Audience Inventory 2017: Free to Air results

ABC is still the most-watched channel, most reliable for starting on time and most trustworthy at delivering shows according to readers in the annual TV Tonight Audience Inventory.

More than 1000 surveys were completed over a 3 week period for the 9th annual survey.

But ABC’s lead is also slipping. Two years ago 57% of readers said ABC was the most reliable channel, now it sits at 49%. While 54% voted it most trustworthy 2 years ago, now it is 45%. Nine ranked last on both questions again, but it rose in the question of channels viewed regularly.

Viewers also rallied around ABC and SBS remaining independent of government influence and having funding maintained -the 2 most important issues in Free to Air. Merging public broadcasters remains their lowest priority, as it has over successive years.

A new topic of “Ensuring Children’s TV on all networks” rated Very Important while “ABC improving political balance, which” netted a No Opinion result last year, is now considered Very Important.

There was also sluggish interest on media reform topics such as the Reach Rule and Anti-Siphoning lists. Readers are far more concerned with shows starting on time, having an accurate EPG, and completing the NBN. Shutting down piracy websites also ranked as a low priority.

iview is still our preferred catch-up service, but SBS on Demand enjoyed a notable rise, now more used and more popular than those by commercial networks, according to readers. We prefer to watch catch-up via smart TVs. 2 years ago 38% of us were choosing these first, now at 56%.

Streaming continues its surge. 2 years ago 41% of readers were subscribers, now 55% indicated they are. More details on Streaming and Pay TV questions will be revealed this week.

We are not too impressed with multichannels, labelling the majority of them as “Good” (and none as “Excellent” or “Very Good”). A few fall into the “Not Applicable” category for the majority of viewers, due to their content specificity or availability.

Half of us are using second-screens everyday, preferably on a tablet for purposes of online browsing, while Instagram use is on the rise.

Here are this year’s results, with those that have shifted more than 2% noted below.

* denotes multiple answers allowed

Which of the following do you watch regularly?*
Free to Air Commercial 72%
Free to Air Public Broadcaster 56%
Pay TV 56%
Streaming (subscription) 55%
Community TV 3%

Up: Streaming, Pay TV
Down: Free to Air

Do you have HD TV?*
HD TV 91%
HD Set top box 15%
No 5%
SD set top box 2%

Which FTA channels do you watch regularly?*
ABC 72%
TEN 61%
Nine 54%
Seven 51%
SBS 47%
ABC News 29%
ABC2 27%
7mate 24%
9GO! 21%
7TWO 18%
9GEM 18%
7flix 17%
SBS Food Network 16%
ONE 16%
9Life 15%
WIN 12%
Prime7 10%
Southern Cross 7%
Community TV 3%
NBN 2%
Imparja 0%

Up: Nine, SBS.
Down: TEN, Seven, ELEVEN, News 24, ABC2, 7TWO, Southern Cross.
NB: VICELAND numbers remain stable against SBS2 (2016).

Which PVRs do you have?*#
IQ3/IQ2/IQ 43%
No PVR 24%
Panasonic 12%
Fetch TV 9%
Other 8%
Topfield 8%
My Star 4%
LG 3%
Beyonwiz 2%
Humax 2%

Do you subscribe to a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
No 75%
Yes 22%
Not sure 3%

Do you buy TV or Movies online such as through Apple TV or iTunes?
No 65%
Yes occasionally 24%
Yes frequently 5%
Yes but just one title 3%
Yes Movies 3%

Up: Yes occasionally
Down: No

Which network is the most reliable for starting on time?
ABC 49%
Foxtel 31%
SBS 10%
TEN 5%
Seven 3%
Nine 2%

Up: Foxtel
Down: ABC

Which network is the most Trustworthy at delivering your shows?
ABC 45%
Foxtel 33%
TEN 9%
SBS 6%
Seven 4%
Nine 3%

Up: Foxtel
Down: ABC

Who is best at rescheduling cancelled shows?
ABC 35%
Foxtel 33%
TEN 10%
Seven 9%
SBS 7%
Nine 6%

Up: Foxtel
Down: TEN

Which is your preferred Guide?
Foxtel EPG 29%
On Screen EPG 28%
Online guide 17%
App on smartphone / tablet 10%
Weekly Newspaper Guide 4%
Magazine Guide 3%
Freeview EPG 3%
Other 2%
Daily Newspaper Guide 2%
ICE Guide 2%

Down: Weekly Newspaper Guide

Degree of satisfaction with multichannels* (result denotes majority of responses)


News 24



SBS Food Network

Down: ABC2, News 24.

