Mark Ritson Columnist

Mark is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Melbourne Business School and is recognised as one of the world's leading experts on brand strategy. His clients have included McKinsey, PepsiCo, Donna Karan, Johnson & Johnson, Dom Perignon, Baxter, De Beers, Krug, Ericsson and WD40.

View more articles from Mark Ritson

Channel Nine the State of Origin’s real winner

Published 13 June 2013 00:45, Updated 13 June 2013 07:13

+font -font print
Channel Nine the State of Origin’s real winner

The action-packed State of Origin series now attracts 2.5 million live viewers: a boon for TV advertisers who can afford a 30-second slot. Photo: Adam McLean

Last week’s first State of Origin rugby league game made as many headlines off the field as on it. While the match has always been a major part of the sporting calendar, and a massive event in both NSW and Queensland, it’s pedigree as a marketing vehicle is also on the rise.

On the field the Blues enjoyed a well-earned home victory in the first of three series. Channel Nine also scored a ratings and revenue coup. According to B&T magazine, Nine charged upwards of $55,000 for a 30-second ad spot last week and, more importantly given the degree and depth of discounting that the major channels now engage in to ensure they sell all their spots, even the biggest client was apparently offered no more than a 10 per cent reduction from the quoted rate card figures.Not bad when you consider that it is commonplace to secure discounts of up to 40 per cent from Nine and the other major channels on occasion.

So why was the State of Origin such a strong performer? There are four key factors.

First, and most obviously, it’s just a sensationally well-watched sporting event. At the time of writing the final TV audience from last week’s game was yet to be revealed.

But most pundits expect it to match, and possibly exceed, the 2.5 million viewers who tuned in last year in the five city metro markets.To put that in perspective, that is almost double the metro audience that blockbuster shows like The Block are currently achieving.

Second, the audience for the State of Origin games is on the increase. Queenslanders will tune in for anything in which their state takes on another. But in recent years the notoriously fickle Sydney audience has grown dramatically as engagement and interest in the series has increased.

To complete the trifecta, viewers in Melbourne are increasingly tuning in. It’s likely that more than 300,000 Melburnians watched the game last week, making it significantly more popular in Melbourne than many of the home-grown AFL games shown this year.

Third, add to the growing quantitative audience the qualitative appeal of reaching so many 18 to 34-year-old men. This has always been a notoriously difficult segment for advertisers to reach and the arrival of computer games and hand-held devices – a significant drain on this segment’s TV viewing potential – has made this demographic even more fickle for TV ads in recent years.

Again, the State of Origin appeals to advertisers not just because of the gross numbers but the identity of the audience they can reach.

The last factor is perhaps the most important and certainly the most intriguing. If you look at the total audience for the State game last week in metro markets, it was approximately twice the size of Seven’s popular drama Packed to the Rafters. And yet it was securing significantly more than twice the price for a 30-second spot. The reason for that premium price can be explained by time-shifting, or the lack thereof in the case of the State of Origin.

No chance to fast forward

Packed to the Rafters attracted an audience of 1.4 million people in metro markets last week. Almost one in five of that audience was watching the episode later in the week on a PVR device – most likely a Foxtel IQ. While that is great news for the program makers, it may not be quite so positive for advertisers. Because unlike live viewing, the opportunity to zip through the ads during program breaks is a temptation that most households succumb to.

Despite advertisers claiming that zipping through a 30-second TV ad in one second still counts as exposure to the message, anyone with even mild objectivity would agree that this is not a true audience for advertising. So for dramas like The Good Wife (39 per cent time shifted viewing), Grey’s Anatomy (55 per cent) and Private Practice (a whopping 70 per cent) there is a relatively large audience for the show, but a significantly smaller one for the ads that sponsor it.

The ultimate power of the State of Origin is that it would have been watched live by 99 per cent of viewers. And that means the ads were watched too. Unless, of course, seven pots of beer and the call of nature forced much of the game’s audience to engage in other non-viewing pursuits. As yet, marketers are yet to come up with a technology to reduce that eternal audience drain.

Topics:

Comments