EXCLUSIVE: Last week both TEN and Nine began to split shows for coding purposes with OzTAM.
The Project is now coded at two titles. On Wednesday night The Project 6pm rated 528,000 while The Project 6:30pm was 697,000 -a difference of 169,000.
Similarly Nine pulled 812,000 for The Celebrity Apprentice Challenge and 858,000 for The Celebrity Apprentice Boardroom -a difference of 46,000.
All three commercial networks have previously coded sone shows as different weekdays: (ie. The Block Monday, MasterChef Tuesday, My Kitchen Rules Wednesday). All three have famously broken out separate numbers for Grand Finals. The Block: The Winner Announced was the highest rated show for 2011, despite it airing for only a handful of minutes.
Advertisers and networks can see minute by minute data. Audiences and EPGs just sample one show, with no discernment where or how shows are coded with OzTAM. So why is it necessary to break out the numbers?
Surely it’s all about media headlines. When you’re launching a new show it helps to have good press. A show can float to the top of the heap when it is coded in such a way that its numbers are closer to a peak than the average.
In December OzTAM said it had concerns about the increasing practice and wanted some industry consensus.
At the start of this year, TV Tonight asked three Programmers for their views on the subject. Since that time, two networks have now recommenced the practice. So what are their individual strategies and just how far can it go?
Michael Healy, Director of Television at Nine, said: “I’m really comfortable with the way the coding system works. I think all networks have used it to their advantage.
“A show performs as it performs whether it starts on the clock hour or the half of the clock hour, a show still pulls as it pulls.”
By contrast David Mott, Chief Programming Officer at TEN questioned the widespread use of the practice.
“It has become a complete scam. To separate programs with a winner announced program running two minutes is a joke. You cannot find time for a commercial break so what is the point?” he said.
“We have raised it with OzTAM and they are on the case.
“If a program finale runs for a period longer than an hour then I agree the winner announced portion could be split as a separate program, however we have been clear it should be no less than 20 minutes.”
Seven is yet to split coding within daily programmes, but Head of Programming Angus Ross indicates if the strategy continues, he would need to follow suit.
“I’ve had a number of discussions with other Programmers at other networks, and I’m not naming names, but I think some people would like to chop up every programme they have into 5 minute segments. That’s the sort of thing you do when you don’t have depth in your schedule, and I can understand them doing that, because when you’ve got something working you want to make it look like it’s doing more than it actually is,” he said.
“That’s not our view but if other people believe that is the way forward I would have to move in that direction as well.”
Ross said OzTAM was having discussions with the networks and hopefully some common sense would prevail.
“If you’ve got a show on one night and then it’s on another night I think it probably makes sense to call it something else. If you’ve got something on four nights a week it occupies a lot of real estate, so if it just appears as one entry it probably underplays the importance of a show.
“As an industry we’ve got to come together and find something that makes sense for everyone, so I will go with whatever directives come as long as it’s fair for everyone.
“Australia leads the way in this area!”