Nine unveils “complete reset” strategy at upfronts

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 28 October 2015

Nine has today highlighted streaming, a programmatic push and new channels as key on the agenda at its upfronts as it undergoes a “complete reset” strategy for 2016.

The event, held at the Nine's Australia Square headquarters, is one of many sessions taking place over the next six weeks, giving media buyers and advertisers a glimpse into its long-term strategy going forward to next year.

It follows Seven's NewFronts last week.

Nine chief revenue officer, Peter Wiltshire, began by speaking of the heritage of the media company as it prepares to celebrate 60 years of broadcast television in Australia.

“Over the last nine months, as we've thought about how to reset our organisation for the future of television, one of the things that has become very apparent to us is the heritage that we stand for,” Wiltshire said.

“There is no doubt that right now we’re in a period of massive disruption. We have devices, we have gateways to content and we have people consuming in a far more prolific fashion.

“What that provides is an amazing opportunity for a business like ours to re-invent and reset itself for what the future of television needs to be. The future of television is not about remaining a linear broadcaster, it's about embracing change in technology and providing our content across as many devices and platforms as possible.”

Distribution and a programmatic push

Hot on the heels of Seven's announcement that it would be live-streaming all of its content, Nine has announced it is putting its live-stream and video-on-demand services on one platform, with the launch of 9Now.

9Now will replace Nine's current catch-up service, 9JumpIn, and will be available on connected services such as HBBTV, Telstra TV, Apple TV and eventually, Xbox and Fetch TV.

While Nine remained tight-lipped on a launch date for the service, it confirmed it would be made available in early 2016.

Nine CEO David Gyngell, who was not present at the meeting, said: “9Now gives audiences the choice they want and takes the Nine brand, with all its heritage and great content, into the future.

“It delivers Nine's premium programs, from sport and news to drama and big event shows, to audiences when they want it and where they want it.”

Importantly for Nine, users of the new service will need to sign in, giving Nine the ability to identify users as they jump from device to device.

Wiltshire said the creation of a first-party database gives Nine the ability at a sales level to create a fully automated trading platform and eventually, targeted ads. He told AdNews there was no specific timeline for a move into automation as it is dependent on it growing at scale in terms of user sign-up.

As a result, Nine is planning a big marketing push to get usage to scale fairly quickly.

“To get to programmatic you have to get everything connected, but we're not afraid of that. We're all for heading down this path,” Wiltshire said.

“The big education piece for consumers is to plug the TV in or get it connected via Wi-Fi.

“As soon as consumers start to experience their traditional television viewing on a device through live-streaming and we start to serve more addressable ad platforms to them, they'll start to get the idea that this is a good experience.

They're seeing ads that they want to see and it's more customised to their experience.”

In addition, Nine is launching a new way for viewers to interact with its content, in the form of 9Vote. Live voting, polling or interaction through its shows will be part of the hub, which will sit across all of Nine's distribution network going forward.

“Where we've gone from and where we're going to as a brand set is moving away from being a house of brands to being a branded house,” Wiltshire said.

Australia's first FTA Lifestyle hub and the move to HD

Nine also used the upfronts to launch its latest channels, 9Life and 9HD

9HD's launch will coincide with cricket's Third Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide, on 26 November, as a simulcast in HD on Channel 90. For viewers without a HD television, Nine will air it in standard definition on Channel 91 and on Channel 9.

“With over 90% of sets at home being HD enabled, it's pretty important that we give consumers what they've been asking for, which is their sets in high definition,” Wiltshire said.

“As we reach full penetration of HD sets, this is a necessity. It becomes the primary anchor of Nine going forward as a channel.”

In addition, it is launching 9Life, which it is calling Australia’s first free-to-air lifestyle channel.

The channel will be female-skewed and will house lifestyle and reality TV content, part of which will be served through a content deal Nine has made with lifestyle media network Scripps.

Scripps recently signed an exclusive agreement with SBS to provide content for its new food channel. The Nine arrangement covers lifestyle content such as travel and DIY content on a exclusive Australian FTA first-run basis. The multi-year deal with Scripps also includes digital rights as part of a “future stake” in the way it treats content and consumers.

Shows that will air on 9Life include The Bachelor USA, The Bachelorette USA, Million Dollar Listing LA and NY, Flipping Out, Fixer Upper, and UK hit, Take Me Out.

Wiltshire told AdNews he wouldn't rule out having specific content commissioned for 9Life but said it would be unlikely, given that commissioned content would be primarily run on Nine's main channel.

Content on the “new network”

At Nine's half-year results, Gyngell spoke to the importance of local Australian production, which Nine reiterated at its upfronts.

Nine Network director of television, Michael Healy, said that “never before has local content been as important as it is right now”.

“We have diverted funds normally spent on international programming to investing in stories shot right here in our own backyard,” Healy said.

“Our viewers tell us that local production is what they want to see and next year they will see that in spades on Nine.”

New series include crime thriller, Hide & Seek, about a network of potential terrorists who have entered Australia under false passports, and comedy show, Here Come the Habibs, about a family who win the lottery and move to an old-money Aussie postcode.

In addition, Nine has commissioned a telemovie, House of Bond, telling the story of business tycoon Alan Bond, from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Reality shows that will debut on the network next year include You're Back in the Room, where contestants battle it out to win cash prizes under hypnosis, hosted by television host Daryl Somers.

Also airing will be This Time Next Year which shows people undergoing real-life transformation over the course of the year, but unveiled in an instantaneous “time travel” format.

A new documentary style series, Prison: First and Last 24 Hours, will also show a glimpse of life behind bars in 24 hours.

Also on the agenda, are the return of existing Nine formats including Love Child, House Husbands, and Australia's Got Talent that will be hosted by Dave Hughes of the Kiis Network in 2016 - and Married at First Sight.

Return of the "dots"

As part of Nine resetting itself as a media company, it has refreshed its on-air branding and channel logos. Part of the rebrand will see the return on the “dots” on all of Nine's properties, including Gem and Go, which Wiltshire said anchors back to its heritage in the Australian landscape.

In addition, the channels will now be called 9Gem and 9Go as a audible reference to its core brand.

Wiltshire also said in the case of Gem, the brand would be returning in 2016 with a stronger focus, going back to standard definition rather than HD and willno longer showing secondary sport. Instead, this will be shown on Go.

Fully integrated sales

Nine announced that it has revamped its sale structure to create a fully integrated sales force.

Wiltshire noted that more than a year ago Nine brought all of its teams across broadcast, digital and solutions into common sites around the country but said its latest move, which took place over the last seven weeks, takes it “one step further”.

“Not only at our state level, but at our agency client level, we have truly agnostic Nine Entertainment Co. sales lead to provide services to agencies in an agnostic fashion across broadcast, digital and solutions,” he said.

“It's to provide the best way for agencies and advertisers to engage in a platform like ours, which is obviously becoming ever more complex, wider and fragmented as we build more technology and offering for Australia.”

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