Hike in ad coin is driven by new digital webs

SYDNEY – Australia’s new digital channels are helping to drive a boost in advertising revenues that had plummeted due to the financial crash.

According to data released by industry org Free TV, the three commercial webs received a total of A$1.8 billion ($1.6 billion) for the first six months of 2010, up 18% year-to-year on the same period in 2009, which saw ad revs slump to $1.4 billion.

TV networks now predict 2010 revenues will be back to pre-meltdown levels.

James Warburton, ad topper for ratings champ and lead revenue earner Seven Network says the rebound has confounded the predictions of those in the industry and is “a very solid correction.”

Warburton says one of the factors driving the recovery is the host of new digital channels available on the Freeview platform, which are helping to grow the revenue pie.

Under local broadcasting laws, each free-to-air web is allowed two digital channels. Nine Network has general entertainment offering Go! and Nine HD, Seven has general entertainment offerings Seven HD and 7Two, and Ten Network has sports-only channel One in digital and HD.

“When Freeview was first (discussed) people thought it was just a marketing stunt,” Warburton says. “But when you look at the quality of programming that SevenTwo and Go! have got, there are nights when up to 10% or 11% of the viewing population are choosing one of the multichannels (for first-run content).”

The extra channels give the webs the opportunity to integrate advertising campaigns and target specific demographics.

Seven has emerged with the biggest slice of the 2010 ad pie so far with a 37.9 share. Nine follows with a 33.2share, then Ten with 28.9.

Despite having a runaway hit in “MasterChef,” whose finale reached a massive 4 million viewers in a country with a population of 21.5 million, Ten’s share is less than its 2009 tally.

This may in part explain its surprise decision to pull out of Free TV’s data collection system.

The web said in a statement that it “held serious concerns regarding the accuracy of both the composition and allocation of metropolitan commercial television revenue.”

Another group not keen to share advertising figures is paybox Foxtel, but Anthony Fitzgerald, CEO of Multi Channel Network, the main booker of ad space on the feevee, says Foxtel is seeing a good start to the current year.

Other factors helping the TV market are a general return by some of the larger advertisers that deserted during the financial crash, and increased viewing of owned-and-operated websites to watch TV content; such sites are being used as additional incentives to lure advertisers.

One thing’s for sure, the doom and gloom of 2009 are a thing of the past.

Says Warburton: “We believe the market will be back to where it was before the global financial crash this year, which is quicker than most people imagined.”

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