Michael Stephenson & Adrian Swift on Nine’s content ‘risks’ and being impatient with buyers

Fresh off Nine’s 2022 Upfronts last week, the media company’s second successive virtual event, head of content, production and development, Adrian Swift has rejected the notion that the upcoming content slate is “playing it safe”, as was suggested in the buyers’ responses published last week. 

“If you could see the white knuckle ride that was, ‘will our formats work in 2021?’, you would know that there’s nothing safe television,” he said.

“We’re not relying on The Block and MAFS to do all the heavy lifting, albeit the fact that they do do a lot of the heavy lifting. I think we’re taking lots of risks.”


Adrian Swift, head of content, production and development

Nine’s chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson, said that Nine is “obsessed by the demographics”, and in doing so, curates its content directly towards its target groups, 16-39 year olds, 25-54 year olds and grocery shoppers with children.

“We’ve been the leader for a number of years and we’re the leader again, and we’ll be the leader at the end of the year. Why? Because our content is more focused on those demographics and increasingly how those audiences transcend into both live streaming and on demand.”

Last week Nine also announced an extension of its Nine Galaxy ad buying platform to include regional ad sales, and while currently around 40% of Nine’s off-peak and multi-channel bookings are made through the platform, Stephenson questioned why more have not migrated to the platform yet.

“I am very impatient and I just think, why would you not do it this way? Why would you do it the old fashioned way? When there is a better way, that’s quicker and more efficient. You don’t have to chase around. We just deliver what you bought. I don’t understand why people wouldn’t do that.”

 Nine’s Chief Sales Officer, Michael Stephenson. Photo: Wolter Peeters

On whether there are imminent plans to turn on Galaxy for Nine’s prime time shows on its main channel, he said “it’s not the way media buyers buy TV yet”.

With a heavy focus on reality TV again in the upcoming slate for Nine’s TV programming, Swift said it is simply what the audience wants.

“Every couple of years, we all look at each other and go, surely there’ll be a fatigue towards reality shows. So what we do is we gingerly try and do something that isn’t reality, and it is furiously rejected by the audience.”

“It’s a little bit like someone in America in 1963, halfway through I love Lucy going ‘gee, I think sitcoms have had their day’. I don’t think it works like that.”

The pair were also coy, when asked about the upcoming “blind auction” for the English Premier League rights, as reported earlier this week in Nine masthead The Sydney Morning Herald.

Finally, on Nine’s major competitors in commercial, free-to-air TV, when asked of Seven CEO James Warburton’s comments labelling Network Ten “desperate” in asserting itself as the home for young progressive audiences earlier this year, Stephenson said “it’s not my place to cast dispersion on the quality of my competitors’ audience”.

For the full chat with Nine’s Michael Stephenson and Adrian Swift, subscribe and tune in to the Mumbrellacast, out later today.


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