Ad buyers urge networks to code for consistency

2014-09-04_2255‘The Winner Announced,’ split-coding of News, 3 x channel simulcasts, The Block Monday, House Rules Tuesday, MasterChef Wednesday, 60 Minutes Late, The Project 6:30pm, Today Early, The Morning Show Extra ……if you think it’s a challenge trying to make sense of the Overnight ratings just imagine what a headache it is for the those to whom it matters most: the advertisers.

Media buyers looking to spend money on television shows are invariably focussed on the annual average for shows like My Kitchen Rules, The Voice and Masterchef -but creative coding by networks has become so focussed on engineering the best headline that networks are at risk of forgetting the very people they serve.

Victor Corones, managing director of MagnaGlobal, tells TV Tonight that trying to work out the average annual performance of a show has become a headache due to a lack of consistent title coding. It’s even harder trying to compare Year on Year figures.

“Try doing a sports analysis on any of the codes and you’ll spend hours trying to isolate exactly what you want,” he says.

“One year they might call out the individual games in the programming and in other years it might just be Thursday NRL. The problem is as we get more channels and there are simulcasts, repeats, or anything like that it gets harder to know what number the show did.

“When you are trying to work out first-run episodes of The Big Bang Theory, you have to work out which show it was, what night it was on, and it gets harder.

“So when you are doing the evaluation on shows you waste a lot of time because they don’t have the right naming conventions in place.

“There are hundreds and hundred of listings of programmings.”

Creative coding is at an all time high, including  2 x half-hour numbers for the 6pm news, Early and Extra numbers in Breakfast & Morning Television, Winner Announced finale segments,  separate rankings for 60 Minutes Late which could be separated from an annual average for 60 Minutes, and TEN’s 8 weeks of simulcasting Family Feud across 3 channels into a single figure.

Victor Corones says networks are engineering the numbers to make sure they feature in the Top 10 or 20 shows of the night.

“These are not segments you can buy, it’s not the way they sell it. All they are doing is looking for a PR headline, that they can push out to the market,” he insists.

“It is getting cloudier and they’ve got it totally wrong. They are serving themselves from a PR perspective and forgetting about the end users who are giving them the revenue.

“They have to start thinking about how they can make it easier for the end user?”

In the case of simulcasts, OzTAM confirms it is up to the network whether the numbers are merged together or remain separated. While TEN combines three numbers for Family Feud, ABC doesn’t combine its simulcasts of Q & A or ABC News Breakfast which both play across two channels. ‘Roadblocking’ was a strategy Nine also employed for its launch of The Block, but just for one night.

From Corones’ viewpoint, what’s central to any simulcast data is whether the ads are also simulcast, which TEN is doing for its game show.

“If the ad break is simulcast then in theory you can buy it, so the number is correct. It’s when you can’t do that and you have a different ad break structure that’s when you shouldn’t bring the two together,” he says.

“But it doesn’t help. It’s another little irritation because they’re not simulcasting it forever, so you have to remember a year later what actually happened.

“Our buying systems aren’t geared to look at simulcast ratings. The software is designed to pull the numbers together so that you look at the Combined audience (Metro + Regional). The buying system, if you are looking at the Primary Channel, will only show you the Primary Channel ratings. The multichannel will show you a different number.

“It’s an unnecessary pain.”

While OzTAM reports the ratings, it is also jointly owned by Seven, Nine and TEN and hasn’t been swift to effect change, but it maintains the minimum break-out session for segments such as ‘Winner Announced’ should be 15 minutes.

“OzTAM is beholden to their stakeholders but it would be nice if they could forge ahead and say ‘Right, these are the rules,” says Corones.

“But it’s self-regulation. It doesn’t stop them from releasing a programme format that’s 5 minutes. It still gets sucked in through all the ratings the next day. They can always go back and revise it, the market has moved on but they remember the headline.”

With so much money at stake, plus Timeshifting, Catch-Up, Piracy and new content players, networks remain under pressure to put their best foot forward.

“Within agencies there is a growing (concern) that things appear to be getting more ridiculous,” Corones admits.

“It’s something that the networks have to collectively come together on.”


  1. Also don’t foeget to add catchup TV in the mix.This is somehting OZTAM and Regional TAM don’t take into consideration?
    Just goes to show is is mostly bollocks!

    • Doesn’t make it bollocks, makes it less amplified. The numbers are still representative of the current panel. But I agree it would be good to expand the panel, and have written articles on OzTAM’s position on this before, including the various complications of trying to measure online data.

  2. jezza,
    Broadcasters are the sellers
    Advertisers are the purchasers
    Viewers are the product for sale.

    That the advertisers are complaining should be, but probably won’t be, a wake up call to the broadcasters that their deceptions aren’t working.

  3. Secret Squirrel

    Great article. I do think that the media buyers should consider getting together to put pressure on the networks to ensure that the system works well for all stakeholders and meets everyone’s needs.

    I agree with Pertinax that things are unlikely to change much while the data continues to be presented as a daily Top 20 with associated attention-grabbing headlines for consumption by the general public. Trouble is, OzTAM are not going to disseminate the disaggregated data for free.

  4. This for example is the OZtam data published for 7:30 and 8:30pm.

    7:30 PM 9 – The Block 1620
    7:30 PM 7 – The X Factor 1180
    7:30 PM 2 – Doctor Who 681
    7:30 PM 10- Ten – Thor 382
    7:30 PM 33 – Easter Island 250
    7:30 PM 72 – Mighty Ships 204

    8:00 PM 9 – 60m 1120, 284,501,557

    8:30 PM 7 – Sunday Night 1120, 303, 501,557
    8:30 PM 2 – ANZAC Girls 763
    8:45 PM 10 – Modern Family 1 391
    8:30 PM 72 – ETC 1 244
    8:30 PM 11 – Ferris Bueller’s 190
    8:30 PM 33 – Mankind 163

    8:45 PM 10 – Modern Family 1 391
    9:00 PM 9 – Dark Knight Rises 374

  5. The problem is the top 20 and top 5 lists provide an incentive for the networks to try and increase the number of slots they hold and exclude competitors from the lists. Because these days everyone is more obsessed with Twitter and the newscycle than reality.

    If Oztam published the numbers for 6pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm etc. it would be come about what people are watching when.

  6. it was an interesting article.

    Although I do understand why the networks do it (coding shows differently for a bigger headline), I think they need to draw the line somewhere soon. As stated in there article, I agree that there does seem to be a little too much split-coding for our programs, and many inconsistencies.

  7. jezza the first original one

    Interesting article. It does read like ‘the media buyers have lazily handed over money for advert space in the past’

    However if they use their clout effectively it will stop a good proportion of the bs pr and crap programming.

    Just a reminder to them all….the end user is the viewer and if we don’t watch…then you are all wasting your time, money and effort

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