Nine at sixes and sevens over ratings

OzTAM replaces AC Nielsen to cut costs

SYDNEY — A row is raging over Australia’s new ratings service, which continues to give Kerry Packer’s Nine Network lower auds than Nine has come to expect.

OzTAM was set up by commercial webs Nine, Network Ten and Seven Network ahead of the February sweeps after they ended their contract with AC Nielsen to cut costs.

But whereas Network Ten and Seven Network are pleased with OzTAM’s numbers, which show they’ve won overall gains, Nine is fuming at losing its 10-year spot at the top of the ratings.

As each of the three commercial networks began to question the accuracy of whichever system did not deliver their most flattering numbers, OzTAM’s ratings provider ATR and AC Nielsen agreed to an independent audit.

The inquiry, headed by ratings expert Professor Peter Danaher, compared ATR’s numbers with AC Nielsen’s for three weeks from mid-April.

Nine asserts it found:

  • ATR’s panel composition was flawed, especially in Melbourne;

  • An oversampling of young people; and

  • Flaws in the way the system is weighted and calculated.

Nine CEO David Leckie is using the results to back up his demand that the system be changed.

But ATR, an affiliate of multinational research company AGB, has rejected Nine’s assertions.

ATR CEO Warwick Hoare, who has stayed out of the debate until now because his company was a contractor to OzTAM, observes, “This will probably go on until Nine is No. 1 again.”

AC Nielsen claims the report endorses its numbers over the past decade. It still reports figures to Nine and some advertising agencies unofficially.

Nine, which goes under the slogan “Still the one,” has objected to the ratings since February, when OzTAM figures showed Network Seven’s “Popstars 2” in pole position with 1.6 million viewers, above Nine’s “Backyard Blitz” at 1.4 million. AC Nielsen had “Blitz” on top with 1.8 million.