The Seven Network has launched a surprise legal action against the Nine Network in a move designed to prevent it from marketing Today as ‘Australia’s Nb1’ Breakfast program.
Over the weekend the Nine Network sent out a media release claiming victory for 2016 in the ongoing battle for ratings between Today and Sunrise. A move that quickly was rebutted in a series of media releases from Seven. The matter is now set to appear in the Federal court on Friday.
According to Nine, 'Today has now won 21 weeks out of the 35 weeks’ official ratings weeks so far this year across the five mainland capitals, putting it in what the network describes as an ‘unbeatable position and awarding it a 5 City Metro ratings victory for 2016'.
This figure from Nine excludes the two weeks of Olympics. There has been a long-standing agreement between networks to exclude Olympic ratings as they can cause confusion in year on year averages.
The Today program has not won the yearly breakfast battle across the 5 City Metro since 2003.
This year Today has averaged 317,000* viewers each morning in 2016 (up 5% year-on-year**), compared to Sunrise which has an average morning audience of 310,000* (down 5% year-on-year**).
A spokesperson for Seven was quick to refute Nine’s claims last weekend telling DeciderTV:
"Winning" the five city metro weeks (as accurately stated in the release) does not qualify to be Australia's Number 1. The year is defined by average audiences across a period not weekly wins. Nine appears to be excluding a few things and weeks to make its claim. It is too close to call across five capital cities with five weeks remaining in the survey year. Regardless, we dominate across Australia.”
Seven is now relying on regional ratings figures to claim the title of ‘Australia’s Nb1’. Sunrise remains dominate across Regional Australia on the Prime Network. However, this does little to help Seven’s adverting revenue.
Networks have traditionally only used metro audience to determine viewership, however with overall audiences declining, networks have started talking up national ratings to boost the figures. A Nine Network insider told DeciderTV recently:
“Today are using the same metric that has been used for the breakfast TV battle for the past 15 years. A check of past media releases from both sides will confirm that. For Sunrise to start changing the metric is like Donald Trump saying he'll only accept the election result if he wins. It's always been "weeks won in survey period". Even if you do count the Olympics for the purposes of average 5CM audience, Today has still won 21 weeks and is unbeatable.”
*Source: OzTAM, 5 City Metro, Consolidated, 2016, Weeks 7 – 43 (excluding Easter & Olympics).
**Compared to Weeks 7-43 (excluding Easter) of 2015.