Nine Upfront: Media agencies on the big in-person pitch

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 7 September 2023

Nine, Australia's largest locally owned media company, just two weeks after the company's FY23 results delivered a confident showing which on the content front impressed media buyers but opinions of its tech announcements are divided. 

At the forefront, the company overtly articulated its ambitions and strategy as the home of the Olympics and Paralympics in the run-up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. However, many industry punters question how Nine will tackle the challenge of the Paris time zone.

Sports, entertainment and information content is the priority in 2024, as well as content that reaches younger Australians, with the launch of Pedestrian TV, a free streaming channel on 9Now that 'could be a game changer'.

Data and technology were also key themes to emerge from Nine’s 2024 Upfronts, with an unveiling of VOZ Streaming (the 7, 9 and Paramount BVOD marketplace project), the launch of Nine Ad Manager, Audience+, e-commerce expansion, partnerships with Tealium and Snowflake, the unification of Stan and Domain data into tribes and a new retail media offering RTLX.

But are the tech announcements 'box-ticking exercises' or will they drive genuine ad investment?


Paige Wheaton (pictured right), chief partnerships and investments officer at Initiative, said as always, Nine launched upfronts season as masters of packaging an ecosystem product that is grounded in purpose and positioning.

"It importantly showcased to the market Nine's confidence in delivering a consistent, local multi-channel play reaching both mass and diverse Australian communities," Wheaton said.

"The Olympics is without a doubt the jewel in the Nine crown this year and a holistic ecosystem approach for advertisers is compelling. Only recently the Matilda's reminded us of the power of sport; it is the cultural fabric of our society and this is naturally going to springboard a strong 2024 for the Network. 

"With that said, having the broadcast is one thing and delivering the experience is another. We’ve witnessed the challenges that free to air broadcasters have navigated historically via their digital platforms to deliver both an optimum viewer and advertiser experience. The introduction of 40+ FAST channels and a multi-channel first approach may prove to be a winning strategy. 

"Nine's 'relentless pursuit of growth' was evident throughout and there were 2 big bets that excited us at Initiative:

"First, further exploration into the RTLX proposition - there is exciting opportunity for clients. What's compelling about this is leveraging a unique and powerful combination of content and data capability that can drive full funnel outcomes.

"Second, is navigating youth audiences. Traditionally we wouldn't expect this to take place across a linear broadcast, but if the Pedestrian streaming channel is scalable, it could be a game changer. 

"There was opportunity to dig deeper into Nine's ongoing digital transformation. It's an incredibly strong pillar of Nine's ecosystem strategy and we recognize big investments in data and technology. Given its importance, it warranted the airtime to showcase how we can better contextualise these developments into reality for our clients." 

Kevin Fernandes, national head of partnerships and adtech at Havas, said if the recent FIFA Women's World Cup was an indicator of how sports can unite a country, Nine did an outstanding job at showcasing what the Olympics could do for Australia.

"With dedicated stations, themed shows and podcasts showcasing athletes, Nine have put a strong case of how agencies and brands can already start thinking of creatively getting their messaging across. Apart from the Olympics, the returning and new shows across all genres was pretty impressive," Fernandes said.

"Another big update for me was their data partnerships and integrations. From the likes of Tealium, Domain through to Tribes, Nine continue to go from strength to strength in this area which will only get more important for brands next year."

Philippa Noilea-Tani_Wavemaker

Philippa Noilea-Tani (pictured right), Wavemaker chief investment officer, said the Nine upfronts launched with an acknowledgement of country to remember.

"A powerful moment of reflection and cultural appreciation, just 5 weeks out from the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum," Noilea-Tani said. 

"This year’s event reflected a more prominent focus on content than years gone by, with local Sport, News and Entertainment at the core and CEO Mike Sneesby emphasising the position: 'Content sets us apart'.

"Described by Nine as a golden brand opportunity, Nine’s exclusive broadcast rights of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the next decade was celebrated as an opportunity for brands to become part of history and culture, reaching the hearts of millions of Australians.

