Television audiences are switching off the tennis “in droves”, according to one media expert, who predicts Seven’s overall tennis ratings will be down 20% year-on-year due to heavy cross-promotion.
Results from day nine of the Australian Open show peak audiences in the crucial 16-54 advertising demographic are down more than 26% on the same day last year.
The figures, broken down by Fusion Strategy, also show that all-people viewers were down almost 27% last night compared to 2012.
Day time tennis viewers were also down more than 14% among 16-54 and 9% in all-people yesterday.
Steve Allen, principal at Fusion Strategy, said a combination of a lack of Australian players in the later rounds, too much cross-promotion and an attempt to turn the Open into entertainment have hurt the ratings.
“Seven has overcooked it. They have forgotten that viewers are only there for the sport – it’s not entertainment. They may be entertained by it but it is bloody sport,” Allen said.
“The second issue is…there is a wall of cross promotion.
“I don’t care what Bruce McAvaney’s daughter is going to do about My Kitchen Rules – I couldn’t give a flying number.”
Allen said the frequency with which Seven’s camera swings to this “starlet or that starlet” and the number of My Kitchen Rules ads played in the commercial breaks is simply “too much”.
“How many times do we need to be told that My Kitchen Rules starts next week? For god’s sake we are intelligent.
“There is a fine line between too much and not enough program promotion. But once you have gone past it you are in trouble, and they [Seven], are in trouble.”
Ratings for the Open’s first eight night sessions were down 13% compared to 2012, according to the Australian Financial Review.
Despite the drops, Seven has still won the ratings every night since the event kicked off. Last night, Seven claimed a commanding 32.5% share of all free-to-air channel viewers – almost 10 percentage points more than Nine (23%).
The tournament’s ratings will receive a boost during the finals but Allen believes viewers will still be down on last year’s finals result.
“They have overcooked it and people are leaving in droves. Unless they pull back and realise that it is a sporting event and work out what people who really will support and view it want – they are going to be in trouble.”
If Allen’s prediction of an overall 20% drop in viewers is realised, he says audience levels will revert to those experienced five to six years previously.
The subdued ratings come as Tennis Australia gets set to either renegotiate an extension of their agreement with Seven or put the contract out to tender.
Allen feels Tennis Australia would “need to think very carefully” about taking the rights to market as the current $21m deal may be “as good as they are going to get”.
“They might think they can court competitive tension but who is going to bid?”