Who’s watching the news?

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Local free-to-air (FTA) news programmes enjoy stable, regular and loyal audience bases, with little fluctuation, according to a media agency.

PHD said on average, almost 400,000 viewers per minute are tuned into one of Malaysia’s prime-time news programmes.

In the March edition of PHD Pioneering, the agency’s newsletter, the agency analysed research data by Nielsen TV Audience Measurement in 2009 for the 10 prime-time (7pm to 10pm) news shows on FTA channels.  

The agency, which is a subsidiary of the OmnicomMediaGroup (OMG), found that each show across the six channels attracted loyal and specific audience groups. Advertisements aired during the shows would have high frequency (number of times a target audience sees an ad) but lower reach (number of different target audiences who see an ad), said the report.

“Because each news show enjoys such loyalty from its viewers, it enables advertisers to target (audience) more accurately. Better targeting increases the viewer’s propensity to watch the advertisement, instead of changing the channel or taking a bathroom break,” said Andreas Vogiatzakis, managing director of OMG Malaysia.

By far, the most popular news programme is TV3’s Buletin Utama with an audience of four million viewers last year, the PHD study revealed. The programme reaches 21% of adults aged over 15 and 30% of the Malay population aged over 15. Almost half or 45% of its viewers live in rural areas and 93% are Malays. Aired from 8pm to 9pm, it competes with Malay-language news programmes Berita Nasional on TV1 and Berita TV9.

According to PHD’s analysis, Edisi 7 (aired 7pm to 7.30pm) enjoys the highest percentage of urban viewers with 77% of its 234,000 viewers living in market and urban centres. It also enjoys the highest percentage of Chinese viewers with 43% compared with the other news shows which each has a Chinese viewer percentage of 3%.

Surprisingly, 40% of Berita TV9’s 504,000 viewers are under 20. “This trend may be due to programme scheduling. Cartoons are shown before the news slot on weekends, and they may have simply continued watching,” explained the report. “The news show’s potential influence with kids and youth is worth noting,” it added.

Among the Mandarin news programmes, 8TV Mandarin News and TV2’s Berita Mandarin both air from 8pm to 8.30pm while NTV7’s Mandarin 7 broadcasts at 9.30pm. Of the two competing programmes, 8TV Mandarin News attracts 2.5 times more viewers than TV2’s Berita Mandarin with 667,000 viewers. Mandarin 7 has a viewership of 462,000 viewers. All three programmes are urban-skewed, with 80% of their viewers living in urban and market centres, with similar occupation and age profiles. Berita Mandarin, however, has the highest percentage of non-Chinese viewers with 19% Malay and 8% Indian viewers.

The English news programmes, [email protected] on TV2 (7pm) and 7 Edition on NTV7 (8pm) have the lowest viewership numbers with 127,000 and 192,000 viewers respectively. However, 7 Edition has the highest percentage (about 14%) of professionals, managers, executives and businessmen watching compared with other news shows. 7 Edition is also more popular with the Chinese compared with [email protected] which has an equal mix of Chinese and Malay viewers.

“Understanding the audience is the holy grail of any advertiser, and while this holds true for any channel or programme, there is added value in taking the trouble to understand the viewers of news shows,” said Vogiatzakis.

This article appeared on the Media & Advertising page, The Edge Financial Daily, Apr 1, 2010.