TV in 2019: The year Nine toppled Seven and reality ruled

As the TV ratings year ends, Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston looks at the big moments of the year, how Nine secured the win and what’s changed in the landscape ahead of 2020.

Seven’s 12-year ratings dominance officially ended last weekend with Nine winning the TV ratings year for 2019. Nine began the year on a high with the Australian Open, something it hopes to replicate in 2020 with even bigger and more comprehensive coverage.

Nine switched the cricket for the tennis in 2018, and forked out an additional $48.5m for the 2019 rights, so this year’s Open was the first to not be broadcast on Seven in 40 years, and gave Nine a confident start to 2019.

The Australian Open was integral to Nine’s 2019 success

The tennis led into Married At First Sight, with the sixth season of the show still managing to deliver big numbers for the network. It premiered with just over 1m overnight metro viewers and managed to keep that momentum going all the way through the season, closing to just under 2m three months later. The early success for Nine gave the network a jumpstart, which it managed to continue – Lego Masters had the most successful launch of a new series for the year, the NRL State of Origin was the most-watched sports programming, and Australian Ninja Warrior, The Block and The Voice all managed to deliver.

It isn’t just the total people win Nine is celebrating. More importantly, according to the network, is another win in the key advertising demographics – something Nine has prided itself on for a number of years.

Stephenson: Nine plays in the key advertising demographics

“We’ve been the leader in the key buying demographics for a number of years now, so to lead in them again is a great result. It’s something we’re really, really proud of,” Michael Stephenson, Nine’s chief sales officer, tells Mumbrella.

“Of course the thing that matters to us more is the demographics, because that’s what advertisers buy. When Hugh [Marks, Nine’s CEO] joined the business four years ago that was the first thing we aligned on, investment in premium quality content that would deliver audiences in the demos from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And that’s exactly what we continue to do today.”

Married At First Sight delivered for Nine in the early days of 2019

Total people, Stephenson says, just isn’t a metric Nine uses. But the win is the icing on the cake for what’s been a very successful year. The trick is consistency, which is something Nine is planning to keep, rolling into 2020.

“It’s massively important when advertisers choose to invest with your network, they want a feeling of consistency and security that you can deliver the ratings they want to buy from you. Again, when Hugh joined we said a couple of things, we need to focus on the 25-54-year-olds, we need to start the year really really strong and we need to continue that right until the end of the year, because advertisers are buying our inventory from the beginning until the end, all the way up until December.

“Over the course of the last three to four years we’ve built a schedule and we’ve now got a full slate of proven performers from January right through to the end of the year, meaning we deliver consistency across all screens for the whole year.”

Of course, Nine wasn’t alone in the ratings battle for 2019. Its closest rival in total people was Seven, the former champion which, this year, saw its crown slip slightly, ending 2019 on 29.02% to Nine’s 29.33%.

The 2019 ratings results, compiled by Nine [Click to enlarge]


Seven’s year began similarly to Nine with sport and reality. The cricket kicked off summer for Seven, before My Kitchen Rules returned for its 10th season. For the first time, the reality format failed to deliver over 1m metro viewers for either the premiere or the finale, leaving Married At First Sight without a significant challenger.

But there were some highlights too. AFL returned and delivered consistent ratings for the network. Seven News was repeatedly the most-watched program for the evening in total people and Seven’s morning offering, Sunrise, consistently beat Nine’s flailing Today, which suffered through line-up changes and slipping ratings. Seven News has been the top news offering for 16 years in a row and Sunrise has held its title for 14. Home and Away and The Chase Australia also manage to push Seven’s total people share forward, but don’t do as well for the network in the demographics.

Seven’s head of programming, Angus Ross, says the network has a lot to be proud of.

“Seven News and Seven Sport have delivered dominant results, with Seven News, Sunrise, AFL and Cricket all number one this year, resulting in Seven being the number one network from 0600-2400,” says Ross.

“Next year, we’re going to build on our news and sport foundation, by refreshing existing programs, and adding six new stripped programs focusing on 25-54s to our prime-time entertainment schedule: Pooch Perfect, Farmer Wants a Wife, Big Brother, Mega Mini Golf, SAS: Who Dares Wins and Plate of Origin. With bigger shows and bigger stars, combined with the power of Seven News, AFL, Cricket and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Seven will deliver in 2020.”

Seven may have lost the total people title, but the network is still celebrating
Image: Seven [Click to enlarge]

Seven stalwart Tim Worner out ex-Ten boss (and former Seven staffer)Warburton wasted no time in telling the industrypromising to rid the slate of ‘ageing warhorses’.

As the year rolled on, more shake ups came in the form of axings – Today Tonight, Sunday Night, brand-delivered travel programs and staff – and new commissions for 2020. The upfronts event promised revamped formats and notably was missing many of Seven’s reality programs from the last few years, many of which failed to launch to large numbers.

