Networks take rivalry online
MAY 25, 2006
BENEATH the surface of the daily television ratings battle, the Seven and Nine networks are locked in an equally fierce stoush for online supremacy.
Since the Seven Network teamed up with global search engine Yahoo! in December last year, a large transformation has occurred in the online scene.
Ninemsn, the venture between Nine's parent Publishing and Broadcasting Limited and Microsoft, was the first partnership between a TV network and a technology group. Seven tried to replicate the model with AOL, but that failed and it finally returned to the market with the Yahoo! deal.
Although Google is the biggest threat to Ninemsn and Yahoo!7, Nine and Seven are the only two TV companies in Australia to have teamed up with search engines to create large internet portals. As soon as Seven teamed up with Yahoo!, it returned from the internet wilderness to become the country's fourth most popular site, behind Google, Microsoft and Ninemsn. The Nielsen//
NetRatings Netview report for April 2006 showed that Ninemsn had a unique audience of 7.7million users while Yahoo!7 had 5.1million. And as the competition heats up, they're both searching for new chief executives.
Online media buying group NetX's chairman Craig Wilson says Ninemsn must now do more to maintain its lead over Yahoo!7: "They had a window of competitive inactivity but the competition has changed and Nine need to get more aggressive to stay where they are."
Beyond Interactive's digital manager Andrea Rule believes Ninemsn has the best offering for advertisers with related companies such as Nine Pixels, which creates online ads, and Platform Nine, a service offering online video ads on non-Ninemsn sites. "Now that Yahoo! and Seven have merged, they have the opportunity to do these things and they have got the content, which is probably the most important thing," she said.
If content is one battle front, the other is technology. Last month Yahoo! signed a deal with Nokia to embed Yahoo!'s messaging, search and browsing features in future Nokia phones.
But Ninemsn is also evolving and is expected to launch a new version of Microsoft's online advertising system adCenter this year. It also recently set up a new video-on-demand service, Catch-Up TV, which offers downloads of Nine's shows for $1.95 an episode.
Yahoo!7 has also been delivering short video clips of programs such as Lost and intends to expand the service.
Wilson believes one of Ninemsn's strengths is its content, as highlighted by James Packer this week when he revealed Ninemsn registered a record number of video downloads on the day the Beaconsfield miners were rescued.
"What Ninemsn has done better than Seven online is definitely news," he said.
But Yahoo!7 is planning to strengthen its online news service with more video from Channel 7, the ABC and Reuters, combined with "citizen journalism", where consumers file news updates.
And which site has been best at integrating TV shows with the internet? Wilson throws up a surprising choice: Channel 10. "I think Ten, through those event-type programs like Big Brother and Idol, has been able to [almost totally integrate] the internet and TV," he said.