What life looks like for Nine after Married At First Sight

The dinner party is finally over, so what's next for Nine now that it can no longer rely on Married At First Sight to pull in viewers? Mumbrella's Hannah Blackiston speaks to Nine's Michael Stephenson to find out how the network plans to see out the rest of the year.

It’s been called a monster, a behemoth and a juggernaut, but Nine’s reality ratings topper Married At First Sight has ended. Alongside the Australian Open, the show delivered Nine its biggest start to the year in OzTAM history and now the question on everyone’s lips is whether the momentum can be carried throughout the rest of the year.

Nine’s chief sales officer Michael Stephenson is confident it can.

“We program our network from the first of January every year until the 31st of December. It’s 12 months of ratings and we schedule across those. We’ve got the final season of Big Bang Theory coming in next week and that’s on top of the content we already have on the network.

Michael Stephenson

“A Current Affair and 60 Minutes have had fantastic numbers this year. Through the two weeks of Easter we’re going to continue the momentum we’ve currently got. We don’t need new content. Then it’s into Lego Masters with Hamish [Blake] which looks fantastic and is a show that will aggregate families around the television.”

Married At First Sight is not known for its ability to bring families together, but Stephenson says both it and Lego Masters exist in the same place as content that creates conversation. The network isn’t pivoting to position itself as the go-to for family entertainment, it’s just delivering more shows that it hopes will generate the noise Married At First Sight did, he says.

Hamish Blake fronts Lego Masters

The eighth season of The Voice is also on the horizon after Easter, which sees the addition of Guy Sebastian to the judging panel and the return of some all-stars. While the show had its worst ratings in the seven seasons last year, it still pulls consistently high numbers, with the 2018 finale averaging 987,000 metro viewers.

Stephenson also lists The Block, Ninja Warrior and last year’s BVOD sleeper hit Love Island among the content Nine will be rolling out which will generate watercooler conversation and column inches. Married At First Sight has very much set the standard for that, according to Nielsen figures – season six saw more than 6m social interactions across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, a 421% increase on season five.

“We started the year with six brand partners on Married At First Sight and throughout the series we not only had a huge incoming of new advertisers wanting to invest in the spot market and take advantage of the ratings that it was delivering, but we also had four new partners join the series which is almost unheard of,” Stephenson says.

“It’s a great testament to the audience in terms of the size that was being delivered, the year-on-year growth for people who had invested in the show is excellent and it’s a really pure 25-54 audience which is very attractive to brand advertisers.”

Nine is also in the process of changing the way advertising is bought and managed across its platforms, with the introduction of 9Galaxy and 9Voyager.

The two-year plan for 9Galaxy is to make life easier for media traders, automating the process and removing the need to involve a Nine representative. Since 9Galaxy’s launch in 2017, Nine has transacted more than 30% of available inventory, that is able to be traded dynamically, through the platform.

9Voyager is being touted as a chance for SMEs and smaller businesses to get in on the action, allowing them to purchase inventory without a media trader. Despite plans to launch in January 2019, the platform isn’t available yet, but at the end of March the company announced a new director of sales who would spearhead the roll out. Stephenson won’t confirm a date for the launch of 9Voyager, but says the platform is ‘coming soon’, noting it is ‘one of the most exciting things’ he’s been involved with.

With the Fairfax merger well and truly in the rearview mirror and Nine sitting comfortably as one of the biggest media owners in the country, there’s a question of whether the company is satisfied with its current reach, or if there’s more to be done.

“We’re Australia’s largest, but more importantly, most diverse media company. But that being said, we’re able to partner with others to drive innovation where it makes sense and where it would make advertising with Nine more effective. As an example, Fairfax, Nine and News are working towards creating a pool of unique IDs that would allow people to target in an addressable sense more broadly across everyone’s digital assets. So there is work ongoing and where it’s appropriate and you’re able to collaborate, you do, notwithstanding the fact we’re all competitors,” he says.

“Broadly, our aim is to invest in and create the best Australian content. We invest almost a billion dollars in doing that every year. And once we create that content, we aim to distribute that content across every single platform, whether that’s television, digital, publishing, social, or anywhere else that people want to consume our content, ultimately to engage the greatest number of eyeballs and therefore as a result become the most effective partner for advertisers.


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