"For the Olympics, Nine promised to generate a new broadcasting benchmark with limitless environments for story-telling; AI-fuelled technology, first-person drones, additional cameras inside venues and the village, 2 x 24-hour FTA channels, 40 live and on-demand 9Now channels, live on-the-ground radio, a dedicated DAB+ station, daily podcasts, upgraded app and live streaming capabilities, live blogs, and lifestyle features. The 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics will represent the perfect platform for Nine to showcase the scale and strength of their ecosystem and the depth and experience of their talent.

"Nine’s channel and platform agnostic strength in News, their lineup of returning Entertainment formats (including MAFS, Lego Masters and the 20th season of The Block), plus the launch of new content series (including Human Error, Blood on the Tracks, Tipping Point Australia) provided buyers and clients confidence of a big year of content to come from Nine.

"Whilst Nine’s content strategy appeared to be the laser focus of this year’s event, there were also notable data, technology and product innovation announcements made.

"These were somewhat topline, but included the unification of Stan, Domain and 9Tribes data sets, which will bring greater scale and support finding and targeting audiences, the closer integration of the Pedestrian, which will connect with youth audiences, the introduction of RTLX – a full funnel retail media partnership experience, focused investment on enhanced e-commerce and affiliates capabilities and the much awaited launch of VOZ Streaming (the 7, 9, Paramount BVOD marketplace project).

"These announcements are testament to Nine’s ambition to keep pace with the evolution of media and marketing needs. I am eager to hear more about these opportunities and the timing of their availability for advertisers. 

"I look forward to working closely with Nine again in 2024, to effectively harness the strength and scale of local, trusted media, to positively provoke growth for brands."

Michael Kay

Michael Kay (pictured right), client experience officer at Havas Media Network, said overall it was a confident showing from Nine just two weeks after their FY23 results were released.

"With continued economic headwinds it wasn’t surprising to see Nine hammer home their competitive advantage of a 'total media solution' that they can offer through the scale, breadth, depth and connectivity across their platforms," Kay said.

"Backing tried and tested content properties on broadcast such as MAFS, LEGO Masters and The Block with a fresh injection of new shows (Food Stars, Blood on the Tracks and Jeopardy with Stephen Fry some stand-outs). There were also some really smart content syndication strategies to try and bring in younger and more diverse audiences via Stan and Pedestrian TV whilst driving future subscription revenue for Stan.

"The Olympics and Paralympics in Paris will be another cultural moment where Australia comes together, and fresh off the recent national wave of excitement given to us by the Matildas at the Women’s World Cup, it wasn’t surprising to see this segment get so much focus.

"The Paris time zone remains a challenge, but securing this event until the Brisbane 2032 games is a long-term strategic play and it gives Nine a real advantage next year both in the lead up to and during the event as a marketing platform for the second half of 2024. It will be an incredible showcase and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the immersive and interactive elements that were announced for viewers.

"Stan which was a strong performer in the recent full year results didn’t feature as much as I thought it would. Still with no sign of an ad funded model on the horizon but with subscribers steadily growing and investment into original and fully owned content paying off (with other licensing agreements breaking down and the Hollywood writer’s strike still ongoing).

"Their strategy to syndicate original content series into linear prime time TV to help drive future subscribers to the Stan platform is a really smart move. As well as a solid strategy to attract a younger, more diverse audience to the network along with the launch of Pedestrian TV free streaming channel on 9Now. No mention of how Stan might play a role in the Olympics at this stage. 

"At Havas we talk to our clients daily about finding opportunities across the entire customer journey, so it was great to see the expansion of e-comm capabilities for our clients through Nine’s editorial portfolio. The update that Domain and Stan audiences will be added into the 9Tribes database expands the audience pool offering and creates some interesting new segments be able to plan and buy against across the wider Nine ecosystem." 


Tom Macerola (pictured right), Sydney head of investment at Zenith Media, said Upfronts season has officially kicked off and, as always, Nine continues to set the bar high.

