Reach versus Audience? The case For & Against….

Is Reach a great proposition for ad agencies selling from a 'holistic screens approach?' Or is it smoke & mirrors to disguise a decline in Free to Air?

Is there a number that best reflects the way we are consuming television in 2024: National TV Reach or National TV Audience?

It’s been one of the hot talking points since Australia underwent its biggest change to TV Ratings reporting in 20 years.

Or should media now be reporting two numbers for every show, and how effective is that in the conversation?

Free to Air still has mass appeal and power. But there’s little doubt with so much shift in screens and behaviours the previous reporting was not keeping up, particularly when Television is competing with Online, Streaming, YouTube, Outdoor advertising etc.

National TV Audience numbers now address this with a combined average for both linear TV and BVOD (such as iview, 7plus etc) across both metro and regional markets.

National TV Reach is total unique audience exposed to a program, of at least one minute (broadcast TV) and / or 15 seconds (BVOD) of the program.

OzTAM, which has encouraged media to report Reach results, has so far delivered huge Reach numbers for shows following big reality TV. However, their National TV Audience, which it also supplies, is sometimes around half the figure.

While the advertising industry largely has access to detailed numbers, there is nonetheless some division…

OzTAM view:

Karen Halligan

“OzTAM’s new VOZ Total TV program ranking reports provide reach and audience data – both of which are relevant to media agencies across their full plan-trade-evaluate process. Reach-ranked viewership also provides a more comparable metric to other media, particularly online.

“OzTAM reports are public domain and as such can be interpreted by trade media as they see fit in their reporting.”

In Favour of National TV Reach:

Sarinna Harte,
Integrations and Agency Investment Lead Ryvalmedia

“When we’re talking from a screens approach, we’re talking about Reach in numbers, impressions, and things like that. So to have a metric to talk about all channels it’s relevant to have Reach, I think.

“(Previously) we were obviously looking at things like TARPs (Total Audience Rating Point). We were just getting Overnight numbers and things like that…. We would look at a programme for example, like Nine News, which against that audience would maybe TARP like 3.2, or something like that from a Total Audience that we’re buying against.

“Now we can see the Total National Reach, Regional included, and we can see BVOD numbers all together, it makes sense. It makes it a really great selling proposition for us to get clients on board for a ‘holistic screens approach’ (instead of) Traditional versus Digital. It’s great, because it’s all combined and we don’t have to go to several different platforms to then tell that story.”

Harte sees the benefits in Reach in buying and selling on the national audience. The biggest challenge is in clients grasping the granular changes.

“Probably the biggest qualm, I guess, is from an education point of view: where do those numbers fall within that programme? You’ve got 2 million people viewing MAFS, but where exactly were those 2 million people watching and where was your ad placed within that programme?

“So it’s an education process for media buyers and planners, and then for us to take that out to clients. I think the key thing is for the people who have built this model and this metric who understand it, to come in and do that educating to all media partners.

“There’s still a lot of questions in market. But I think having a bit more of a holistic screens Reach Total just helps us sell the ‘whole screens approach’ instead of looking at it specifically from a Traditional versus Digital model.”

In Favour of National TV Audience:

Frank Carlino
Sydney Investment Lead, Carat

“The networks can’t disguise the fact that clients still know what’s going on. As agencies we need to inform our clients and we continue to do that. So the tools still allow for us to give Average audience and that’s the way we buy, because when you put a spot in a certain programme you buy it to either an hour break, or whatever it is… it is average audience. You can’t actually pinpoint the amount of spikes in terms of the Reach. You can’t go ‘I want my spot at 10:01pm’, or else you pay a Premium.

“It’s not going to change the way we buy or what clients see. It’s just another way the networks are using to try and get some revenue back.”

Carlino has concerns with the ‘halo effect’ Reach is bringing to some shows.

