Despite a global pandemic and net loss of $575 million in the last financial year, Nine’s chief sales officer Michael Stephenson says the entertainment company is in a solid position to compete with old and new competitors as not just a content business, but a technology and data business, too.
Nine unveiled its 2021 plans to a 4,000 strong virtual crowd Wednesday afternoon, announcing new shows, an “game changing” Australian-first Adobe partnership, a new Superbrand, a new Powered division, and more.
And, speaking to B&T, Stephenson was confident in Nine’s diversified offerings moving into 2021, with some of those plans starting as early as November (such as simplifying the media buying process for its radio assets using 9Galaxy).
While he conceded the media industry was “not immune” to the economic and community impacts of the pandemic, he said it has challenged industries to be more innovative.
“We are always trying to find ways to manage our business more efficiently,” he said. “That’s just good business and good governance. We have proven over the last couple of years that Nine will find ways to invent high growth opportunities. Whether that’s Stan, 9Now, Domain, or a pivot towards a subscription to diversify our revenue and earnings – we will continue to do these things as a business while maintaining the powerhouse that drives all of those high growth assets, which is television, publishing, radio and digital.”
Stephenson attributes Nine’s growth to the fact it is both a content company, and a data and technology business.
“We’re a media business set up for the future. We’ve got the best content, we distribute it across every platform,” he said. “We’ve got the best data assets, proven by our Adobe announcement, and our investment in technology. We can compete with the new competitors and old ones.”
The Adobe announcement Stephenson is referring to is its new Audience Match, a custom destination designed to give marketers the ability to activate people-based audiences across all of Nine’s properties.
As part of the Audience Match launch, Nine will develop a purpose-built solution directly into Nine through Adobe’s data management platform (DMP), Adobe Audience Manager.
Audience Match will allow Nine to assist brands in matching their customer data to Nine’s 13 million registered users through one streamlined integration.
Brands will be able to better connect with Nine’s audiences by enabling people-based activation of first-party data that customers have agreed to share across Nine’s content. Coles has signed on as the launch partner.
While data and technology are crucial in any consumer-based industry, Nine at its heart is driven by content.
Yet with the rise in SVODs and a plethora of streaming services (not to mention social media content), how does Nine plan to capture the attention of audiences?
CEO Hugh Marks recently said Nine will be paying less for sport and reality shows, arguably the most popular content formats.
When asked what that meant for Nine’s content, Stephenson said: “What Hugh said was you need to pay an appropriate amount for content that rates, and it has to rate in the demos. That’s why we announced a whole range of new formats that are fresh and new, and they’re all focused on delivering 25 to 54 year olds on linear TV, and by being really engaging in an on-demand platform on 9Now.”
Stephenson was confident Nine will be able to onboard brands to sponsor its shows.
“All of those formats, I can go and find advertisers and brands who want to sponsor them to integrate their brands into them, to do really interesting things, create big ideas, big advertising campaigns around them, because they’re things like Celebrity Apprentice and Beauty and the Geek. They’re all really interesting shows for brands, and we produce them and we own all the rights.”
On how Nine plans to continue to compete in an ever-expanding content market, Stephenson agreed “there is an absolute reality audiences have more choices than ever before”.
He continued: “That’s just a fact. It’s why as a business you need to be in the export market, which we are with Stan; the live market, which we are with Nine; and you need to be in live-streaming and on-demand market which is 9Now.
“So, when you go to market you can connect with those audiences because if you’re an advertiser, you can’t advertise on Stan or Netflix. So that advertising proposition is a combination of live streaming and on demand data. And if you can sew all of them together with a data set, then you have a really powerful story.”
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