"The Olympics was front and centre as the springboard into this year’s upfronts, a mega marketing platform that enables brands to connect with 98% of Australians. A consistent and concise message continues to shine through and give the market confidence that they can reach and engage with all Australian’s the way they choose on Nine.

"Nine continues to innovate across its business, showcasing a clear strategy to engage youth audiences with the introduction of the Pedestrian TV FAST channel across Nine Now. The ability to engage this hard-to-reach audience is an opportunity for brands to partner with quality content, extending reach across the ecosystem.

"Another tactic that could reap rewards for Nine in attracting new audiences is the introduction of high-performing Stan content onto the Free-to-Air channels e.g., Love Triangle. A cross-pollination of content that could result in a win-win for Nine and advertisers.

"Whilst we have seen innovation across the Olympics and a clear strategy to engage youth audiences across the digital ecosystem, I was left wanting more on how Nine will be able to replicate a different strategy across linear television. With audiences challenged due to fragmentation and choice, scheduling across television has not changed drastically for some time. The formula remains consistent.

"I feel whilst Nine’s content has delivered strong audiences in the past, there was an opportunity for a different approach to solidify Nine as the network driving innovation across the Free-to-Air landscape.

"The evolution of its data proposition continues to go from strength to strength. From Audience+, e-commerce expansion, partnerships with Telium and, my personal favourite, the integration of Stan and Domain data into tribes, advertisers now have an Australian media company that arguably delivers the strongest and most transparent offering in market to generate insights, plan and activate campaigns.

"Finally, the announcement of RTLX was a particularly exciting one. Nine has strategically been building out their data offering and accumulation of assets over the past five years to create Australia’s largest media company. We can now see how brands will harness the power of Nine’s first party data, the scale of the network and the ability to deliver omnichannel campaigns that are effective across every stage of the funnel.

"Connecting the power of Nine’s assets to conversion in retail is something that many brands will be keen to hear more about.”

Frank Carlino, group investment director at Carat, joked by saying I'm fairly sure Nine have the rights to the Olympics across their entire ecosystem for the next five Olympics.

"The Olympics is the major difference for clients and media buyers. It's the perfect platform for Nine to showcase their slate of programming," Carlino said.

"My only qualm with Nine’s Olympic coverage would be the time difference from Paris, but Aussies do love cheering on the green and gold. Aussie athletes are more relevant now more than ever, especially off the back of the Matilda's recent run at World Cup.

"Glitz and glam, content for days, and some new digital announcements culminating in the much needed and awaited Voz Streaming tool.

"The commitment by Nine along with Seven and Paramount to further develop Voz data via Voz Streaming was most impressing. What I'm hesitant of though is how long it has taken to get off the ground, which is the same with many other traders. It's a critical tool and I would be hoping to see all networks involved lean in and work with agencies to train and develop non-TV traders on the tool, to maximise test and learn and uptake."


Marianne Lane (pictured right), head of investment at Kaimera, said Nine know how to entertain and they certainly put on a great show to kick off the Upfront season.

"Each channel and platform were given airtime and they reiterated that 'Australia Belongs Here'", Lane said.

"A deep emphasis was placed on Nine’s substantial investment in securing broadcasting rights for the next five Olympics—an investment that is undoubtedly justified, considering the profound passion that Australians harbor for sports.

"Given the incredible record viewership achieved during the Women’s FIFA World Cup, the upcoming Paris Olympics and Paralympics are poised to captivate audience like never before. Whether it be viewership, listenership, or readership, we’ll all be engaged and tuning in but at what price will advertisers be tapping in. This huge investment will need to be recouped.

"It’s great to see the return of strong, reliable content such as MAFS, The Block, Lego Masters, Parental Guidance and Travel Guides underpinned by News, ACA and Sport. Over the past few years Nine have curated a robust portfolio of content and sports programming that not only resonates with their target audience but also fulfils the requirements of our clients. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

"The data and e-commerce solutions are always of interest to clients so we will delve deeper into this over the next couple of weeks and see how it can be integrated into our client’s media solutions. Same goes for VOZ Streaming. I’m excited by it and eagerly anticipate its imminent unveiling."

