Nine finally looks to the future

The thing about “doomed” traditional media companies is that they have a habit of reinventing themselves in the nick of time.

But it’s still somewhat to my surprise that I left today’s 2013 presentation from Nine feeling that it has gone from what seemed the least forward-looking of the three major TV companies to the most.

And that’s an impression driven almost entirely by what the organisation had to say about everything other than what will be on primetime next year.

For starters, it feels like some within the network understood early that branded entertainment was going to be key. Powered by Nine quietly repositioned from what I always perceived as another integrated sales team – cross selling across Nine, ACP and nineMSN – to a sophisticated vehicle for delivering branded entertainment. The impact of that was clear in case studies at last week’s Festival of Branded Entertainment.

I couldn’t quite tell you what Seven’s integration brand SMG Red really stands for and without checking, I can’t even remember the name of Ten’s offering (if it has one).

Then there was the emphasis given to Nine’s second screen app Jump-In. There was a degree of humility in accepting that Jump-In hadn’t been ready for the market when it launched during the Olympics, but a convincing case that next February’s launch will be more likely to take viewers with them. The sizzle reel of ways that shows will integrate content began to persuade me.

I must admit, I do lean towards the view that a single app that accompanies viewing across any TV network may prove to be more of a winner. But try and get the networks to club together on that…

Certainly though, today’s preso made me realise we need to take the battle of the apps – Seven has Fango and Ten has Zeebox – seriously next year.

Another sign the Nine Entertainment Co is becoming more sophisticated was its launch today of its new data brand Iris. We’ll have to wait and see whether it becomes a currency in the market, but I suspect it will.

And also getting much greater emphasis this time round was the events business – with One Direction’s 2013 tour singled out as a branding property in its own right.

What was also interesting today was the absence from the stage of boss of David Gyngell – presumably still on paternity leave. It gave the company a chance to show that it is not a one man band, even if it is still a somewhat blokey one. Matt James, relatively newly arrived from the UK as Mi9’s MD, looked extremely comfortable. Peter Wiltshire, meanwhile, looked well rehearsed, wandering the stage rather than delivering from a lectern.

I think the seeds are there. I can begin to see a future landscape where linear television no longer dominates, but Nine is still a player.

Tim Burrowes


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