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Seven news beaten in 6pm slot for first time in 13 years

Media and marketing

Adelaide’s Nine News has achieved what seemed impossible a year ago – ending Seven’s 13-year weekly winning streak in the 6-6.30pm ratings battle.

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Nine won the 6-6.30 slot last week with an average of 104,098 viewers, compared to Seven’s 100,783.

The perennial challenger followed up its weeknight win with a victory over Seven in the weekend’s news bulletins.

However, Seven claims Nine is crowing too soon, arguing that while 6-6.30 and 6.30-7 are reported separately in the official ratings, the true battle is over the full news hour where Seven is still winning.

That winning margin, however, was sliced to a razor-thin average last week of just 128 viewers.

Regardless of the statistical debate, the 6-6.30 slot carries significant weight in media circles, given its historical relevance and the fact that more viewers typically tune in at 6 than 6.30.

Nine’s victory comes after a staggering 585 consecutive losses to the Seven juggernaut in official weekly ratings for the 6pm half-hour.

The last time Nine won a week in the timeslot was 2008.

The last time it won the weekly 6pm battle during an official survey period was in 2006, when Rob Kelvin and the late Kevin Crease shared Nine’s Adelaide news desk.

As InDaily reported in February, Seven started to look vulnerable late last year.

Nine finished 2020 strongly, with pandemic viewing patterns and Network 10’s decision to stop presenting its news from Adelaide appearing to work in its favour.

Both leading 6pm news services increased their audiences last year – but Nine’s average improvement was more than three times greater than Seven’s.

Seven news has won the yearly ratings every year since 2001, when OzTam ratings began, and was easily the winner overall in 2020.

Overall last year, the average gap between the networks for the 6pm bulletin was 39,000 – down from 46,000 in 2019 – but the differential closed markedly late in the year.

That trend has continued this year.

The newly competitive battle has sparked tensions between the networks.

Seven temporarily shifted the presentation of its 4pm bulletin to Melbourne, due to the financial hit of COVID-19. Nine produced a promo saying that Seven and Ten had “switched to Melbourne”, which continued to run even after Seven reinstated the local production of its 4pm bulletin.

It’s a theme that Nine has continued to push, much to Seven’s annoyance.

Nine News Adelaide news director Jeremy Pudney said the ratings were important, but his team was more focused on delivering local news at 6pm.

“The Nine News Adelaide team is honoured that more and more South Australians are turning to us for their nightly news,” he said.

“Unlike some of our competitors we have never wavered in our commitment to live and local news – and I think South Australians have seen that for themselves.”

His Seven counterpart Chris Salter pointed out his network’s victory in the news hour and its spread of locally produced bulletins.

“Seven News Adelaide produces more local and live news than any other network in South Australia,” he said.

“Our commitment to Adelaide has never been stronger across the entire day and especially at 6pm which we are still leading across the hour.”

Seven is hoping its stocks will be boosted by a talent hiring spree.

Former Ten police reporter Hannah Foord begins at Seven today, joining Sydney journalist Kimberley Pratt, who started last week, and former Fox Sports presenter Tom Wilson who will host sport on Seven’s 11.30am bulletin and produce sports segments across the news schedule from next week.

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