Tom Kirkham, head of transformation at OMD Sydney, said Nine's decision to embrace Tealium and Snowflake is a strategic move.

"It arguably gives Nine the most comprehensive tech integration infrastructure in market outside of Meta and Google. This move unlocks opportunities for more advertisers to establish connections with their audiences, underscoring Nine's mission to create a digital platform capable of competing with the likes of Meta and Google," Kirkham said.

"In fact, every data and technology announcement is themed on reducing the barrier to entry for brands and businesses. Nine want to make it as easy as possible for an advertiser to direct ad spend their way.

"They've identified Generative AI as a tool to help drive this by baking it into the relaunch of their self-serve SME offering, now rebranded as Nine Ads Manager. While the use of Generative AI is interesting, it does raise questions regarding content moderation, suitability, and safety, issues that will inevitably demand attention.

"Lastly, in the post-AI landscape of 2023, Retail Media emerges as the next significant topic. While Nine has introduced their new offering, RTLX, the available details are insufficient to gauge how it will impact advertisers. If Nine's claim of bringing content, data and tech together under a new commercial model process is true, then it could potentially be lucrative."


Lorena Danes (pictured right), Sydney Trading Director at UM, said Nine played to their strengths and hammered home total TV, total audio and total publishing offering across all these of these themes.  

"Whilst it wasn’t new news to any of us, Nine officially announced and launched being home of the Olympics, securing the next five Olympic Games (both summer and winter) including the highly anticipated 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games," Danes said.

"Their preparedness for the Paris Olympic Games was impressive, and despite the time-zone difference not being ideal, the tactics they will deploy such as the Hour of Power and Olympic-themed programming surrounding the event (e.g., 'Lego Masters', 'Travel Guides' and 'The Hundred') will certainly make it 'unmissable'.

"It will be interesting to see whether this grandiose launch will increase appetite from advertisers as they move into 2024 planning season.  

"Nine called out that they have three focuses for the audiences that will help them grow: youth, diverse communities, entertainment seekers, sport enthusiasts and news explorers. It is particularly great to see Nine bravely going after the younger generation, with their news offerings looking to skew younger and their programming slate aiming to capture younger viewers.  

"Returning programming such as 'MAFS', 'The Block', 'The Hundred', 'Travel Guides' and 'Lego Masters' will hero their schedule with Nine testing a few new series such as 'Gordon Ramsey’s Food Stars', 'Do We Really Want To Live Forever', 'For The Love Of Pets' and 'Human Error' drama.  

"Nine pride themselves on their sport line-up recognising the importance of sport to capture light TV viewers. The “Summer of Tennis” and in particular “The Australian Open” in January sets them up for the quarter (Q1) before the NRL season begins in March. Nine will have a strong winter with “State of Origin” in May-July leading up to the Paris Olympic Games on July 26 2024.  

"It was interesting to see 'Millionaire Hot Seat' being replaced by 'Tipping Point Australia' in the fringe time-slot (5PM-6PM). Up against the 'The Chase' on Seven and “10 News First” on Ten, this is a critical time-slot to win leading into the all-important news programming at 6PM. Seven News still consistently dominates, so this could be Nine’s hope to switch viewers to Nine News.  

"Stan continues to remain firm on no advertising on the platform, despite the success of other platforms successfully introducing advertising tiers.  

"Most impressive, and most talked about after the presentation, was the simplicity and of 'Nine Ad Manager', making it affordable and easy for Australia’s 2.5M small to medium businesses to tap into the power of television via Nine’s BVOD offering. Traditionally small to medium businesses have been using social media marketing to advertise due to its targeting capabilities and its low cost of entry.

"Whilst this doesn't impact agencies or large-scale advertisers, it's a clever way for Nine to now be able to capitalize on a new market (SMEs) and tap into new budgets to grow revenue in 2024."

