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Viewers want more stories, not details, from TV news bulletins: Nine News Melbourne boss

Television viewers prefer to digest a large quantity of stories from a nightly news bulletin, rather than being overwhelmed by more in-depth coverage, Melbourne’s boss of news in Melbourne has argued.

Hugh Nailon said Nine’s decision to move from a 30-minute to a one-hour bulletin in 2014 was driven by insights which revealed consumers don’t want longer stories, but do want more content.

Nailon: You have to respect the audience

Nine News regularly places behind rival Seven News in OzTAM’s overnight preliminary metro ratings across the five capital cities, however in Melbourne, Nine is the market leader.

As Nailon was on stage at the ThinkTank: Connecting brands and content event hosted by Think TV in Melbourne this morning, OzTAM’s overnight preliminary metro ratings for Tuesday evening came through.

The first half of Seven News won the night with 1.019m metro viewers, compared to Nine’s 975,000.

The story in Melbourne was quite different though. Nine News’ 6pm slot had 320,000, compared to Seven’s 279,000.

The second half-hour of Nine News also came in behind Seven’s offering – which runs as an ongoing bulletin in some cities and a stand-alone Today/Tonight in others – across the five-city measurement, with 980,000 for Seven and 824,000 for Nine.

In Melbourne, however, 319,000 tuned into Nine News for the 6:30pm slot – only a 1,000 drop-off from the viewers seen at 6pm.

Seven’s second-half-hour of news/current affairs had 276,000 in Melbourne.

The message from the market, he said, was clear.

“We do research occasionally. It’s expensive. It costs a lot of money… We don’t have a bottomless put to do that. But the message that came back from that meeting, from that focus group, around going from 30 minutes to one hour, is people wanted breadth of stories, not depth of stories.

Nine News has been running for an hour since 2014

“So the average news story is say a minute and a half. They didn’t want that to turn into a five-minute story, they wanted us to do more minute-and-a-half stories – it might be local stuff, or international stuff or a greater variety of sport that we could cover, so that was really interesting feedback, because for the pace and energy of our news bulletin, if we start doing five-minute segments, it doesn’t really suit what our bulletin looks like.”

Nailon said the three-year-old decision – which was based on “the most sophisticated research we’ve done recently” – was now paying dividends in the local market.

“When we went from 30 minutes to one-hour news, we worked really hard for the first two years – the first half of the news would look like this and then we’d fall off a cliff in the second half, because one hour was just too long. We took that research, we took the feedback that we get from people. In news especially, we have to have enormous respect for our audience. Don’t treat them like idiots, and don’t ever underestimate their ability to sniff through bullshit… because they’re a lot smarter than some people give them credit for. So we have enormous respect for our audience and their opinions,” he said.

Nailon also argued while television networks can’t compete with global streaming giant Netflix, TV news will continue to own consumers’ eyeballs and enter their lounge-rooms at 6pm.

Dominic White, Hugh Nailon, Gary O’Keeffe and Craig Campbell at ThinkTank Melbourne

“We can’t compete [with Netflix]. They’re creating different content, particularly from a news point of view. I think the critical point that the products that we make, are all stuff that you really have to watch live – particularly news. We will benefit for many years to come. I think a lot of people have been predicting our demise, but the reality is that from 6pm to 7pm we are part of people’s lives and routine, we’re part of their habits.

“Now the great challenge for us is going to be getting my children to make that a habit and a routine for them, because that’s something that obviously we’ve grown up with.

“So I think the timing for us from a news point of view – we can’t compete with Netflix in their space, but Netflix likewise is not delivering news to Melbourne, which is a city on its way to five million, it’s a big organisation, it’s a big city.”

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