‘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.”