Which is your preferred second-screen device?
Tablet 37%
Smartphone 27%
PC or Mac 26%
None 10%

Down: PC or Mac

Which second-screen platforms do you use regularly?*
Online Browsing 71%
Facebook 48%
Twitter 31%
Instagram 26%
Blogs / Forums 18%
None 13%
Network official site 9%
Other option 6%

Up: Instagram
Down: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs / Forums.

How often do you use second-screen whilst watching TV?
Every day 51%
A few times a week 21%
Never 15%
A few times a month 7%
Less than once a month 3%
“Event TV” only 2%
About once a month 1%

Which official online Catch-Up TV services do you use?*
iview 62%
SBS On Demand 44%
tenplay 36%
Foxtel Go 31%
PLUS7 28%
9Now 27%
None 16%

Up: SBS On Demand, Foxtel Go, 9Now
Down: None

How often do you watch official Catch-Up services?
A few times a week 26%
Rarely or never 24%
Once or twice a month 23%
About once a week 19%
Once a day or more 8%

Down: Once or twice a month

Which devices do you use to watch Catch-Up services?*
TV 56%
PC or Mac 38%
Tablet 35%
Smartphone 20%
None 11%
Other 5%

Up: TV, Smartphone
Down: PC or Mac

Please rate your satisfaction with each Catch-Up Service* (result denotes majority of responses)

SBS On Demand

Foxtel Go

Up: SBS On Demand
Down: tenplay

How much TV do you watch “non-Live”?
About 75 percent 38%
About 50 percent 21%
About 100 percent 19%
About 25 percent 19%
None 3%

What time do you usually start to watch Timeshift?#
6pm or earlier 25%
7:30pm 21%
8:30pm 20%
7pm 13%
I just watch broadcast TV 9%
9:30pm 7%
10:30pm or later 5%

Rate any or all of the following FTA issues*(result denotes majority of responses)
ABC, SBS independent of govt influence
ABC, SBS funding maintained
Shows starting / finishing on time
Keeping an EPG up to date
Regional viewers having access to all FTA channels
Completing the installation of the NBN
Making primary channels HD
Legal, affordable content promptly available
Playing sport Live and in HD
ABC maintaining in-house productions
Less Reality TV
Catch-Up TV adding content swiftly after broadcast
Banning gambling ads
Catch Up shows available on all devices
Reducing on screen clutter (watermarks etc)
Catch-Up TV
Less Twitter included during broadcasts
Punishment for breaches of the Code of Practice
Better bandwidth for multichannels
Ensuring Children’s TV on all networks
Maintaining local content in regional Australia
OzTAM ratings coding to reflect EPG titles
Starting programmes “on the half hour”
Making TV ratings = Metro + Regionals
ABC improving political balance

Promos that fairly represent the show
More Aussie content on Digital Channels
Live streaming of channels
Rolling full credits at the end of a show


Merging public broadcasters
Shutting down illegal piracy websites

HbbTV / FreeviewPlus
Trimming Anti-Siphoning List
Dropping Reach Rule for broadcasters
More subtitles for the hearing impaired
Laws against illegal piracy

Up: Better bandwidth for multichannels, ABC improving political balance, 

Which is the more offensive on TV?
None 50%
Violence 33%
Sexual content and references 9%
Strong language 8%

Up: None
Down: Violence

Have you ever participated in a Ratings survey?
No never been asked 77%
Yes in the last 5 years 11%
Yes more than 10 years ago 7%
No but I have been asked to participate 3%
Yes in the last 5-10 years 2%

All results have been rounded.