“I wasn’t too surprised to see MAFS at 2.5m. The show that followed had a halo effect, so the first break-in off the back of MAFS, was probably 1.2 mil or something. But then on average, it hit like 600,000. So unless your spots are in that first break, and you had the benefit of your ad being seen, and people not switching over, then yes, it was that high. But we need to be looking at average.”

Are there any benefits from the new changes?

“I think it’s good for the TV industry to get revenue back for the networks but it’s just all smoke and mirrors. Reach isn’t what we trade on, we buy average audience. And also we don’t buy a national audience as well. We buy it by market.

“There’s clients across my patch, that just buy the eastern seaboard market: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. So there’s wastage there by looking at a Total National Reach when you’ve got Adelaide and Perth included.

“But it doesn’t really disguise the fact that TV is declining.

“Networks always try to lead with Reach and they’ve been doing that for a while. Every press release that comes out whenever a show launches, it’s always been about Reach. Clients tell me. ‘We want to sponsor this show, because it’s getting that many people,’ but we just always give them the numbers that we feel are the average audience.

“That’s the right number.”

Which best represents the way we are watching?

Loading ... Loading ...

30 Responses

  1. Does OzTam reporting factor in punters recording programs [particularly commercial FTA] on PVRs equipped to skip the ads – just to watch the actual content?…. where’s the advertiser reach there – 0?….Or isn’t any of this type of viewer programming consumption considered/measured… especially as it’s not conducive for Networks/Media brokers selling airtime to Advertisers [best to keep this information swept under the rug]?

  2. You know i have nothing against Reach but if you’re going to do it, 60s or 15s (depending where its measured) is not long enough to declare it. This new ratings tool is nothing but a deceptive manipulation to try and tell people more people are watching when in reality, they really aren’t. Its just one big hot mess. As someone who has followed rating for the last 20 odd years, I’m just disappointed. We wanted national & to a point we got that but we don’t see outside the top 20 and we have this weird piece of extra fluff we don’t need, plus network shares have disappeared (to the public) off the face of the earth. We have no idea who is really winning anymore. How its even legal to report this way in the first place is what surprises me most cos any other company manipulating data for personal gain like this could be in a lot of trouble. Its just disappointing. Be interesting to see how long it lasts cos i can still see more changes coming. IMO it just should be completely independent

  3. Surely the important figure is actual engagement . Ie who actually watched a show in its entirety .. dipping in and out in ad breaks paints a deceiving figure

  4. Reach makes more sense for events such as Olympics or Tennis or Cricket and maybe Breakfast shows where people drop in and out of the broadcast. And where people might watch parts of broadcast but not all

  5. Reach looks like a cheap way to increase or obfuscate the viewing figures. One minute reach isn’t going to be helpful to advertisers. It’s just an indication of viewers changing the channels. If I get distracted by something, I’ll attend to the distraction before changing channels. So there would probably be a good margin of error in it too.

    1. Yes. It’s basically counting someone who goes into a shop and has a look around before walking out without buying anything as a customer.

      With 100 minute shows they’re basically counting people who didn’t watch 99% of it as a viewer.

      Only positive of Reach is it discourages split coding.

  6. I find that the Reach Figures to be very pointless to me. When you watch a tv for one minute it counts as one viewer as reach. If I want to measure ratings data, it should be the national ratings average (which also includes BVOD national figures).

  7. I disagree with the ratings being ranked by reach now. No one has suddenly shifted to buying TV based on reach, and everyone still buys based on average audience, so please keep shows ranked by average audience. I think reach needs to be qualified so advertisers know the number = they watched to at least one ad break. No one (except the networks for bragging rights) cares that The Hundred reached 1.5M only because 400K didn’t immediately switch off from MAFS the second it started (hypothetical example).

    1. On second thought, measuring to the first ad break probably isn’t possible because it wouldn’t be standardised. Even just changing the reach interval to 5 minutes would help narrow down to people who are actually intending to watch the show i would think.

