July has seen the biggest shake up in the regional TV market in 20 years. And the ramifications could soon bring about the closure of Australia’s biggest regional TV news provider.
When the Nine Network made the decision to move it’s programming away from WINTV and sign a new deal with Southern Cross Austereo. It triggered a series of important changes.
WIN was left with no option but to sign an affiliate agreement with the perennial third place network TEN. It also meant WIN had to move its nightly regional news bulletins from a dominant 7pm timeslot after National Nine News, to a far less prominent 6pm timeslot wedged between Ten Eyewitness New and The Project.
The result has seen WIN’s Local News bulletins instantly lose over 50% of their average audience. In the first week of WIN News being partnered with TEN programming it averaged just 99,551 viewers. That included 55,565 viewers in Southern NSW and 43,986 in Victoria.
By comparison in the same week last year, WIN News had an average audience of 209,158 viewers, including 101,942 in Southern NSW and an impressive 107,216 in Victoria. Audience levels failed to improve in the second week of the new arrangement.
The new 6pm timeslot spells disaster for WIN News. The local bulletins no longer get the benefit of strong lead-in programming, and instead have to compete head-on with national news bulletins from Seven and Nine.
Such a dramatic decline in audience will no doubt lead to a decline in advertising revenue.
WIN News traditionally appeals to a much older audience while TEN’s programming is targeted at the Under 55’s.
And all of this comes at a time when WIN’s costs are rising. Under it’s previous agreement with Nine it paid approximately 37% of its ad-revenue to its network partner. Now working with TEN its believed that figure has risen above 45%.
In the past 6 months WIN has acted to reduce production costs by closing its Victorian studios and moving all News production to Wollongong. News presenters are now appearing on multiple pre-recorded bulletins in different regions, while the number of reporters in the field has been reduced. It’s hard to see what else WIN can do to reduce costs.
The network is owned by Bermuda based tycoon Bruce Gordon, a man not use to losing money. If audience levels do not improve, WIN will have no choice but to start axing under-performing bulletins.