Nine Entertainment Co has set its sights on improving its digital assets announcing a slew of new services, channels and a programmatic play as well as an overhaul of its corporate brand.
Among the new announcements at Nine’s 2016 upfront event today were: the move to simulcast its main channel in definition; a new lifestyle multichannel NineLife; a live streaming strategy named NineNow; a focus on more Australian content; moves towards a data strategy lading to automated TV buying.
The company is heralding these changes with a new unifying brand identity with chief revenue officer Peter Wiltshire saying: “We are bringing our family together under a common anchor with a heritage with the Nine dots and that means consumers have a better chance to understand when they are consuming content from Nine Entertainment.”
The high definition strategy
Nine has acknowledged consumer frustration over its lack of premium content in high definition, announcing it will now simulcast its primary channel shows on a new channel 9HD, with Gem rebranded as 9Gem and moving to standard definition.
CEO David Gyngell acknowledged there had been “barriers” previously to this move, adding in a statement: “This is all about using the available technology to give viewers what they want. We’ve been listening to feedback from our audience and consistently they tell us they want their programs in HD.”
Nine has drawn a lot fire from consumers over its previous high definition strategy, particularly in relation to major sports events such as cricket and NRL.
Viewers without an HD television will still be able to watch Channel Nine in standard definition, but to accommodate the HD upgrade there will be a realignment of Nine Network channel numbers on Freeview.
9HD will be on Channel 90, 9Gem will move to Channel 92 and 9GO! will now be seen on Channel 93 and 99.
Changes take effect from November 26.
NineLife: a new lifestyle multichannel
On November 26 the company will also launch a lifestyle and reality TV channel called 9Life on Channel 94.
Content will be sourced from around the world and include: The Bachelor USA, House Hunters, Fixer Upper, Top Chef and Millionaire Matchmaker.
Gyngell said: “NineLife is Australia’s first free-to-air lifestyle channel. It is a fresh and exciting new channel designed to inspire and entertain. We’ve worked hard to source the very best lifestyle programs in the world right now, each with big, strong characters that will resonate with fans of the genre.”
The new channel is aimed at challenging the likes of Foxtel in the reality and lifestyle programs placing an emphasis on conflict, drama and excitement.
NineNow: 9Jumpin to disappear with live streaming service’s launch
Nine has confirmed previous reports it will move live streaming but today added that it would dump its existing catchup service 9Jumpin in 2016.
Sales boss Peter Wilthshire said: “9Now is the replacement as we retire the 9Jumpin brand. In the early part of 2016 9Jumpin will disappear and NineNow will replace it.
“9Jumpin was built to be a second screen companion app that also housed our on demand catch up content. It was never designed to be a streaming product and it isn’t.
“We have recut our entire platform, sourced a new tech supplier which has the global best practice in this sort of technology and as of early 2016 NineNow will take the place of 9Jumpin.”
Gyngell said the change was about meeting audiences wherever they are.
“9Now gives audiences the choices they want and takes the Nine brand, with all its heritage and great content, into the future. It delivers Nine’s premium programs, from sport and news to drama and big event shows, to audiences when they want it and where they want it.
“This is a transformational time for Nine. Our investment and plans for 9Now will enable viewers to see the best of the network live, on demand and free – anywhere and on any device.”
The announcements around live streaming follows rival Seven’s “newfronts” which saw the network acknowledge falling linear TV audiences and champion its streaming strategy.
Asked if Nine’s moved into the space was driven by similar concerns Wiltshire said: “There is no doubt that technology is changing behaviour. Yes there has to be some audience change – and we have seen some falls in free-to-air this year – but without being able to capture where those audiences are through lack of measurement it has been hard to articulate the change.”
Programmatic data play
9Now will lay the data foundation for a programmatic play, as Nine looks to ensure it can eventually provide targeted advertising by requiring users of 9Now to have logins, originally flagged by Wiltshire earlier this month.
“All of Nine’s channels will eventually sit in one destination and online environment… and it is very important as a broadcaster that we have the ability in order to build a first party database,” said Wiltshire.
“As we move to 9Now and have a single ID across our properties we can start to track their behaviour and move into a world where we can provide addressable audience targeting for advertisers – not only on online devices but eventually our aspiration is to be on the main screen of the home.”
That signals Nine sees its long-term goal as moving away from broadcast to deliver its TV services online.
Wiltshire claimed both the branding move and broader strategy would benefit both consumers and advertisers.
“9Now will become the vehicle for us to build a first party database that is connected with our consumers and gives a benefit because they get more of what they want in terms of both content and customised advertising,” he said.
“That database will allow us to build out a programmatic strategy to engage with advertisers and provide more addressable and targeted advertising along with an integrated sales team.”
Nine is not alone in making addressable advertising a key priority with Seven also announcing it would move to more targeted programmatic forms of advertising last week.
Australia’s top media buyers have welcomed the move with Dentsu Aegis CEO Luke Littlefield telling Mumbrella he was pleased to see both networks move on the issue.
“From my perspective, single customer view, cross channel attribution and addressable media are critical parts in delivering the right message, at the right time to the right customer,” said Littlefield who runs the advertising group which claims some $2.3bn in media billings.
Omnicom Group head Leigh Terry was also positive.
“Content, channel strategy and rebrand aside (although that all looks very strong and strategically sound), the increased use of always on streaming and subsequent data capture – whether that be at a gender, age or in the case of mobile device – will increase the efficacy of targeting options for advertisers,” said Terry, who heads the Australian division of the holding group which has $1.6bn in billings.
“Taken in context with the ambitions of the digital players video ambitions, this is indeed exciting times and moves us all towards truly integrated screen strategies that we’ve been pushing for the last few years.”
TV: Local focus for 2016 lineup
The axing of the Warner Brothers distribution deal has given Nine $100m more to spend on Australian content.
Among the new programs slated for 2016 include a crime thriller Hide and Seek; a miniseries in the vein of House of Hancock on the life of (briefly Nine owner) Alan Bond called House of Bond; a Darryl Somers hosted game show using hypnotism called You’re Back in the Room; a comedy called Here Come The Habibs; transformation show called This Time Next Year where people change their lives over 12 months;and a prison documentary called Prison: First and Last 24 Hours.
Nine also confirmed the return of Love Child, House Husbands, The Voice, Australia’s Got Talent, The Block, Renovation Rumble, Married at First Sight and Farmer Wants a Wife. Karl Stefanovic’s panel show The Verdict has also been recommissioned for 2016.
It said no decision had been made on the return of cooking show The Hot Plate.
Michael Healy, director of television for the Nine Network, said: “Our 2016 slate is brimming with a raft of new Australian productions and a swag of returning homegrown favourites. Never before has local content been as important as it is right now.
“We have diverted funds normally spent on international programming to investing in stories shot right here in our own backyard. Our viewers tell us that local production is what they want to see and next year they will see that in spades on Nine.”
OzTam measurement shake up
Peter Wiltshire also confirmed there were big changes ahead for TV measurement service OzTam, which has been working on a way to measure audiences for live TV and online catch-up services.
Wiltshire confirmed that announcements would be made on the new metric in the coming weeks: “In the next few weeks you will start to see regular reporting coming from OzTam where you will see linear broadcast ratings and online and long form ratings being published as one.
“It is the grossed up number of the audience and not deduplicated yet but as the iteration of that measurement comes through we will start to see a total audience figure and be able to capture where the audience has moved to.”