Joe Frazer

Joe Frazer (pictured right), head of growth at Half Dome, said Nine's focus on a strong content slate with a clear focus was refreshing.

"Their market-leading news products and popular entertainment shows like 'Married at First Sight' and 'The Summit' are sure to continue pulling in large audiences. The announcement of securing Olympics rights up to Brisbane 2032 was a highlight, positioning Channel 9 as the go-to destination for must-see sporting events.

"Nine's integration of domain data into Nine Tribes and the incorporation of Stan data shows ambition in leveraging big data for targeted advertising. While the Domain integration seems promising, the relevance at scale of Stan data is debatable. They're also venturing into the self-serve ad buying space, a bold move that puts them in direct competition with giants like Facebook, and it will be interesting to see if they can drive scale into the product. 

"The upcoming integration of Springserve should offer some unique capabilities in programmatic advertising and live sports. This is something advertisers should watch closely as it could open new opportunities for targeted campaigns.

"Retail Media Mention: The obligatory nod to retail media at the end of the presentation felt like a box-ticking exercise and didn't add much value or substance to the discussion.

"Overall, the upfronts were strong in content and ambitious in technological advancements. Very impressive."

Mel McDonald, chief commercial officer at dentsu, said as always it was a very big event, that was incredibly well produced.

"There was a strong content focus with the live TV gems of sport and new upfronts," said McDonald.

"Nine are clearly ready for VOZ when it becomes the trading currency. For media buyers, the strong content across all platforms remains the most important product for Nine.

"Nine's ability to keep pace of the technological changes shines through, as does their confidence."

Caitlyn Grant

Caitlyn Grant (pictured right), senior account manager at This is Flow, said Nine have clearly invested in their quality of content and this is key in not only attracting new audiences but retaining them across all their formats.

"From the hype of the Olympics and Paralympics, to undeniable sport and accessibility of their digital articles with the inclusion of text audio," Grant said.

"The expansion of their audience ecosystem was my favourite announcement. Nine Tribes is already valuable from a data perspective as one of the leading brands across Australia. Expanding this to include Domain and Stan data adds another layer of valuable data.

"This will allow for media buyers in 2024 – at a time where we’re pushing for personalisation – to be smarter and more direct with targeting approaches. To add to the personalisation with everyone’s favourite topic 1st party data and preparing for a cookieless future, their collaboration with Snowflake and Tealium can further enrich the level of targeting possibilities.

"In contrast to last year, I was impressed that Nine showed their effectiveness of bringing all their elements to life including success stories such as the relaunch of Brisbane Times. Expanding data sets was a topic of conversation in 2022 Upfronts but the push to have this come to life and highlighting ways media buyers and planners can start getting excited about is important. Including the united push for VOZ coming to fruition, which we’ve all been waiting for!"


Brittany Crowley (pictured right), co-head of investment at PHD Sydney, said Nine presented a strong line up of content led by sport (largely Olympics), news and marquee general entertainment programming, with a notable focus on ‘total’ audience and approach to advertising across their TV, audio and publishing ecosystem.

"Growing audiences via; compelling content, seamless user experience and effective communication, backed by some key developments in digital/data/tech, were the key takeouts," she said.

"Nines Olympic/Paralympic acquisition was the Jewel in their crown. Touting a ‘world first united media content eco system’ with the ability to reach 98% of Australians across an initial 10-month period, ‘storytelling’ was at the heart of the proposition for consumers and advertisers alike, presenting an opportunity to extend and integrate brands across their scalable portfolio and content.

"24 hour hosted channels, a large pool of talent, 40 x 9now channels and immersive AI real world technology are just a few ways 9 plan to up the ante, to provide audiences and advertisers with a vast opportunity to engage with the global sporting moment. From Paris 24 to Brisbane 32, Nine are set for success but bringing this to life and progressing the offering across the next decade, where we will see further change in media consumption habits and advertiser approach, will be the test.

