Sales directors gear up for a busy summer of TV heading into ratings year 2022

As the official TV ratings period comes to an end and the festive season approaches, the major Australian TV networks are gearing up for a bumper content offering throughout the summer period. Mumbrella’s Emma Shepherd speaks to Nine’s Matt Granger, Seven’s Natalie Harvey, and Ten’s Rod Prosser, on what results they’re expecting from their content slates and how the continued COVID-19 restrictions will impact viewing habits.

“In terms of our summer programming, we really do have the biggest and strongest summer schedule we’ve ever had. I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here kicks off 3 January, and arguably the noisiest program over that period, and we’re particularly excited about this upcoming season,” Ten ViacomCBS chief sales officer, Rod Prosser, says.

“Obviously again, because of COVID, we’ve shot it in Australia, which has been really handy for our commercial partners, obviously because it’s not far to travel product etcetera, so we’ve been able to monetise that really successfully. We’re just so proud of the show, because hands down, that one show, redefines all of summer viewing,” he adds.

Nunn Media’s MD, Chris Walton tells Mumbrella: “I’m a Celebrity is successful, well known and starting very early in the year, and well done on a 3 Jan start date – a bold move, and no doubt they will leverage this show for promotional purposes, but it is just such a big challenge to do vs cricket and tennis, and then later AFL and NRL, none of which they have.”

Ten then moves straight into Survivor: Blood versus Water. “That’s now moved into its normal slot in February, so we’re expecting really strong audience growth in that time slot,” says Prosser. “Survivor just goes from strength-to-strength, and has been sold and commercialised really well. We’re just happy it’s moved back to February, because it’s got such a strong momentum behind it with IAC.

“We then have The Dog House coming into its second season, and what a little unknown that was! We’ve been so pleased with that show, it’s really hit the sweet spot and had a strong audience share particularly in the demos. Gogglebox will then be back that has always proven to be successful, and then of course, the biggest news is for the first time ever Ten has the A-league and international football commencing on Ten and Paramount+.”

In 2022, Ten revealed at its up-fronts that Ten and Paramount+ will be broadcasting A-Leagues matches, FFA Cup games and Matildas and Socceroos matches.

This comes shortly after the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) was rebranded as the A-Leagues in September ahead of the new season. This month, the A-League Men’s competition unveiled Isuzu UTE Australia (IUA) as its first official naming rights partner on a three year deal, officially titled the ‘Isuzu UTE A-League Men’.

“We’re really excited about the football proposition, it’s inclusive, it’s diverse, it’s raw, and the highest participated sport in the country, so our job now is to convert that into audience, and I think what we’ve seen to date is good numbers backed by really solid sponsor and commercial commitment,” Prosser admits.

Ten and Paramount+ will be broadcasting A-Leagues matches, FFA Cup games and Matildas and Socceroos matches.

“In other news, what will be back is The Project, and I just want to address all the nonsense surrounding that show. For us, that is a staple product that is always on, and one that we’re really proud of. It has a huge social and cultural impact. The 7pm to 7:30pm slot is number one in under 5os 25-54 and 16-39s. Over 60% of its audience is under 55s. It really represents our brand so well. So, we’re going to throw a whole lot of marketing and trade around it, and it’s something that we’re always pleased to have part of the network.”

“Underpinning what I have already mentioned, we’re going to celebrate the biggest summer schedule ever, and we’ve just launched our Start Big Package, our advertising package. That’s everything we just spoke about, bundled up for advertisers, which was just put in the market, and I can tell you that it’s selling so fast, which is a testament to the schedule. We already had a strong and competitive Q1, when you look at audience and audience share. Then you overlay all of the new products we have touched on, and we anticipate that we’re going to have some really good growth across the quarter and a really nice start to summer.”

Meanwhile, over at Nine, it has used its tennis launch to highlight how Tennis on Nine in 2022 is not only summer’s “biggest marketing platform” but also the most effective.

With two Australian tennis players, Ash Barty and Dylan Alcott, leading the world tennis rankings and both coming off incredible Wimbledon performances, Nine’s 2022 Summer of Tennis is promising to deliver “huge audiences” and provide marketers and brands with a platform to begin their calendar year plans.

Commercially, Nine’s director of sales – sport, Matt Granger, tells Mumbrella that summer would be a major inflexion point for Australia as agreed vaccination benchmarks are set to be achieved and key states transition out of lockdown.

