Sydney, Australia -- Pay television executives here are
examining the data from the industry's long-awaited viewership survey.
The Peoplemeter ratings were conducted during July by AC
Nielsen Corp.'s Australian unit. Data was released earlier this month.
While pay TV has been in Australia for five years, there
have been no solid viewership numbers against which advertisers could measure its
performance and accountability.
John Porter, the CEO of wireless and direct-to-home
operator Austar Communications Ltd. and chairman of the Australian Subscription Television
and Radio Association, said the ratings illustrate that in terms of ad revenue, pay TV has
room to grow.
Although the figures show that pay TV attracts 7.3 percent
of all viewers, he said, the medium receives only one half of 1 percent of
Australia's $A2.5 billion ($US1.625 billion) in TV advertising spending.
David Malone, CEO of Multichannel Network, which sells ad
avails for Austar and MSO Foxtel, said he expects pay TV ad spending to grow from $A25
million to $A40 million ($US16 million to $US26 million) this year.
Pay TV ad-sales reps have been encouraged by the initial
viewing shares which, they said, show better-than-expected results, particularly among
children. Discovery Channel revealed that the top channels among the ad-supported services
in the 18- to 55-year-old demo are Fox Sports, TV1, and -- tied for third place --
Discovery and Nickelodeon.
Overall, pay TV is capturing 7.3 percent of the television
viewing share throughout Australia, but in pay TV households -- which number just more
than 1 million -- the weekly share across all channels averages 46 percent. It reaches as
high as 60 percent during daytime hours.
However, pay TV has yet to make an impact in the key 6 p.m.
to 8:30 p.m. primetime slot. Broadcasters have jumped on these numbers, arguing that pay
channels have little or no impact on their audiences.
"Free-to-air stations maintain their dominance in all
dayparts, particularly in the primetime slots," said Catherine Byrne, director of
marketing and communications for the Federation of Australian Commercial Television
Stations. "This slot accounts for about 80 percent of viewing in Australian homes --
a fact not lost on advertisers."
But pay TV executives counter that those figures do not
represent their business. Advertisers will base their buying decisions on individual
channels and dayparts, according to Mark Furness, corporate affairs director at Foxtel.
To some, the numbers suggest a whole lot of potential.
"This represents an enormous revenue opportunity for pay TV," said Porter.
"Our advertising-revenue share will definitely grow, and we see no reason why
Australia should prove different to similar countries such as the United States."