Strong content boosts total audience share

SYDNEY — While rumors continue to swirl around Network Seven topper Kerry Stokes’ possible bid for rival media org Consolidated Media Holdings, parent of the Nine Network, one thing’s for sure: Seven has won the ratings battle.

It’s barely halfway through the ratings year but the web has nabbed 20 of the 40 weeks, while Nine has four and Network Ten just one. With only 15 weeks left to play for, Seven is safe in claiming victory.

The year-to-date sees Seven with a total audience share of 36.2%, steady on last year, while Nine is down 2.3% to 33.3%, and Ten, with hits like reality skein “MasterChef Australia,” has seen all of Nine’s lost eyeballs go its way with an increased share of 30.5%.

Seven’s content is strong across the board with drama “Packed to the Rafters” and factual skeins “World’s Strictest Parents” and “Air Ways” doing well.

“We’ve had a mantra at Seven over the last three or four years and that is we just build hit properties and that’s our sole aim. If we focus on that, everything else takes care of itself,” program topper Tim Worner says.

Strength in news and current affairs, traditionally owned by Nine, has aided the win.

“The platform we get from ‘Seven News’ and ‘Today Tonight’ is absolutely rock solid and that dominance in the news area gives us a great foundation for our evening schedule,” he adds.

Seven is still focused on the business at hand, winning over Aussie auds.

“We’ve worked hard to become Australia’s favorite network and now it’s the even harder task of remaining so,” says Worner.

Meanwhile, Stokes is rumored to be still mulling a bid for James Packer’s media org Consolidated Media Holdings.

Stokes announced last month he had taken a 19.9% share in CMH, which owns 25% of paybox Foxtel, 50% of feevee channel producer Premier Media Group and 0.07% of PBL Media, which includes the Nine Network.

The group still has one-time owner Packer as a shareholder and he has made it clear he does not want to sell, so the next step for Stokes could be a hostile bid.

Stokes is said to want a slice of Australia’s increasingly lucrative pay TV industry so Foxtel’s recent upbeat annual results probably fueled the latest round of takeover speculation.

Foxtel’s revenues grew from A$1.43 billion ($1.17 billion) to $1.27 billion on a subscriber base now standing at 1.63 million, making it one of the few businesses where the “stay at home” mentality of the global financial crisis has been good news.

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