Nine emerges from the ratings wilderness to snatch Seven’s lead with a steady ship

The 12 long years as runner-up for the Nine Network is over after it finally knocked the rival Seven Network out of its top rating position.

This year, Nine, the publisher of this masthead, can again claim to be the most watched network in the traditional ratings year, which began on February 20 and ended on Saturday.

Australian Ninja Warrior helped propel Nine to a ratings victory.

Nine claimed a 29.4 per cent share of the total audience, 0.4 points ahead of Seven on 29 per cent, while Ten came third with a 17.2 per cent share, up 0.5 points on last year.

But increasingly the focus has moved from total people to advertiser demographics.

“The hardest thing to do is be everything to all people. I think it is quite a fatal path to go down if you are going to try to keep an eye on total people,” said Nine’s director of programming, Hamish Turner.

“Winning total people is a bonus, but we aren’t going to program around that.”

Mr Turner puts the success of Nine down to consistency throughout the year and in the years before, particularly in the important 7.30pm time slot.

Shows like Married At First Sight, Ninja Warrior and The Voice have all increased their audience share year on year, while new formats like Lego Masters have been a hit.

“I don’t think there was any time in the year where we had to move very much out of that 7.30pm slot,” Mr Turner said.

“The one thing that can kill you is failure in a slot like 7.30pm. When you pull content out of certain areas you are stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”

The focus on consistency is evidenced in the 2020 slate of programs Nine will offer, with very little changing in the schedule aside from a few new programs. The shows mentioned above will all return.

After losing some traction in 2019, My Kitchen Rules will be revamped in 2020.

It is a different story at Seven, where shows that failed to succeed has seen it lose the total people win, but it can celebrate strong wins in news and breakfast, two of the most important timeslots for setting up the day and the evening for viewers.

But underperforming shows in the 7.30pm timeslot will see Seven pin its 2020 hopes of a resurgence on a host of new or resurrected programming that will focus on advertiser demographics, specifically the 25 to 54-year-old age bracket.

“We have a lot to be proud of at Seven in 2019,” Seven’s head of programming, Angus Ross, said in a statement.

“Seven news and Seven sport have delivered dominant results, with Seven news, Sunrise, AFL and cricket all number one this year.

“Next year, we’re going to build on our news and sport foundation by refreshing existing
programs and adding six new stripped programs focusing on 25-54s to our prime time
entertainment schedule: Pooch Perfect, Farmer Wants a Wife, Big Brother, Mega Mini Golf,
SAS: Who Dares Wins and Plate of Origin. With bigger shows and bigger stars, combined
with the power of Seven news, AFL, cricket and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Seven will deliver in
2020.”

Ten will also maintain a steady keel with the majority of their marquee programming returning next year.

Ten has adopted the same steady-as-she-goes approach as Nine. Three quarters of Ten's 2019 programming in the 7.30pm time slot has been renewed.

“We took some big swings this year and, in many cases, they paid off – 75 per cent of our big domestic 7.30pm franchises are returning next year,” Ten’s chief content officer, Beverley McGarvey, said.

“As we look to 2020, we’re building on our successes this year and giving our audiences more from the shows they know and love. Our schedule will have familiarity and consistency while still feeling fresh and exciting.”

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