There was an opinion piece in this weekends AFR by Alan Stokes in which the author discussed the current situation at Network 10 and what Lachlan Murdoch in his role as interim CEO should do to win back the 16-39 youth demographic to Ten.
Stokes argued, correctly, that Ten had made a strategic error in trying to force its audience to ‘grow up’ and embrace news and drama instead of the younger, light entertainment content that had defined the network for the better part of the last two decades.
He also suggested that Ten had for too long looked to the Simpsons and Neighbours as key pillars for 16-39’s despite the fact most of the coveted ‘youth demographic’ had moved on from these two shows and onto edgier alternatives.
Instead, Stokes suggested Ten draft in Family Guy (which Seven has the rights to in AU and runs on 7 Mate), up its weekly broadcasts of Glee and Modern Family and turn 7pm Project more tabloid. He also suggested Ten ditch the Mum and Dad dramas of House, The Good Wife (I’d throw Blue Bloods into this category as well) and scrap Good News Week.
To round it out Stokes’s plan was to beef up the presence of Masterchef and expand the remit of One HD to become more about blokes and less about straight sport.
I liked the thinking but the only flaw was it didn’t really investigate what a similar approach would look like online.
From someone in the 16-39 demographic I feel as a viewer that Ten has erred old (for a younger skewed network) for the last 3 years. Shows like GNW, My Generation, Simpsons and Neighbours just don’t – to me – feel relevant for the 16-39 audience anymore. The two biggest phenomenons for TV in this demo are Family Guy and Jersey Shore, and neither are on Network 10.
Online it’s hard to tell where Ten really is aiming at. The digital options are led by TV so it, as a digital product, hasn’t really found its own identity.
However, from all reports Ten’s digital efforts are lean on costs and strong on revenue relative to audience. It’s main activity in the last 24 months has been around Oasis Active (a singles site) and Our Deal (a group buying site). It has also bolstered its video offering and under CDO Nick Spooner, it has fixed up what, for all intents and purposes, was a pretty limp digital offerings pre his arrival.
If Murdoch wants Ten to really own 16-39’s online where would it start?
First of all it needs to become the definitely go-to when it comes to insights around this audience. It is not presently doing this. My feeling is to ‘own’ an audience you need to understand them better than anyone else – and that extends beyond knowing how they watch TV. You want to understand their opinions, thoughts, needs around entertainment and content and be excellent at selling this to advertisers and helping them create relevant communication for this audience. This starts with data, insight and information as well as creativity and an element of gut feel.
Secondly, it needs strong offerings in the areas 16-39 audience use heavily online – music, entertainment, social, video, humour – and areas that have social currency.
Thirdly, it might need to expand what it offers up online beyond straight extensions of TV programming – ie, licencing international sites that play well around these categories and audience or buying up local sites with established audiences and extending these into TV through the multichannels.
The core challenge is adapting as quickly as the audience does – which is difficult with 16-39. The categories of music, entertainment, humour, social and video have been dramatically changed through the web.
Ten or so years ago music was radically different to how it is now. The way its consumed, the way its purchased, the way its reported, the way its discovered. Entertainment is the same – most light/gossip entertainment 10 years ago was discovered often weeks after it happened through magazines or through TV reports. Now it’s instant and immediate thanks to sites like TMZ. Video is another on demand channel – torrents have meant people can download whatever they want whenever they want – which has wreaked havoc with programming schedules as consumers are not willing to wait 6 months for shows to arrive in AU.
Humour and memes online have become big businesses. Sites like Cheezburger, Texts from Last Night, Damn You Auto Correct and F My Life have anywhere from 150,000 to 500,000 users every month from Australia alone. For many 16-39 year olds this form of entertainment has eaten significantly into TV. It’s edgy, topical and quick … it works for todays audience. Ten years ago this was a fringe activity online or relegated to joke email forwards.
And social and, in many ways, local are weaved within all of these categories now – a real challenge for a company built on a broadcast base.
If you look at Ten’s digital presence now it’s credentials in these areas aren’t as solid as they could be.
But if you could build these, and pair them with a reinvigorated broadcast suite for this audience and Ten’s sales team the upside could be significant.
For brands and advertisers it would surely be appealing – if there was a network that could link them to not only the TV content that 16-39’s liked, but their favourite music sites, short form videos and entertainment outlets on the web as well, it would be an attractive proposition if integrated smartly. Much more exciting than a few banners on the web extension of a TV title. And Ten could pull this off as they have a solid presence in the ad market with trust that has been developed over decades.
Add radio to the above mix (Murdoch has a significant stake in DMG) and you could create a multi channel sales approach which blends TV, radio and web. Radio could offer brand extensions for both TV shows and web brands. It could play a pivotal role in creating real cross media brands.
That’s even more appealing for consumers, investors as well as advertisers. Seriously.