  8. So if the Commercial television industry code of practice stipulates no more than 13 to 15 minutes of non program material per hour. Assume 5x 3minute ad breaks per hour leaving 6 segments of approx. 7.5 minutes of program material.
    Rough calculations to illustrate but surely then reach should be a minimum of approx. 10.5 minutes to ensure the viewer has sat through at least one commercial break ???

  9. I am ok with having reach figures although they are open to manipulation but the top 30 programs should be listed on National TV audience. If that was changed I think problem solved. the biggest problem Oztam will have now is to be seen as deceptive. If advertisers lose trust in Oztam they may just walk.

      1. Where the have been going for a decade online through Google, Facebook, Apple and now they also have ad funded plans on Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon they can buy slots in. Screen at bus stops and train stations, in supermarkets, doctors surgeries, chemists, gyms. It’s endless. What FTA used to offer was simultaneous viewing of ads by very large audiences. They want these inflated reach numbers to compete against other options, just so that their existing advertisers don’t keep leaving.

  10. The problem with the new reporting methodology is trying to homogenise a figure that is many things to many people.

    Personally, national average is important to me as I can see how a show I like / worked on performed. Is it resonating, what works and what doesn’t? I like to see how the entire country reacts to something.

    5 city metro had always been half the picture for me, but I can absolutely see the value splitting Metro and Regional for advertisers (and even city by city) and can see why they want to stay with these figures.

    And I can see how reach works for big events like the footy GFs and Matilda’s games, long events that have people popping in and out to watch at various points. Adding a peak figure (and time of peak even) would make this a more useful metric. But reach in daily reports is just rubbish when the avg audience is often a third of less of the reach figure.

    It’s a tricky one and I’m not sure they thought it through properly.

  11. Another valid question: why has national (i.e.) including regional suddenly become so vital? Is it also to inflate the numbers in a declining market? Or has something changed? Because I recall Nine’s chief of sales Michael Stephenson saying countless times in articles/releases or interviews perhaps with you at TVT or MW ‘we are only interested in five city metro (namely Syd and Melb or east coast) and 25-54 & 16-39, that is what advertisers chase and I’ve never done a brief for total people or national; we also can’t monetise national/regional properly due to not owning/controlling those stations (e.g.) WIN. [I paraphrased as best I could recall]. So that gives you an idea of where Nine at least were or probably are still at, hmm…

    1. Why shouldn’t those of us in regional areas be counted? We’re watching the programs as well. And while the excuse that we’re not being given the same advertisements might have worked 20-25 years ago, we all know now that The Block is just a 90 minute Mitre 10 ad every evening, while MasterChef is just a Coles ad, and we’re all watching the same thing because it’s integrated into the show.

  12. Oh dear, what a disaster! I appreciate a lot of time and hard work has gone into the new system, but National TV Reach is a joke. (Who really cares about a one minute reach? Plus, it unfairly inflates figures for programs before and after big hitters.) Stick with National TV Audience

  13. For me, the biggest reason why the Reach figures are so pointless is because it’s based off just 1 minute of viewing. Surely, it should be based off at least 10 minutes of viewing? That way you would have viewed at least 1 full segment of a program. I really can’t see any value in showing figures for how many people watched 1 minute of something. For now, it’s the national audience average figures I’ll be following.

    Side note: well done David for the great work you’ve been doing in navigating these enormous changes and clearly explaining them to us. Your site continues to be amazing.

  14. I don’t think anyone has a problem with the reach figure being more prominently featured in daily reporting. The problem is that they’ve made it the lead figure that program rankings are based on and it’s ridiculous. The average audience figure should be what the program rankings are based on and the reach ‘peak’ figure should be reported as an aside literally in a column on the far right of their TAM Tables. Media outlets “encouraged” by OzTam to report reach as the lead figure should act independently and not be influenced by the fact reach reporting might earn then brownie points with tv networks who feed them stories or buy ads in their papers/websites. The audience can see through it and will not be happy in the long run.

Leave a Reply