly intimate topic.

“Following an intense time for parents during the pandemic, this could be Nine’s next big hitter,” he states.

Charlie Bacon, client service director, Tug, says that Nine’s network share win last year gives them the  luxury of playing it safe with its programme selection, “bringing back key shows such as Lego Masters, Married at First Sight, Beauty and the Geek, Ninja Warrior, Celebrity Apprentice and Love Island”.

“2022 looks to double down on the reality TV format… It will be interesting to see if audiences are starting to feel reality TV fatigue, especially if the other networks also follow suit.

Steve Allen of Pearman Media also noticed the focus on crime and a lack of scripted drama. “Underbelly was a bit of surprise, “ he states. “ I did note at that point, that there is a fair bit of crime reality on the slate, a lot more than in previous years. But as we know from other mediums, like podcasting, it is flavour of the month, so it is logical that they would go there. We do worry though that they are overdoing it, especially if Ten and Seven also do it, which would lead to an oversupply.

“There was also no procedural reality at all, which has been a main part of their evening programming. That has been a staple of all networks over the past few years, for later in the evening.

Allen adds that most of the programs that they promised this year have performed and been renewed, albeit with some minor tweaks such as The Block moving to a regional location.

“When Married at First Sight came along, they did a major rejig in year two and then year three. That is why it is the success it is today, they developed it out of a single night format to a multi-night format.

He adds: “It was interesting that right up front it was going back to its core strength, news and current affairs. Going back to the heartland. Seven have challenged them on that, and in pure ratings have beaten them on that.”

He is also interested in Snack Masters, which will be Nine’s fourth year crack at food. “This one looks more promising,” says Allen. “This looks like it will be moderately successful.”

Butterworth is also keen on Snack Masters, for the opportunity of brand integration. The other new food offering is a branded program for the publishing divisions Goof Food masthead.

Allen says the use of Nine’s publishing division (previously part of Fairfax Media) into other mediums within the group is a”work in progress” but will be welcome by advertisers. “We have been waiting to see how some of the key masthead brands that sit in the newspaper division were going to be developed.

“Before COVID, they had taken Domain to television on Saturday mornings. We think that they have some assets that can, and will be developed, across platforms. We think there is more opportunity there.”

A new ball game 

Sport was also a key focus for Nine at the upfronts, and with good reason.

“Nine have always been very strong in sport, and 2022 will be no different,” says Carat’s Cooper. “The Tennis/Australian Open will kick off the year and hopefully with a return to normal timings, will provide the launchpad for Nine that this format usually provides.

Havas’ Lee adds that being able to complete the Grand Slams, with the addition of the US Open, “really positions them well to develop their coverage outside of the Australian Open and own this space”.

Of course, the main sport Nine has been affiliated with for some 30 plus years is NRL. “The big hitters like NRL and State of Origin remain a big pull for audiences, but I am intrigued by the Stan Sport offering,” says Lee.  “It has matured significantly and securing European football rights is a big coup (possibly a signal of intent going forward). Also intrigued to see what the sentiment is amongst consumers with EPL and European football splitting and driving further proliferation in that space.”

Nunn Media’s Walton says Nine did well by presenting a very impressive array of sports “whilst glossing over key facts such as what will be behind a paywall”.

“They did very well at hitting home the integrated nature of their sports coverage across streaming and linear broadcast, radio, print and digital.”

Tug’s Bacon also questions whether consumers be willing to fork out a “further monthly fee on top of all of the other streaming services out there?”

However, Magna’s Durrant, sees that Stan has brought some sports from behind a paywall to a more broad FTA audience. “In particular you can see this with Rugby Union and the Champions League where the bulk of the sport is held on Stan but key matches or finals series are also broadcast on the main network, as opposed to all being held behind the paywall,” he states.

“I can see this strategy being very effective for Nine as they can bid more for the rights of more niche sports confident that Stan can monetise the bulk of those rights. Then key or high-interest games can be moved to FTA. This is a win for both the viewers who get the sports they love, as well as the sport which can ensure broader viewing at key times of interest.”


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