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Reach to their own: The ABC should focus on the real problem

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Reach to their own: The ABC should focus on the real problem

The ABC should explain its dwindling audience and diminished authority, says Nick Cater.

It is telling that in his response to my opinion piece in yesterday's The Australian, ABC Head of Communicaitons Nick Leys (left) makes no attempt to refute the main argument in my article; that their economic correspondent’s misjudgement has further damaged the broadcaster’s reputation.

Instead, he focuses on the difference between "share" and "reach" in regard to the size of the ABC's audience.

There are several ways of measuring audience engagement, but on all of them the ABC is locked in long-term decline. If anything, the viewing figures in my column were over-estimates. 

The main ABC channel’s consolidated five-city metropolitan total TV share for week seven this year (11-17 February) was 9.2 per cent. The ABC’s total TV audience including ABC2, ABC ME and ABC News was 12.5 per cent.

The figures for other channels (main channel / all channels) were:

Seven: 22.6 per cent / 32.8 per cent
Nine: 16.2 / 21.7
Ten: 8.6 / 12.3
SBS: 3.3 / 4.6

The ABC underestimates the reach of Netflix. Roy Morgan estimates 7,558,000 Australians aged 14+ (or 37.7 per cent) had Netflix in the three months to June 2017 – up from 4,453,000 (22.6 per cent) in the March quarter 2016.

It is telling that the ABC should resort to “reach” figures, presumably in order to bolster its morale. Oztam classifies reach as “the sum of the number of unique viewers who have seen at least one minute of an event or time band across its total duration.”

The ABC’s five-city TV reach measured by Oztam has declined from 68.1 per cent in 2001 to 52.2 per cent last year.

On present trends, the “reach” of Netflix will surpass that of the ABC in the next two years.

The two figures, however, are hardly comparable. Netflix viewers actually have to pay for their service, while to be captured in the ABC’s “reach” figure, one merely has to leave the television switched to a free-to-air channel for at least 60 seconds.

The methodology for measuring Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) is still evolving, but it is fair to assume that paying customers are more committed than those who watch for free.

"SOLID AND SERENE": Former ABC Chairman Richard Boyer on the role of public broadcasting

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