TV dinner: CEOs unite on three Rs – ratings, regulation & revenue

ThinkTV CEO Kim Portrate united the commercial TV CEOs for a dinner in Sydney.

Commercial television marketing body ThinkTV lined up its ducks in a neat row this week with the announcement from OzTAM about the new total TV measurement VOZ, the release of TV ad revenue data and more research explaining how well TV advertising works.

• TV leaders welcome VOZ total TV measurement coming in 2019

The cornerstone of this marketing attack though was a Sydney chief executive dinner hosted by ThinkTV CEO Kim Portrate, which united the chief executives of Foxtel, Ten, Nine and Seven onstage to talk about the sector.

For good measure the media industry’s go-to marketing professor Mark Ritson was also added to the bill.

Ritson was the first featured speaker and his presentation about how TV is not dead played well to the TV crowd. He painted Google and Facebook as the revenue thieves and ridiculed journalists for not better understanding the business imperatives that are driving the media industry.

Joanne Gray, Patrick Delany, Paul Anderson, Hugh Marks and Tim Worner

Next up were Foxtel’s Patrick Delany, Ten’s Paul Anderson, Nine’s Hugh Marks and Seven’s Tim Worner, who were interviewed by The AFR’s managing editor Joanne Gray.

Gray started with “my new boss”, Hugh Marks, and asked about the rationale behind the proposed Nine-Fairfax merger. Marks responded with what he has told all the interviewers he has faced over the past week, telling them it was about good content driving the business and attracting advertisers. Gray persisted with questions about editorial independence despite Marks reminding her it was a TV marketing forum and he would rather talk up the TV sector.

When asked about Nine guaranteeing Fairfax editors editorial independence, Marks replied: “We are reliant on great editors continuing to do great work.” He then shot down any more talk about industry rationalisation.

Gray tried Tim Worner too on how Seven might respond, but he was even less inclined to talk about consolidation than Marks.

Worner instead warmed to the theme of the night, telling guests: “Nothing engages an audience like television. If you advertise on TV you need to make sure you have enough stock because you will sell out.”

Gray then asked about the ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry.

Ten’s Paul Anderson said: “All we want is a level playing field. We all operate in a regulated market, which mandates the sort of content we have to supply.”

Patrick Delany, Paul Anderson, Hugh Marks and Tim Worner

When speaking about the future of TV, Worner hinted at a near-death experience. “Television was never dying. But it had a long afternoon nap for a while.”

On the various players working together, Worner said: “We should compete on content and collaborate on technology.”

On the power of the FTA platform, Anderson said: “The power of television is you get a big chunk of people over a short period of time.”

He later added: “The catch-up audiences alone on some shows are now bigger than radio show audiences.”

When ratings were mentioned, Worner said: “We shouldn’t provide overnight numbers – it is a number that is misleading.” He added they should release only the consolidated figures. Asked later when that could start, he quipped possibly today, as Seven was up against finals of MasterChef and Ninja Warrior last night.

Foxtel’s Patrick Delany spoke enthusiastically about forthcoming changes at the subscription TV provider. “We are really going to exploit streaming and we are going to develop other platforms.”

He reminded guests as to the size of Foxtel – “We have a $3b turnover and 2.8m households subscribing. The release of iQ4 will see us hammering streaming.”

The biggest achievement from the ThinkTV team was probably the guest list, which included heavy hitters from both sides of the Tasman.

Attending with the CEOs were some of their key team members, commercial directors: Seven’s Kurt Burnette, Nine’s Michael Stephenson, Ten’s Rod Prosser and new MCN chief Mark Frain.

TV programmers included Seven’s Angus Ross, Nine’s Michael Healy, Ten’s Beverley McGarvey and Foxtel’s Brian Walsh.

Comms teams keeping an eye on their bosses and circling journalists included Ten’s Vida Scott, Nine’s Vic Buchan and Nic Christensen, Seven’s Stephen Browning with ThinkTV’s Dominic White and Rochelle Burbury also keeping an eye on the journos.

Guests from New Zealand included MediaWorks CEO Michael Anderson (also a former Fairfax board member for six years) and outgoing Sky Television CEO John Fellet, who is running the business until they find a replacement. Also invited was TVNZ chief Kevin Kenrick.

Invited media agency chiefs included IPG’s Danny Bass, WPP’s Mike Connaghan and John Steedman, OMG’s Peter Horgan and GroupM’s Mark Lollback.

Advertisers attended from Volkswagen, Virgin Australia, AANA, L’Oreal, Nissan, Unilever, Optus, Nestlé, KFC, Suncorp, Aldi, Audi and Vodafone.

Other industry figures included OzTAM’s Doug Peiffer, reps from the NRL and AFL, Ebiquity’s Richard Basil-Jones, PwC’s Megan Brownlow, Sunita Gloster and Russel Howcroft, Fox Sports’ Peter Campbell, new ACMA CEO Creina Chapman, Fairfax Media’s James Chessell, Seven’s Clive Dickens, MFA’s Sophie Madden, Freeview’s Liz Ross, Stan chief executive Mike Sneesby and ThinkTV’s Steve Weaver.

Top photo: Tim Worner, Patrick Delany, Kim Portrate, Hugh Marks and Paul Anderson

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