Nine: “we owned” Jessica Watson coverage

Coverage of the Jessica Watson Homecoming was “owned” by Channel Nine, according to its News boss, even at the expense of the rights-holder TEN / ONE.

All three commercial networks were covering the event, but only TEN / ONE had blanket exclusivity access on Watson, whose journey it had sponsored from the beginning.

That got TEN / ONE scoop pictures and interviews, which were rebroadcast by other networks, complete with the ONE branding across the screens. In the old days, such tolerance of a rival network would arguably never have been allowed.

A buoyant Mark Calvert, Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs told staff on Sunday that they had delivered, in an internal memo leaked to TV Tonight.

“Well done on a superb performance on the homecoming of Jessica Watson,” he wrote.

“The output right across Saturday was by far the best of any of the networks. We saw that – and the viewers agreed.

“In the final quarter-hour of the live homecoming show, our audience averaged around 750,000 – a massive switch-on for a Saturday afternoon – and way ahead of anything Seven or Ten could manage.

“The live coverage, EP’d by Rob Hurst, led on-air by Karl and Lisa, and with support from across News, Today Show and ACA, was a master-class in how to run a TV marathon. The team sustained interest, humour and energy across four and a half huge hours.

“The dedication and ingenuity of everybody who worked behind the scenes, on location, on land, on water and in the air – and the warmth and sheer stamina of our hosts and reporters – made the late-scrambling Seven look average. Rights-holders Ten/OneHD didn’t know what to do with what they had. (Rob did!) And our so-called ‘national broadcaster’ wasn’t even in the game, the ABC choosing instead to show a repeat of Australian Story – while Nine was bringing the ultimate Australian story to the nation, live, as it happened.

“All in all, we absolutely owned a massive news event we didn’t, officially, own!”

Ratings numbers were all over the shop after Watson’s arrival was delayed and TEN and Seven switched to digital channels.

According to OzTAM in Overnight figures Seven pulled 452,000 for its news special, Nine pulled 429,000 and TEN had 229,000. It had a further 144,000 on ONE’s extended broadcast. But results for children’s TV shows which didn’t air were actually part of the Watson broadcast.

Nine claims that from 11-3:30pm the numbers were as follows:

Nine: 482,000
TEN: 326,000
Seven: 322,000
ONE: 184,000
7TWO: 61,000

Of course, it isn’t a fair breakdown given TEN switched to AFL at 2:08pm and Seven to V8 Supercars at 2:30pm with Watson coverage continuing on digital channels, while Nine did stay the course. In any case the combined TEN / ONE total is 510,000, undermining Nine’s own claims.

One source suggested to TV Tonight that Watson had even been asked to “kill time” off the NSW coast in order for her arrival to dovetail into the 2pm AFL match.

60 Minutes had also stitched up a second Watson interview as part of its first deal with Charles Woolley prior to her departure.


  1. Ummm… okay.
    It’s an oldie…. but a goodie!
    It’s ‘Wooley’ not ‘Woolley’

    “60 Minutes had also stitched up a second Watson interview as part of its first deal with Charles Woolley prior to her departure”

    As a university student studying media websites…. U get a #Fail not because you can’t spell but because your article is desperately trying to waste a readers time… what exactly is the point you are trying to make? I’ll get a high distinction just pulling your dribble apart!!! Thanks! Easy Essay!

    • Hugo: I have no problem with being corrected for a typo, fair enough. If you think one typo is reason to “fail” a site with over 17,000 stories available free to the public then so be it.

      I absolutely take issue that the article was wasting readers’ time. It provided an insight into the inner workings of a News department via a leaked email, which in my book is pretty good reporting. It clearly indicated how Nine claimed to have “won” the broadcasting coverage of Jessica Watson’s homecoming and then analysed it alongside the ratings results. I would suggest many tutors would find that balanced and worthy reporting of media. But I suppose it is easier to shoot from behind internet anonymity. Good luck with your essay and course.

      ps. it’s “a reader’s time” not “a readers time.”

  2. she is not old enough to drink or vote or insure, yet they let her out there by her self, i want my tax money spent on something more important

  3. I’m far from a Channel Nine defender, but it was just an internal memo to get the staff ‘energised’ (for lack of a better word).

    The audience for the memo is people already working for the company. Sure a few words are a bit OTT, but geez people…

    Congrats to Jessica for her record-breaking effort.

    • I think we have exhausted the ‘hero / not hero’ arguments guys. For the record Jessica Watson said she disagreed with Kevin Rudd calling her a hero. Much humility and wisdom for a 16 (now 17) yo. Moving on….

  4. I switched on TV only for Sydney Swans game to avoid all the brouhaha, but even that game didn’t deliver so I switched off early and watched films on DVD.

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