Seven also has the Olympics on the horizon, with only an hour in time difference between host city Tokyo and the Australian east coast, and is promising grand ratings for the sporting event. The network has picked up talent from other players – Sonia Kruger from Nine and Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston from Ten – and looks ready to tackle 2020 head-on.

Mehigan and Preston have joined the Seven ship, but there’s no sign of fellow former Masterchef judge George Calombaris

One area Seven will be focusing its attention on in 2020 is those all-important key demographics. While the network cut close to Nine in the total people share, in the demographics there was a bigger gap and it wasn’t just Seven coming to play. Nine’s winning 32.35% share in the 25-54s led Seven’s 28.43% and Ten’s 21.50%. Ten performed better in the 16-39s, which fits the network’s promise of being the under-50s option.


Ten’s execs have spoken openly about being somewhat on the back foot at the beginning of the year. I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here aired its fifth season with fairly consistent ratings from 2018 as Ten’s replacement for a summer sport – the network had the Big Bash League until 2018 when Seven nabbed the rights. Bachelor in Paradise isn’t a ratings juggernaut like Nine’s MAFS, and Dancing With The Stars struggled. Where Ten really faced a challenge though was in the slot Seven and Nine dominated: 6pm. Ten took several runs at the timeslot to no avail and the latest, Celebrity Name Game, has just been bumped to multi-channel 10Bold.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Ten, and there’s a reason the network did its best in the demographics. Australian Survivor performed well, well enough to warrant two seasons next year, as did The Bachelorette. Masterchef Australia chugged along, although it was marred by controversy surrounding its hosts. But it was newcomer The Masked Singer Australia which really gave Ten something to shout about.

The take on an American format, which itself was a take on a Korean format, delivered a short, sharp burst to Ten’s programming and was in line with Ten’s promise of watercooler programming. Alongside regular performers, like Have You Been Paying Attention? and Gogglebox Australia, the network managed to spend a decent portion of the second half of the year with programs sitting top of the demos.

Have You Been Paying Attention? is a consistent ratings driver for Ten

In 2020, Ten is going to try and take its success and expand it. Masked Singer is back, as are those two seasons of Survivor, Masterchef will return without its stalwart judges, I’m A Celebrity is returning and so is Dancing With The Stars. Ten recently announced some changes for the non-ratings period, including an attempt at a 90-minute news run in that important early evening slot, so eyes will be on whether the network can secure itself more consistency in 2020.

Network Ten’s chief executive officer Paul Anderson said: “Network Ten achieved a lot over the past year, from establishing a powerful new sales team and investing in data and technology, to making television advertising even more effective, to expanding our digital media assets and investing in great new content such as The Masked Singer Australia and the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

VRC chief executive officer Neil Wilson and Paul Anderson, Ten CEO with the Melbourne Cup. Ten aired its first Melbourne Cup Carnival this year after paying $100m for the rights

“We are growing, across all our platforms. Our commercial share in under 50s and other key age groups is increasing. Our advertising revenue share is growing. Our digital platforms are posting record audiences.

“Next year, for the first time in our history, we have a true 50-week schedule of known content – content that is familiar, brand-friendly and taps into the younger age groups who are very hard to reach at scale. As part of one of the biggest global content creators in the world [CBS], we are absolutely focused on making great content that creates conversations beyond the actual broadcast – across digital and social.”

The changing face of TV reporting

It isn’t just the networks that are changing in 2020. VOZ – Virtual Australia – is coming. From OzTAM and Nielsen, the new measurement system will report on all screens, removing the current issue that the networks face. Broadcast video on demand (BVOD) numbers are on the rise. Viewer habits began changing years ago and will continue to change, and catch-up or binge viewing is the new normal. Up until now, the industry’s reporting didn’t reflect this landscape, but VOZ will seek to change that.

VOZ is set to change TV reporting in 2020

Ask anyone in the TV industry what the most exciting developments are to hit in 2020 and you’ll most likely get either VOZ, the industry-wide buying platform which is still in the works, or the rise of programmatic and addressable sales solutions – boosted largely by the growth of BVOD. With the industry welcoming all these changes with (mostly) open arms, next year’s reporting promises to be very interesting indeed.

One thing is for sure: it won’t be an easy fight, and Nine isn’t getting complacent.

“We’re really, really proud of what we’ve achieved, but we also have a lot more to achieve,” says Stephenson.

“Our journey is not finished and whilst we’re proud, we have a sense of humility because we’ve got to keep on top of the game and we’ve got to continue to lead and that means continuing to invest in content and data and technology and continuing to transform our business to create a media business of the future. There’s no room for complacency in that strategy.”


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