"The upfront was strong in terms of content and scalable opportunity for advertisers across their portfolio but outside of Nines plans for the Olympics , we did wonder when the moment for new innovations might come. Nine did announce several new developments in the digital/data/tech space and whilst the industry can often find these aspects numerous yet sometimes unfruitful off the back of upfront season, Nines initiatives would be considered achievable and relevant to advertisers.

"Audience plus 9Tribes data, e-commerce extension across the editorial portfolio, the integration of Tealium and Snowflake into audience match, 9now homepage transformation with interactive ad and brand integration opportunities and fast channels at lower ad loads, were a few of the highlights."

James Lucas, head of investment at OMD Brisbane, said Nine's Upfront was content-rich, clearly articulating the company's ambitions and strategy not just for 2024 but for the next decade in the run-up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

"Nine's narrative to their partners is clear, they don't want to be seen as just a TV network. Their unique selling point is their breadth of channel offering, covering Total TV, Total Audio and Total Publishing," Lucas said.

"With this, Nine believes they are able to provide solutions for Advertisers throughout the entire marketing funnel. They are positioning themselves as a trusted source for ROI and business growth with the launch of Nine Ads Manager, an evolution of 2019 previously announced 9Voyager, which is a means to demonstrate this and support small to medium-sized businesses in Australia (a sector worth a reported $1.5 billion).

"Many of Nine's new announcements, and where they see growth in 2024, were products focused on harnessing the company's scale and connecting Australia to the content that best resonates with them, whether through entertainment, journalism, or advertising. The scale of data and smart technology, including the use of AI, is how Nine believes they can achieve this. The demonstration of Nine Ads Manager showed this in practice and how it can be done on a smaller scale for advertisers.

"Focusing on reaching younger Australians, as well as Sport, Entertainment and Information seekers, is a priority for Nine, and I imagine will be the key to longevity for the brand in the homes of Australians.

"Having a diverse range of channels and formats will be critical to this success, so the relationship between Stan and 9Now could very well be smart and commercially viable for the long term for Nine, with each platform able to feed and complement the other in some form. The release strategy of Stan's Love Triangle is a clear example of how this would work in practice."


Stephen Leeds (pictured right), CEO at The Media Store, said no longer is the Nine Upfronts purely about television programming, where advertisers looked for consistency in the schedule as well as some fresh formats and programs to get audiences and advertisers excited about the year ahead.

"Last night was about a content, data and tech play across total TV, radio and publishing.  A great foundation for advertisers to reach 98% of the population and access 20 million signed in users.

"Nine's position challenges us all to think about how we engage or compete.  For advertisers, it's about how best to allocate the budget.  For competitors it's about finding their niche and how to go to market.  For those that weren’t ,and maybe still aren’t, competitors it's about continuous improvement to own your battle ground because Nine may be coming after you.  And for Nine, I think it's still a challenge as to how they grow their audience (beyond the Olympics).

"Nine’s presentation challenges us as agencies/advertisers to think about how best to allocate our budget as they blur the lines on their competitive set – no longer just Seven, Paramount, SBS or Foxtel – but all screens, tech providers, social channels, audio channels and publishing.  But even further, their ad products, creative services and AI means Nine could be a one stop shop for many advertisers, and that’s where the impartiality of the agency can help clients navigate their marketing strategy.  Combined with the announcement of AI generated creative, Nine have provided a solution for SMEs to get their brand on the big screen, and that will have traction.

"Where does Nine’s play leave Seven?  The home of sport has certainly shifted, with Nine now owning rights to the Olympics, to complement its growing portfolio, they have the perfect platform to cross promote.  We will get to see Seven's and the others' Upfronts over the coming weeks, but if Paramount can own the youth, Seven may find itself needing a new strategy.

"The only thing that wasn’t clear for me is how Nine will grow its audience.  No doubt it will use its own assets to cross promote, but that’s to the converted.  Apart from Pedestrian, it wasn’t clear to me how they will achieve this.  Certainly, the Olympics provides an opportunity.  But for now, they have the content, data, tech and creativity to give advertisers more than they need."


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