Gruen memo: “Reverse the iview / ABC model”

Last night on the back of the Disney+ launch in Australia, the Gruen panel discussed the current streaming wars.

But it was the show’s own thoughts on ABC and iview that really warrant further discussion.

Todd Sampson said, “First it’s worth saying that iview should be considered a success story, maybe not as much as the other streaming providers, but roughly 2.2 million people do catch-up. It’s the largest catch-up in the country. But I think ABC, of all the networks has the biggest opportunity. But to do it, they have to reverse the model.

“I think iview is the business and TV is supplementary. Because what we do know is structurally the industry is changing. And we know that and the networks are all struggling with that. But the more important thing is behaviourally it’s changing. It’s never going back to pre-streaming time. It’s not going to happen.

“So ABC could leapfrog all of that. And if I was the ABC, I would do less content, I’d roll everything in, I get rid of the second ABC2, I’d do less content, I would do all of the content on iview.

“And I would use terrestrial television as a way of fading out.

“Content is king, it’s queen, it’s all of it (but) the content’s not good enough.”

Sampson then delved into an ongoing question facing successive ABC managements: the average age of their viewers.

“Historically, the ABC’s average viewer is 66 years old,” Sampson continued.

“And unfortunately, what’s happening is because of that, we are acting like an ad-funded network. Our target markets are defining our content. What should be happening, because we need to get a younger market…. we should be letting our content define our target market. Take chances and be brave, go younger and to the middle. And I think we could become ‘the Netflix of Australia.'”

Russel Howcroft, who is a former chair of 7-9-10-Foxtel marketing body Think TV, weighed in.

“You know what the ABC needs to do? It needs to advertise,” he suggested (cue audience mirth).

“The ABC actually does advertise. It just advertises on its own platforms. So whether it’s radio, whether it’s the TV station, and it will advertise its own content on its own platforms. So no wonder it’s just older with the audience, because they’re not getting a new audience in. The only way you can get a new audience in is to present the content to the younger audience. The only vehicle you’ve got to do that is via advertising.”

Finally One Green Bean CEO Claire Salvetti had a novel suggestion.

“So I have an idea. You can use this as a point in your advertising. You can use it to lower the demographic age of people watching,” she proposed.

“It’s a celebrity, and it’s not even a person. It’s a very important thing that you have in your portfolio….. I’m afraid it’s not you, Wil.

“It’s actually a dog called Bluey. If you are a parent and you have children, you watch Bluey. It is the most awesome show to watch with your kids. And that little dog is the most powerful animal in the world. You need to make that your celebrity and you need to go hard pushing that all around the world and then everyone will watch iview.”

“We’re the ABC. We’re the Australian Bluey Corporation,” joked Wil Anderson.



  1. I’d like ABC to remove all licensed reruns of commercial content (30 Rock etc) and spend the savings on more original content and/or just fill in the schedule opened up with Rage repeats or more ABC back catalogue material.

    I find there to be zero legitimate reasons for the Australian Government and taxpayer to be funding big corporate studios in the US when such programming can be found in so many other places.

  2. They ABC has the largest young audience in the country. It’s just that it’s under 12. They are totally conditioned to watching ABC2, ABC3 and iView. It’s just that when they get into highschool, and get their own tablets and netbooks, they stream whatever their peer group thinks is cool.

    The ABC has a lot of older viewers do. They do news & current affairs and UK murder mysteries without ads in convenient timeslots. They even made their own murder mysteries, then axed them when they are at the peak of popularity, to chase younger viewers.

    The ABC, with it’s 7 levels of middle management contracting everything to the same producers, is just hopeless at the middle, teenagers. There they are competing against Netflix, YouTube and whatever the fad of the week is.

  3. Feel like the best point he makes is on ABC 2 / Comedy. How does a low rating channel that just plays reruns not feel exactly like a commercial network?

    Why not put the resources of ABC News channel and ABC Comedy, which rate very poorly and therefore don’t serve Australia, into a really great, single ABC brand of content that is shown online and on the ABC channel.

    The money spent on licences for The Office or 30 Rock don’t make any sense, especially when original content like Tonightly gets cut. Sure running US reruns is not 1-1 in terms of budget with original local content, but at that point why does the ABC even exist? Does a national broadcaster make sense if it’s wasting money on shows that are available on Netflix and Stan (and don’t rate well anyway).

  4. To view this in context, both Todd and Russell have made millions flogging product to consumers via advertising and the advertising industry despises the ABC because it has the capacity to take eyeballs away from advertising. Yes, there is an inevitable move to non-linear, but right now it’s so fragmented that if an advertiser wants maximum impact, eg to launch a new product, they will still use FTA as a primary device. People in advertising have always seen the ABC as something as a stalking horse to judge public sentiment and it is more likely on that basis that the Gruen panel is promoting such a move.

  5. Whilst on-demand programming is convenient, I still like being entertained by whatever is on the television at the time of viewing. An example of a transition to on-demand that I found to be a disappointment is how in-flight radio and television is being phased out and replaced with in-flight entertainment on personal devices, mostly on domestic flights. I very much enjoyed going through the channels and having the entertainment that someone else had pre-selected.

    I’d miss having entertainment selected by expert content selectors instead of having to think about what to watch or listen to if everything was only on-demand.

  6. What a sanctimonious tirade.

    How would any of what he suggest fit ABC’s charter? If ABC was a commercial concern, focused on generating profit, then, yes, go for it.

    Typical city person thinking squarely in the about how things should work in a capital city.

  7. I think Todd is forgetting one crucial element – iView relies on having good quality internet. And for a lot of places in Australia, the internet is still subpar. They shouldn’t move to such a model until every Australian has access to good internet, otherwise, you’re only furthering the divide between rural and urban areas in terms of internet quality.

  8. timmydownawell

    I was actually thinking about this a few days ago. If you were setting up a TV business now (whether pay or FTA), who in their right mind would create a linear TV channel/service? 10 is lucky they owed CBS so much money it made sense for them to take them over when they got into strife… but for NZ’s THREE it may well be game over. The days of FTA TV are numbered… linear channels really only make sense for live content like news and sport in this new market.

  9. At the end of the day the ABC is a tax payer funded corporation for a reason, it is the national broadcaster, in times of national emergency it will become the government’s communications service to keep people informed. I think those who see the ABC as something more than that, as an organisation that independently competes for profit in the cut throat commercial universe of TV ratings and reality TV can delude themselves on occasion. The average older viewing age could be simply because of the ABC’s news service, comedy shows and British TV content, it’s about the only place they can go if they only watch free to air terrestrial TV.

  10. I’d love to know where the get the average age of an ABC viewer as 66 from. ABC Kids regularly rates well on the multichannels, which I assume has the largest audience as preschoolers. With that taken into account, the rest of the ABC viewing audience must be *really* old.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.