# denotes question variation from 2016 survey making trends unable to be compared

There were 1003 surveys completed.

Tomorrow: Streaming Results.


  1. Which network is the most reliable for starting on time?
    ABC 49%
    Foxtel 31%

    I vaguely remember a similar stat from last year but outside of the odd overrun on a live sporting event I am still looking for Foxtel shows not starting on time…or does this mean 31% of overall respondents but may be 100% of Foxtel subscribers?

    • Secret Squïrrel

      I’d say it’s your first thought. People who don’t have a Foxtel subscription are unlikely to vote them best for reliability. Of course, they’re also unlikely to vote them worst.

      My experience of last 18 months or so is that both Foxtel and SBS are more reliable with start times than ABC.

    • It is what it is. 31% of people who responded to that question named Foxtel as most reliable. If we look at earlier question we see that 56% indicated Foxtel viewers. Some people skipped the question, but not many.

  2. The results regarding Reach and Anti-syphoning may not be really indicative because these are complex policies. When I reached those questions I had no idea what was being asked. I am sort of aware of anti-syphoning because I know that it is about keeping sport on live tv, but I am not up to scratch about any changes that might be proposed. And I have no idea what Reach is about.

    So it is much easier for the survey results to look like I only care about my viewing habits. But if anybody tried to take sport off FTA, I would have a lot to say about that!

  3. 8% of people are holding on to their beloved Toppys as if their life depended upon it. I am one of them.

    Which online guide do people like? I use . In my last search for guides I found too many that required 2 way scrolling, which is a bastard of a thing to require of site visitors.

      • I used to use yourtv as well, until they changed their format, requiring 2 way scrolling and one way required clicking on an arrow to move the results 5/8ths of the way across a computer screen. I literally think that must be a practical joke by a disgruntled worker. No one could honestly think it is a good idea.

    • With my computer upgrade from really old Windows to really new….I love Freeview…details of show pop up onscreen…not a new window ebroadcast one….I can click on the channel on the left and see the whole day….and I can also add to my guide and programs come up red remind me what I want to watch….Nothing but good ..for me..

  4. If Ten is the most watched FTA channel as per your survey why does it rate so lowly?? Is there something wrong with the official ratings system? U believe you were to take out news services Ten would rate a lot higher. This is the issue for Ten the dredged 6-7.30pm slot.

    • It isn’t, ABC is. I’m the first to admit OzTAM is more scientifically measured than a voluntary reader survey (which is exactly how it is reported). But it is 1000 respondents which is the standard. That said, there are also companies who own OzTAM who are not keen to see wholesale changes because it may affect their share.

      • Plus David (and this is only my view not scientific), some of those owners would know that companies like Carlton And United, Tooheys and Four X pay top dollar for advertising. I’m certain where the ratings metres are, skew to an audience that would watch the programs that those companies sponsor. Sport is the big draw when live for FTA and those companies sponsor Sport (also look at The Front Bar), the other owner TEN aren’t away from that either when they had Big Brother they knew the demographic, there were times it could have called KFC Presents Big Brother.

        Yeah more tin-foil hat stuff from me, either that or I’ve watched Gruen way too much and have become very cynical.

  5. Interesting results some suprising like from reading things on here I would never have thought that IQ3/IQ2/IQ 43% would have come up, didn’t think that many here had Foxtel. Also intersting that FTA watched regulary has TEN at second and in regular Catch-Up TV services TEN comes third (so it’s accurate), which given TEN’s woes and talk on here is also suprising. Understand the disillusionment with secondary channels as in none coming up excellent or very good, because most are very wishy washy and tend to be a dumping ground with no clear direction (especially 7Flix, may as well rebrand it 7TBBT).

    Then you look at 77% haven’t participated in a Ratings survey and it makes you wonder when TEN comes second on here, guess the TV Tonight TEN viewers don’t skew to the demographics that the advertisers like.

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