'Ad market has responded positively to Married's success' - Nine's Stephenson

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 4 April 2017

Nine’s fourth season of Married at First Sight pulled the largest audience in the show’s history, beating My Kitchen Rules’ hold on the prime time slot and smashing its goal of delivering audience growth in the 25-54 year old demographic.

Nine’s chief sales officer Michael Stephenson tells AdNews the program, which hit a national peak audience of 2.43 million viewers last night, has been a huge success story for the network by giving Nine its best start in many years as well a making huge gains in audience shares across key demos.

“Married at First Sight is the poster child for the purity of the audience it attracts,” Stephenson says.

“We had an absolute focus earlier in the year on delivering audience growth in the 25-54 demographic for advertisers. The show is a great example of Nine hitting that goal, as well as great Australian content distributed broadly.”

Stephenson is confident in the upcoming programming slate, which includes The Voice, The Last Resort, Love Child and House of Bond.

“Using Married at First Sight as a promotional platform is incredibly valuable to us,” Stephenson says.

“While I feel like it’s a long year, we have a strong slate of Australian content and wish the fresh faces joining The Voice, next season will arguably be its best yet.”

While Seven's My Kitchen Rules has delivered a higher series average of 1.25 million metro viewers to Married's 1.17 million, when the two shows have gone head-to-head, Married has recently come out on top.

A two horse race

What's more important to Nine is that it has given Seven's previously unbeatable juggernaut a proper challenge - a radical turnaround from a terrible start to 2016 that helped Seven win the ratings calendar far too early. 

Evidence of this can be found in the uplift in Nine's overnight audience share for February and March across key demos.

In 25-54s, Nine increased its share by 7.4 points to 37%; 16-39s, Nine was up 9 points to 37.2%; grocery buyers, Nine gained 8.6 points to 36.7%; and in total people, Nine increased by 4.9 points to 36.3%.

“The advertising market has responded really positively to Married at First Sight and we’ve had a number of partners for the program who have all had a positive experience in terms of ROI,” Stephenson says.

Nine's strong start not only provides the network with greater momentum for forward bookings, but should allow the network to charge more for premium spots at a time when rates have been challeged.

It also sets up an interesting ratings race with Seven for the rest of the year as Nine has traditionally been stronger in the second half when it runs ratings magnet, The Block.

Streaming success

Stephenson credits Married at First Sight with growing the subscriber base for its AVOD 9Now past the three million mark from 2.6 million before its launch.

The show has broken OzTam's VPM records with huge numbers well in excess of 100,000 watching it on catch-up.

“On 9Now, Married at First Sight has been averaging between 100,000-160,000 viewers. That audience is incredibly valuable to advertisers because we can use the subscriber data to target specific segments,” Stephenson says.

Nine expects The Last Resort to hit similar streaming figures and it is also targeted at the core 25-54s demographic.

“Married at First Sight and The Last Resort are appealing to 25-54 and within that they are skewed to a younger, female audience, who are clearly consuming a lot of video-on-demand content,” he says.

Brand safety bump

Noting the current concerns around YouTube advertising and brand safety, Stephenson claims Nine’s assets are 100% brand safe, 100% viewable and independently audited, and that the network is reaping the benefits of the backlash.

“Brands are being told to advertise in more premium content environments and we are fortunate that’s part of our offering," he says.

"YouTube and Facebook have their own challenges, and we are seeing increased activity as a result of those challenges, and rightly so."

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