The fall from grace of the once-glamorous commercial television sector has continued with Seven West Media reporting a $67 million half-year loss on Tuesday.
Seven’s slump was driven by falls in advertising and write-downs of the value of its TV licence and cricket broadcasting contracts.
Its share price consequently fell 21.15 per cent to a record-low 20.05 cents.
The company said it expected similar conditions in the second half of the year.
But independent media analyst Peter Cox said things could get even worse for Seven.
“Nine’s Married at First Sight has been a success and it will capitalise on that this year as it takes time to see the benefits of a successful show. Meanwhile, Seven’s MKR [My Kitchen Rules] is an utter disaster,” Mr Cox said.
“The only hope for Seven now is the [AFL] football season and the Olympics, although people lose money on the Olympics.
“The tennis [now with Nine] did well but [Seven’s] cricket was not a huge success.”
Commercial televisions audiences have fallen significantly over time and that cuts the prices advertisers are prepared to pay for access to eyeballs.
In the December half, Seven saw its TV advertising revenue fall 4 per cent to $603.3 million.
That was better than the industry as a whole, with free-to-air (FTA) TV revenues falling 7 per cent and the ad market overall losing 8.5 per cent.
Seven also did better with overall revenues, gaining the largest industry share of 38.8 per cent.
However, that was a larger share of a declining audience that was not in an attractive demographic for advertisers.
“Along with declining revenues, the other scary thing is how old the audience is,” Mr Cox said.
“Free-to-air audiences are predominately over 50 and Foxtel’s Fire Aid concert over the weekend’s audience was over 50 also.
“Look at who the performers were – Alice Cooper, John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John, Cold Chisel.”
Those older audiences “are the death knell for free to air and Foxtel,” because they are shrinking and advertisers don’t want to pay a lot for them.
Although FTA audiences are declining, there is strong growth in the broadcast video on demand [BVOD] sector.
Seven’s BVOD catchup service 7plus recorded a 33 per cent jump in usage and a 205 per cent revenue increase, but it only accounted for $11.9 million in earnings.
“It’s growing off a very low base,” an analyst said.
Seven is caught outside the growth area of streaming dominated by Netflix and Stan as well as offers from others including Foxtel and Amazon.
Managing director James Warburton would say only that SVOD [streaming] opportunities were “under review”.
Fragmentation still delivers opportunity
The fragmenting of the television market is not necessarily a disaster for free-to-air television.
“Young people are turning away from free to air and increasingly consuming content on devices and watching on demand,” said Matt Nunn, managing director of media buyer Nunn Media.
“Clients’ budgets are what they are, so we’re seeing a diversification [of the ad spend]. But agencies still spend 43 per cent of their advertising budgets with television.
“Watching on demand might be 2 per cent or 20 per cent of the market for some shows, so it’s not a drastic change of form.
“There is still a big older audience out there that are couch potatoes and huge consumers of free-to-air TV.”
Those FTA catch-up services run ads that fund the industry.
But video streaming groups don’t run ads, living instead on subscriptions.