Nine keen to rethink measure of Drama successes

Nine CEO Hugh Marks is keen to see the measure of success become more contextual than one Overnight ratings figure.

Last week at the Screen Forever conference he told delegates audiences were accustomed to watching Drama on their terms.

“With Reality shows they have to talk to their friends that night or at school the next day. News & Current Affairs they consume as a habitual thing. Sport is obviously a Live viewing experience,” he said.

“But Drama is the one that is most challenged because you end up with an audience that is lower in linear and higher in catch-up.

“With linear all we get from publications is ‘So-and-so Drama failed. 600,000 people Overnight.’
It’s not the way I look at Drama as a success anymore. I look at what that Drama is going to build as an audience and as a revenue proposition, probably over a decade.”

Speaking later to TV Tonight he said, “Anything over 1 million in Reality Overnight is success, and in Drama probably anything over 700,000 I would say is a big success. Anything above that is a huge success.”

Marks agreed that Overnights are still relevant but Nine is keen to better contextualise via 30 Day Catch-up, Video Play Measurement (tablets, smartphones, smart TVs etc), and social media impressions.

“What we have to look at is that (Overnights are) one data point, but here’s another data point. What do 2 data points tell you?” he asked.

“The higher quality a drama is the more it does in catch-up.

“That audience is so more valuable to us on a per-audience basis, so it’s something we’re really trying to encourage.

“We have to refine that message to the market, so you will find we’ll start doing that a bit more.”

Last week the Socceroos World Cup Qualifier pulled 1.15m viewers on its primary channel with nearly 100,000 live streaming -a record for 9Now.

But there are still inherent problems in indentifying the streaming audience.

“Google and Facebook love to over-estimate their numbers and for some bizarre reason, us as a Free to Air industry settle for under-estimating the numbers,” Marks suggested.

“The fact is we know that 1 person does not equal 1 stream.”

Nine has announced Bite Club, Doctor Doctor and Underbelly Files: Chopper for 2018, but is yet to clarify the future for Love Child and House Husbands, both rumoured to have been axed.

Meanwhile this year Nine signed the Screen Diversity & Inclusion Network to promote diversity both on screen and in employment. How does Marks see it impacting Nine?

“I think we’ve been pretty diverse this year. If you look at the Reality shows, ok maybe not The Block but that’s reflective of the people who apply for the show,” he explained.

“I think we’ve made pretty significant in-roads.

“We cast every show for the who the best talent is. One thing you know about Family Food Fight is the Shahrouks. What unbelievable energy, warmth and enthusiasm they bring. But they are not cast for diversity, they are cast for their ability.”

On the question of historic harassment in the screen industry he was confident the network was inclusive.

“The culture is one of creativity, openness, supportiveness. Can I say categorically that there were no issues that happened within the business? You never know. Things that were hidden can be hidden,” he conceded.

“But I think I can say with some confidence that the environment of the business and culture of the place is very supportive of a culture that I would endorse, and a culture we should have in our industry.

“I’m sure there were problems 20 years ago, I’m sure there are things that will come out in the public that will talk to those problems. But from where I sit right now, I feel like we’ve got an excellent culture that supports diversity, equality and all those things that are important.

“At the end of the day my job is to create a culture that ensures those things don’t happen. That’s what I’m focussed on.”

“People who are creative tend to express their opinions sometimes quite vehemently. Sometimes if someone is empowered that can be difficult. So that’s something we have to review constantly in our business.

“But Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood is completely different to Australia. It’s a very different culture.”


  1. Funnily enough Marks is claiming a standard of success that Doctor, Doctor meets, but 7 and 10s dramas currently aren’t. But what Marks thinks is enough for something Nine has to air in Prime Time to keep their licence is different from what commentators on popular culture think, who are just interested in what video people watched last night.

  2. Secret Squïrrel

    The trouble with counting streams from the content delivery centre is that they can’t know what’s happening at the other end. Also, 10 stream-starts is not 10 people who watched the show if half of them switched off after 15 min.

    The accurate way to do it would be to add a box that sits in front of the modem in existing survey households. It would need to do deep packet inspection to identify the relevant streams but could then record minute by minute. It’s not going to happen.

    Or they could require people to log in to an account with basic demo info, as some do now and measure minutes streamed rather than stream starts. When enough people are streaming to their smart TV and watching as a family, they can capture that data from existing survey households and extrapolate it, just as they do now.

  3. I think Ten’s drama slate was very weak with multiple failures and if you take Dr Blake out of the ABC programming then there was nothing left. Overall all the networks are struggling with local dramas but well done to Hugh Marks offering support. I am waiting for the day however when the commercial free to airs start their heavy lobbying to dilute Australian drama quotas even more.

  4. Yes, I often wonder how many people do they count as ‘1 stream’ of a show in a household? Do they all watch the same programs? There 3 of us in my home who watch certain shows together and only 1 may watch something else. We have 3 TV’s in our house.

    • Looking at the stream start and the equivalent total viewings in the OZtam VPM data one viewing equates to about 2 stream starts now. Which down from the 3 to 4 it used to be when they were less reliable.

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