BCM 240, Media

TV ratings and the ABC

For a politics class last week, we had to discuss whether the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) should be privatised or not. A lot of the comments and articles regarding the network’s privatisation argued that it was the diverse and extensive audience that the ABC attracted, coupled with its ratings, that made it such a viable entity.

OzTam is the Australian official source of television audience measurement. Their latest report – July – states that the ABC obtained 6.9% of the total television viewed throughout the month on both Free-to-Air and Pay TV. These measurements or statistics are significantly useful for advertisers and marketers. However, since the ABC does not advertise throughout their programs, the statistics can be used in other ways to exemplify the network’s success.

Firstly, and the most obvious use, is to express  the popularity of a new TV show. The recent airing of the ABC’s new show, Utopia, saw the ABC’s overall ratings lift. The show drew “778,000 viewers…more than double the audience of previous weeks” (Bodey 2014). But more than that, the show’s ratings, “helped the ABC to its best Wednesday share of the year, 13.0 per cent” (Bodey 2014).

Secondly, the audience’s demographics can be explored through the ratings of popular “oldies” shows such as Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Today’s article by Matthew Knott in the Sydney Morning Herald explained that the ABC is having to cut a lot of programmes so they can redesign the network to boost their 20 – 50 year old demographic.


Median age of viewers per channel


However, some have speculated that if the older viewers are “tuned out” then it would lead to the ABC being significantly affected as their ABC Shops would not see the same revenue due to disgruntled customers. On average – according to ABC Fast Facts –  200,000 Australians shop either in-store at their 155 nationwide stores or online each month. These staggering figures are directly related to their ratings as the stores sell the programs merchandise.

Moreover, the ABC Fast Facts suggest that the ABC’s ratings can be linked to more Australians having a greater and deeper understanding of current affairs and events. This is due to the  broad range of honest, investigative, high quality journalism that their news programs provide compared to the vastly different to commercial stations who must follow their owner’s political views. On average, the audience that the ABC’s 7pm News draws is 1.3 million people per night, every weeknight. Moreover, their collective current affairs and news website brings 1.7 million visitors per month.

So whilst television ratings are predominantly used to show who’s tuning into what, they can be used for wider purposes such as exemplifying why ratings and audiences are important for revenue.


Bodey, M 2014, ‘Working Dog’s new comedy Utopia lifts ABC’s TV ratings’, The Australian, 14 August, viewed 16 August, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/broadcast/working-dogs-new-comedy-utopia-lifts-abcs-tv-ratings/story-fna045gd-1227024003819

Knott, M 2014, ‘Jobs to go as ABC tunes out older viewers’, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August, viewed 17 August, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/jobs-to-go-as-abc-tunes-out-older-viewers-20140816-3dtb9.html#ixzz3Ad2LhAan

OzTam 2014, 2014 Consolidated National Subscription TV Share and Reach, viewed 13 Aug, http://www.oztam.com.au/documents/2014/OzTAM-20140720-B2NatSTVShrRchCons.pdf


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