Ni Hao Ma

As the digital multi-channels mature, it’s proving to be a two horse race. Sure, the ABC has the most available (ABC2, ABC3, ABC News 24), but it’s the offerings from Channel 7 (7Two & 7Mate) and Channel 9 (GO! & GEM) that are proving to be the most competitive. You’d expect it given the access they have to overseas content, however it’s still surprising what they choose to program on these digital alternates.

While this  ratings data is a couple of weeks old, you can see that the Ch7/Ch9 offerings are where all the action is taking place – and the best performances are coming from the digital multi-channels that have a clear presence & indication as to what their target is about.

  31/10 01/11 02/11 03/11 04/11 07/11 08/11 09/11 10/11 11/11
ABC2 1.00% 1.60% 1.30% 2.10% 1.90% 0.70% 1.90% 1.40% 1.80% 1.90%
ABC3 0.20% 0.40% 0.50% 0.60% 0.40% 0.30% 0.50% 0.30% 0.60% 0.50%
ABC News 24 0.50% 0.40% 0.40% 0.50% 0.50% 0.50% 0.40% 0.30% 0.50% 0.50%
7Two 2.10% 2.20% 3.50% 4.20% 3.90% 2.20% 2.20% 2.70% 4.10% 2.40%
7Mate 2.40% 2.10% 2.60% 3.30% 2.00% 2.30% 2.20% 2.90% 3.40% 2.50%
GO! 6.10% 2.90% 3.90% 4.50% 4.40% 5.80% 3.30% 4.90% 2.70% 4.50%
GEM 0.20% 2.00% 1.80% 0.20% 2.10% 0.50% 1.80% 1.80% 1.50% 2.10%
One 0.90% 0.70% 0.50% 0.50% 0.90% 1.50% 1.00% 0.40% 0.60% 0.80%
SBS2 1.20% 0.60% 1.10% 1.00% 0.70% 1.60% 0.70% 1.00% 0.90% 0.80%

Data reflects digital multi-channel nightly (6pm – 10:30pm) 5-city metro figures for the dates specified.

Gotta love Conan

GO! is the grandfather of them all – the first entertainment based digital multi to be available, and it shows – while not competitive with the main channels night to night, it is certainly taking a decent chunk of the market. It has developed into a station with an established list of programming, delivered somewhat consistently, and with some recent-ish movies being delivered via GO! it does lead to some good support from the viewing audience. GEM has a way to go to catch up, but is getting there. To be fair, even though it’s key demo is women 18-39 (I think) it’s delivering much more general entertainment and sport (although the latter has tailed off lately which is a shame – HD sport is something Ch9 should be celebrating & promoting given it’s access and catalogue). Once GEM really works out what it wants to be when it grows up, it’ll gain a lot more attention. Deservedly so.

Maybe you can hire... The A Team...

Channel 7’s offerings have been, comparably, more reliably successful. 7Two launched first for them with some decent fanfare. While it is entirely a general entertainment offering, it looks as though Ch7 are more willing to toy with/refine the format and deliver some new programming intentionally only available on this digital multi. Shows like The Xtra Factor are great add-ons to primary programming, and allowing fans to connect deeper with the show and it’s stars – and in this instance Ch7 have unearthed a great hosting talent in Natalie Garonzi. Whatever her next gig with the network is, she deserves it to be good. 7Mate is the rebadged HD offering from the network with a very blokey feel – right down to the name and content therein. Gene Simmons’s Family Jewels, Family Guy, The A Team, Knight Rider, Blokey movies – all designed to get guys on the couch… and their lady friends, too. While it, like GEM, is only working through the early days of its life 7Mate has immediately stronger traction due to the branding and programming consistently delivered by it.

Where's my US Office?! HUH?!

The Ten Network have had little success with their One channel (both in SD and HD), however their newest general entertainment offering Eleven commences broadcasting from 11/01/2011, and their revamp of their news service starts not long after so it’ll be a whole new ball game again once it kicks in. Given the recent involvement of some TV heavyweights in James Packer & Lachlan Murdoch – and more recently mining magnate Gina Reinhardt – you can expect to see some interesting developments over the coming months and years. Particularly as the AFL and NRL broadcast rights become open for bidding. Channel 10 could definitely benefit from hosting either of these sporting franchises solely or in a deal with Foxtel. At the very least, they’ll be causing the price to jack up come negotiation time. It has merit, also. Ch10 is the only network to have a dedicated sports channel – one that produces local content to boot. You think about that.

Thank God for Aunty

The ABC have embraced the digital multi-channel format and led from the front with determined programming and markting to support those channels. ABC2 is all kids during the day (and a sanity saver in our house), reverting to more adult/general entertainment of an evening. ABC3 is teen focused programming, running from 6am until 9pm daily. ABC News 24 is the most interesting of their offerings as it is their HD channel AND a 24/7 news service… and delivering some excellent programming like The Drum. While not really having an impact in the nightly ratings, these channels are brilliant in what they are doing in promoting Australian content and delivering alternatives focused on key demographics and interest groups. SBS2 is continuing the charter of its parent channel by offering greater access to overseas television, primarily news services from a number of countries.

Fragmentation of viewing audiences is certainly something the networks were worried about. It is certainly happening, too, however they (very quickly) responded by ensuring potential advertising partners were aware of both individual channel performances as well as overall network share (network marketing has become more about mathematics than ever before!). While we will see a dilution of primary ratings across the board, the shows that stand out will still achieve big numbers – as we saw with shows like MasterChef this year.

The network that succeeds with their overall share and digital multi-channel individual shares will be the one that cross-pollenates the best, and delivers the strongest branding and consistent programming. Viewers are not idiots – we’re all fed up with shows vanishing or jumping around the schedule. You’d hope (quite rightly) that with 3 or 4 channels to spread their content across that the networks would be able to deliver some sort of consistency. You’d hope.