‘We’ve had a great first half, but there’s a lot to talk about in the next six months’: Nine’s Hamish Turner on going from strength to strength

After winning the first six months of 2020, Nine is showing no signs of taking the foot off the gas. With its production slate back to normal, following COVID-19 restrictions in the first half, and new opportunities like State of Origin in November, the network is ready to go from strength to strength.

Before I turn my recorder on, Nine’s program director Hamish Turner and I are discussing 2020 with an asterisk, or, the year of the ‘new normal’. But you wouldn’t know that to look at Nine’s results from the first half of the year.

Not only did Nine hold 27.83% in total people, above Seven’s 26.50% and Ten’s 18.70%, it also took 30.01% in the key advertising demographic of 25-54 and 28.98% with the 16-39s. Married At First Sight may have dropped 500,000 from 2019, but its finale still easily topped 1m metro viewers (1.478m) which isn’t a given in the current TV lineup. Plus, 2019 wunderkind Lego Masters also delivered a spectacular season.

The free to air network results for H1 [click to enlarge]

“What we set out to do, and do every year, is deliver that consistency across the year. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and from an advertiser perspective we deliver that consistency.”

The Voice concluded this week, giving its lowest finale to date, but after a strong season which helped Nine to that H1 winning position. Australian Ninja Warrior begins in a week, while The Block has finally completed filming and is ready to air. Both Turner and Nine content boss Adrian Swift have gone on the record as saying this will be the best season of The Block ever, largely thanks to the impact of COVID-19.

“COVID was playing out throughout the narrative [on The Block]. There’s no secret that the show was shut down for several weeks for COVID-19 and it actually enriches the show and enriches the storylines. It’s a great season,” said Turner.

Nine has been the only network able to deliver its full content schedule for 2020, as promised during the 2019 upfronts. Plus it’s got more to come, says Turner, with State of Origin planned for November when it would usually already be in the bag.

“Obviously from an advertising perspective that’s a really good thing to promote into that December period, where you hope that the whole country is back up and running and it’s game on. I’m really buoyed by what we’ve got in the back half, especially in that 7.30 slot.”

Turner also points to the coming together of Nine’s new suite of brands – Nine Radio, the former Fairfax titles and broadcast/BVOD television all together at last. BVOD, or broadcast video on demand, is one of Nine’s growth point, particularly during lockdown. MAFS recorded 800m minutes and 9Now holds 45% of the BVOD audience share. Following Ten’s Masterchef Australia, Love Island is still a strong BVOD performer, holding third place, while The Voice took seventh.

Top ten BVOD shows for H1 [click to enlarge]

Nine also launched another multi-channel this year – 9Rush – which has seen compound growth across the first three months of its existence. Growth and consistency, Turner says, are two things Nine guarantees. Even now, when each day brings new challenges, he says he can’t see any reason why 2021 won’t be just as strong as 2020.

“You just keep moving forward. That’s all you can do. And with all the brands coming together now – Channel Nine, Nine Radio and the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age – it’s really pleasing to see. The first six months set us up for the back six months and I think we’re in the best position for the second half of the year. As I said, you just keep moving. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, but the one thing you can’t do is stop.”


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