“We already know that pre-ticket sales are already in high demand, so it just shows how excited Australians are to get back to normality and be part of the Australian Open. Tennis Australia over the last few years have invested significantly in the precincts, even as COVID has been on-going, as part of its long-term investment in the environment and the precinct itself. There’s a brand new arena, which again, provides more opportunities to showcase the amazing atmosphere and great tennis.”

Grangers adds: “Tennis Australia have further invested into the music and food areas for kids. We know tennis is Australia’s favourite summer sport, and this really now brings it back to being the festival that Australians love. I think while people are on holidays they just love to watch tennis. It’s also Dylan Alcott’s last Australian Open, Ash Barty has been preparing for this for quite some time. We know we have confirmation from the vast majority of the top players that they will be coming to Melbourne in January to compete, which is really exciting.”

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic (pictured) has refused to say if he’s vaccinated – or if he intends to get vaccinated

A few days after the chat with Granger, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley confirmed that unvaccinated tennis players were to be ruled out of the 2022 Australian Open.

Nine-time champion and reigning Australian Open champion Djokovic has refused to say if he’s vaccinated – or if he intends to get vaccinated.

“We’ll see. We’ll have to wait and see,” Djokovic said of attending the Australian Open after losing to Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in Turin on the weekend.

“We’re expecting Novak to come,” Tiley explained last week. “The good news is that most of the tennis players, both on the men ‘s and women’s side, are fully vaccinated. Novak, as he’s previously said, that’s a private issue for him.”

Granger ends on a positive note: “After the last two years it’s really nice to see the festival returning. We’ve already seen Daniel Andrews and the Victorian government come out and make it really clear that restrictions are changing to attendance and density caps that will allow full capacity for the Australian Open which is just fantastic not just for Australians but for Victorians, in particular, with what they’ve been through.

“We’re seeing unrivalled demand as we go into this summer for a number of reasons. For a lot of brands, kicking next year off with a bang is important, and the core platform to do that is the Australian Open and the summer of tennis. Visit Victoria, Peters, Kia, APT Travel Group have jumped on board.”

Tennis Australia over the last few years have invested significantly in the precincts in Melbourne

“Nine have always been very strong in sport, and 2022 will be no different,” says Carat’s chief investment officer, Craig 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’ group investment director, Michelle 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”.

Over at Seven, the network’s sales director, Natalie Harvey admits the network is gearing up for the biggest summer of TV they’ve seen as lockdowns ease.

“Cricket is going to be massive on Seven, with Australia’s interest in cricket at a very high level, post the 2020 World Cup win. We’re forecasting to deliver some pretty significant audiences and some good growth year-on-year, both in audience and share. We have more cricket in December than what we had last year. It’s an opportunity for retailers to be able to get into premium content, which essentially through December, Seven are the only network with premium content throughout,” she says.

“We will see our news product deliver strong audiences everyday. We have some really strong content on 7Plus, Christmas movies and family movies on offer, so for those who don’t want to watch the cricket, we have alternatives on 7Plus.

“We have the Carols that will be running as well, which obviously brings in a huge family audience,” explains Harvey. “In January, we have the Perth test, which is like having a primetime test in the eastern states, so that’s going to be very good for the network. We might do some damage there from a share perspective in January. In the lead-up to the Winter Olympic Games, The Voice, Home And Away and The Chase Australia will all be returning. I would say it’s a bulletproof schedule. Every day we have strong content running all the way through.”

Olympic Winter Games in Beijing will kick off Seven’s 2022 programming year

Harvey predicts that the Winter Olympic Games, running from 4 – 20 February will give the network massive demo growth all day and all night.

“You often find that buyers compare the Winter Games to a tentpole show, which runs three times per week, but the Winter Olympics is everyday, and all day. We have seen upwards of 200% in our forecast for demo 25-54,” admits Harvey. “You always see clients get surprised about how well the Winter’s do. From a digital perspective, we’re going to see huge audiences there, particularly with younger viewers, those hard to reach light TV viewers.”

Harvey concludes: “I think from an advertiser perspective, we’ve got the best opportunity and best platform for brands to be able to connect and turn that into sales at the cash register. Cricket is a very full book.in terms of sponsors, and that’s on Test Cricket and Big Bash. The Winter’s is getting a lot of interest and very diverse brands who have jumped on board, particularly those who are going for a younger audience.”

UM’s Sydney trading director, Lorena Chiarella says the Seven Upfronts last month had a strong sport focus, which she believes is fundamental for advertisers. “Sport is absolutely key for TV networks to offer advertisers large scale event programming that attracts engaged audiences. In my view, Seven’s strategy in this space is 100% accurate as they continue to build up their sport portfolio.


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