Seven’s James Warburton: ‘The challenge I put to my TV peers is, let’s get rid of overnights’

Seven West Media’s managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton has re-pitched the idea of culling overnight OzTAM ratings.

During a Committee for Economic Development of Australia presentation on the current state and future of the Australian free-to-air television industry, Warburton said Seven has been “leading the charge on change” when it comes to the way audiences are and should be measured.

James Warburton.

“For 22 years, the industry has owned and published the OzTAM ratings data daily. It’s been robust and world best practice,” said Warburton. “But, for 22 years, we’ve shown our decline year after year after year. So, despite the changes to viewing and the inclusion of digital, as an industry we’ve been complacent and continued to do the same thing.”

“At Seven, we’ve been leading the charge on changing the way our audiences are measured and reported. The industry’s new measurement platform, called Virtual Oz or VOZ, will report true viewing numbers for our content from the start of calendar year 2023,” he said.

Warburton said when total TV is measured correctly, you can see that on an overnight basis Seven reaches over 14 million people.

“That grows 21% four days later and another 29% in 28 days,” explained Warburton. “Now, given we trade and negotiate and post-analyse campaigns on a 28-day basis, that’s a 57% increase from overnight audience numbers.”

“The challenge I put to my TV peers is, let’s get rid of overnights, even for just a month, and start to tell the real story. That’s what happens in the UK and the US where they focus on three days and seven days.

However, Nine’s chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson, told Mumbrella the overnight OzTAM ratings are still a critical data point for the industry.

“I have said this many times before. Overnight ratings through a total television lens are a critically important data point for our industry,” he noted. “Understanding how a show performed across all platforms, live linear, live streaming, and on-demand, on the night that it was broadcast, will continue to be an important data point.”

“The way in which people consumer content has changed, and people do consume content over a longer period of time, so it’s important that we continue to measure the consumption of that content over, for instance, a seven-day period. My view and Nine’s view, is that both of those things should exist.

“The overnight ratings should come out through a total television lens every morning, and at the same time we should be able to understand how the content was consumed in the seven days prior. Our view on that has never changed,” Stephenson added.

Last year, reports emerged that Seven and Ten had been pushing to get rid of overnight ratings altogether, however Nine knocked it back.

In 2019, former Network 10 CEO, Paul Anderson, told Mumbrella: “Overnight TV audience numbers do not tell the whole story. It’s hard to think of another industry where incomplete data is given such attention and is reported on so widely. And, yet, we keep sending those numbers to media and boasting about our overnight successes.”

He said: “We’re going to start changing that. Network Ten will place a much greater focus on total seven day audience data (the combination of overnight viewing data and data over the following week). While we will continue to report overnight data, it will no longer be our main focus, and nor should it be.”

Mumbrella has reached out to Network 10 for a comment, but has yet to receive a response.


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