No fluff coverage wins election night ratings

The Federal Election results in Australia are still being counted and a winner is yet to be announced. However the election on Saturday did see Australians overwhelmingly vote for who had the best election coverage on TV. None other than the good old Aunty, the ABC.

The ABC election coverage upstaged both Seven and Nine and to a lesser extent Ten (as it had AFL commitments for the majority of the evening) by having the highest rating election coverage with 1,017,000 viewers according to Oztam. For the record however the number 1 program for the night was Seven News at 6pm with 1,252,000. The Top 20 programs according to Oztam (figures from mediaweek) were as follows:

What is interesting from this Top 20 is that extravagant coverage by Seven and Nine which included with big sets, well-manned panelists and their respective breakfast duos hosting their programs could not knock off the ABC’s coverage which was headed by Kerry O’Brien, Tony Jones and Antony Green or even crack a million viewers nationally.

The broadcasts by the commercial networks were a form of loss-leading brand management in that the broadcasts were never going to be profitable (given they were commercial free).  However, each network must have been hoping that their outlay of significant costs would have resulted in at least larger ratings and being able to topple the national broadcaster. The network heads would have to be somewhat disappointed.

In any event, the Australian electorate clearly voted with their remotes that fluff coverage and “branded” election coverage is out in favour of no-fluff election coverage. As noted on Paul Murray Live on Sky News on Sunday some of the segments featured on Seven and Nine’s broadcast were somewhat laughable. On Seven their was the ‘Swing’ and ‘Amazing Race’ (no doubt a cross-promotion for Seven’s upcoming Australian version of ‘the Amazing Race) and on Nine their election ‘domino’ and ‘shooting ducks’ segments, whilst there to entice viewers, clearly were not gimmicks favoured by the majority of those watching an election broadcast on Saturday night.

The other interesting point to note from Saturday night’s election coverage was the vast difference throughout the night as to the predicted House of Representative seats that the Coalition and Labor parties would take. As Glenn Dyer in Crikey points out “the ABC seemed to be on the ball.”

The Top 20 Oztam ratings on Saturday night also demonstrate the strength of the new FTA ‘digital’ channels with three programs in the Top 20 from the digital-only channels and those channels generating a combined share of 17.4%, compared with pay-TV’s audience share 16.9%, according to Crikey. Speaking of pay-TV the battle between the 24-hour news networks saw Sky News victorious over ABC News 24 (mind you News 24 was simulcasting ABC1’s election coverage) with 65,000 watching Sky News as opposed to 39,000 on ABC News 24. It should be noted Sky News ran two separate feeds with David Speers hosting coverage on Sky News National and Peter van Onselen hosting coverage from the national tally room on Sky News Business.

The election result is yet to be finalised but Saturday night’s ratings result illustrates that the ABC is Australia’s most trusted source for news. The coverage mounted by the commercial networks was impressive and enjoyable to watch (including the Election Project on Ten), however in the end the colourful nature of breakfast TV does not appear to have translated across to what the viewer wanted from their election broadcast. Only time will tell whether the expensive branding exercises the commercial networks went through on Saturday night will result in a stronger brand and ratings into the future which in turn will secure stronger revenues.

In any event on Saturday the cumulative viewing total for all Top 20 election related programs was 6,159,000 people. Clearly election broadcasts were popular but in the end the overall victor was slightly surprising.

Did you watch any election broadcasts on Saturday night? Give us your thoughts below.

Leave a Reply