Opinion: Ten needs more than Jack Bauer to save the network

Arry Tanusondjaja and James Martin
By Arry Tanusondjaja and James Martin | 13 May 2014

The digitalisation of Australian television channels and the introduction of new channels have made the Australian television market more competitive than ever.

The last few years have seen the continuing strength of the Seven Network and the re-emergence of the Nine Network at the expense of Network Ten. Industry reports show that Ten’s steadily decreasing share of audience has dropped from approximately 18% in 2009 to around 14% in 2014.

On 23 February, the network captured only 6.4% of the prime time audience, beaten even by the ABC Network. Does this mean that Ten has done a poor job of retaining its viewers and in cultivating their loyalty?

Audiences are promiscuous in their viewing habits?

Among issues of poor, out-dated programming and irregular scheduling, marketing science provides an answer to this question. Based on research conducted by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, we know that loyalty is related to the size of the brand in the market.

This is known as the Double Jeopardy Law: the larger the brand, the more people who buy it slightly more often. Consequently, smaller brands are punished twice, as they have fewer buyers who buy the brand less frequently. We also know that consumers tend to be promiscuous with their brand usage. Data across different markets and products analysed by the institute shows that consumers are typically switching back and forth across brands within their repertoire. The larger the brand, the greater chance that consumers would pick it. This is also similar to television viewing behaviour. For Ten, this means that its viewers also watch the two bigger channels slightly more often.

It is thus essential for Ten to ensure that a lot more viewers consider its programs when they sit in front of the television next, rather than relying on the loyalty of its current viewers.

So it is in Ten’s best interests to ensure that a lot more of the audience knows about the programs that are being broadcast, by advertising itself broadly outside the confines of its currently limited reach.

Coverage is crucial for growth

Media has also commented that good programs on Ten are suffering because of their lack of coverage.  Critically-acclaimed programs such as Puberty Blues and Secrets and Lies are registering a low number of viewers, as viewers are more attuned to other programs advertised by the bigger networks.

Ten is firing another round of salvos with the latest season of Masterchef, season five of Offspring and the new season of 24: Live Another Day. The audience results are in for the first episode that aired on May 12. Figures from OzTAM show that 24: Live Another Day failed to break into the top 20 programs for the day, beaten by programs such as Media Watch and Australian Story. Is the failure due to the audience disliking the new series? Or is it more likely the audience not knowing that the series is back on? The latter is probably the case.

Ten should follow Seven and Nine by continuing to widely promote capstone programs through various media that would extend their reach. If very few people know that Jack Bauer is back on the screen, nobody would watch it.  It’s just too bad that Ten cannot promote itself in the bigger networks, as they would deliver the reach that it currently needs.

Rather than holding on to Ten’s current viewers, or relying on capturing viewers from the even smaller audience pools of Channel One or Eleven, the network needs to acquire new viewers who include the network into their viewing repertoire again.

Of course, good programming also plays a part – Ten should continue to commission strong local content as well as import good quality overseas programs.

The next task is to advertise and promote.  Nine was in a similar position a few years ago with declining viewers – but has since mounted a campaign to recoup viewers with slogans such as ‘Welcome Home’ along with its acquisition of the rights to screen the 2012 Summer Olympics. Nine is steadily rebuilding itself again with key programs like The Block and The Voice.

Using an iconic series like 24, Ten should reach out in different media and ensure that the acquisition tap is opened wide. With more viewers, maybe then Jack Bauer can help save Ten from its slow downfall.

Arry Tanusondjaja and James Martin
Research associates
Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

Updated - Ten has issued the following response:

We have publicly acknowledged that we need to work at promoting and marketing our content more effectively and consistently, so this isn’t news. We’ve already increasing our marketing spend this year and we’re looking at new ways to promote our content and reach more people.

In your article, you have focussed solely on 24, failing to mention the numbers for MasterChef Australia, which has performed strongly, as you can see from the numbers:

MasterChef Australia launch:

1.1 million national viewers, peaked at 1.44 million.

874,000 capital city viewers, peaked at 1.06 million.

MasterChef Australia (series-to-date):
Average 872,000 viewers.

#2 in its timeslot in Sydney and Melbourne in 25 to 54s and under 55s.

The launch for Offspring S5 also performed well:

1.17 million overnight capital city and regional viewers. Peaked at 1.48 million.
929,000 overnight capital city viewers. Peaked at 1.09 million.
#2 program of the night in 25 to 54s, #3 in under 55s.

#1 in its timeslot in 25 to 54s, under 55s and total people.

Biggest Offspring launch since 2010.

Biggest ever Offspring launch among women.

In the 2014 calendar year so far, we have averaged a 16.5% free-to-air share for Network Ten (TEN+ONE+ELEVEN) and 20% among 25 to 54s. Our commercial share is 21.7% in total people and 24% in 25 to 54s.

comments powered by Disqus