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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Content Survey Live: Part Five: Melbourne, an Hour A Day

Welcome, to Part Five of a week long mission, that is Content Survey Live. Today, we are now looking at 10 News First's Melbourne bulletin from Friday night.

In case you are reading this series out of order: Our best tip is to follow the links below, and make your way through.

But first:

Reiterating the Ground Rules

Our focus, in Content Survey Live, will be monitoring Ten’s five capital city news services (a benefit of technological change, now allowing us to watch interstate bulletins on delay), in order of their ratings position within the network (with each market covered once) over a week, using the same criteria we used in the “Great Local News Study” from Kuttsy's Pitch XI last year:

-Locally sourced stories: that is stories reported by local journos. Really big local market stories with national impacts, also fit here (e.g. coronavirus lockdown in Melbourne). Voiced over local stories are counted separately.
-Live crosses: stuff that is used to embellish a story.
-Weather is not counted.
-Sport is not counted if it’s done by obviously freelance journos, or voiced over pieces: you gotta have dedicated reporters there, with their mug on air reporting a sports story for it to count.
And finally: Ten Brisbane will have it’s Gold Coast content tracked again during it’s night: to see if any lessons have been learned by 10 in eighteen months.

Now, we begin the fifth and final survey... Melbourne.

Profile of Market
RATINGS AVERAGE for 10 News First 8-19/07/2019: 100,000
RATINGS AVERAGE for 10 News First 6-17/07/2020: 139,000

Melbourne, much like Sydney, got off relatively lightly in recent budget cuts compared to the smaller state capitals. 
Although, Melbourne is losing Mike Larkin off weather, and gaining Adelaide news production, the big news story that has been the Victorian second wave of COVID-19 and the lockdowns associated with it (inc. a 8pm-5am curfew) has sent viewers back to 10's Melbourne news in large numbers in recent times.

In addition, there has been some investment: with the luring of Jennifer Keyte (who had been weekend reader with 7 in Melbourne) to read Melbourne's 5pm weeknight news bulletin just two years ago: the first major decision that was made when Ross Dagan took charge of 10's news output.

Let's first look at locally sourced stories:
The lead story tonight, is a hopeful turning point in the Victorian second wave of COVID-19: the 179 new Victorian cases announced today, the lowest case number increase since July 13, with nine deaths overnight.
-The inquiry continues on security in hotel quarantine in Melbourne, which triggered the Victorian COVID-19 second wave.
We have a sports preview ending segment 1.
Segment 2: -Clayton hit-run case enters court.
As for stories repeated after 6: the hotel quarantine inquiry is repeated first, as opposed to the COVID numbers (which is fair enough as they'd be leading 7/9 bulletins that began at 6pm.)
-A first year nurse's video diary concerning COVID-19 work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

A total of, four local stories, with one of those stories rerun at 6pm. (a fair amount in light of recent events in Melbourne)

Next up, is live crosses:
-Live cross straight out of the first story, focusing on regional VIC case numbers.
-Live cross to Eamonn Atkinson from where the DNC's virtual convention finale happened: Wilmington, Delaware.
-A live cross to the Gabba concerning AFL Grand Final plans.
-A weather live cross/dog walk at 5:30.
-A live cross during sport at the Gabba.
-Another weather live cross, prior to 6pm, and then prior to 6:30pm.
-Live cross on the COVID-19 numbers in VIC post 6pm.

A mammoth total of eight live crosses.

Next to come to the plate is sports presentation:
-Tim Morgan's live cross to the Gabba in the first segment.
And, now we get into the real sport in sports segment #1:
-A sports quiz... that you have to wait until the 6pm 1/2hr to get the answer for.
-Tim Morgan has a live cross from the Gabba again.
-A decent spread of AFL hub stories, including Dreamtime in Darwin (normally at the MCG).
-A review of Melbourne Storm's game in Sydney, inc. a Bellamy storm-out in the press conference.
-Sports segment 2: The answer to the quiz and post-6pm sports segment were unavailable online.
Sports reporter visibility was a grand total of two appearances by Tim Morgan, and the sports presentation was surprisingly balanced, especially with Storm/Eels NRL game in Sydney getting the full story treatment in Melbourne alongside the various AFL hub wraps: was actually expecting a v/o'd piece by Stephen Quartermain with a shot of the press conference included in the first segment.

And, finally: Voiced-over reports by the presenter:
Home birthing tragedy hits court,
-Traffic report: but why the hell would you need a traffic report in a city at the moment where most non-essential retail is shut currently: the first traffic cross's shot of a empty carpark of DFO Essendon, is a clear example of the COVID toll on business in Melbourne, that is often left out of other reports airing interstate.
-A wrap of lead stories at 6pm
-The Clayton hit-run case court appearance from segment 2, gets a v/o'd report.
-A post 6pm traffic report: a first for the survey
A total of , two V/O'd pieces evenly split between the 5-6pm hour and the 6pm 1/2hr.

Overall, 10's news in Melbourne has made the best out of the cards that city has been dealt in recent months. The fact that weather presentation is still happening outside the studio, is a great morale booster for a city hoping for brighter days ahead. The live cross use is not only balanced, but is relevant. The touch of having their lead AFL reporter do a cross to Melbourne from the QLD AFL hub multiple times during the bulletin (especially as "Melbourne's game" is spread nationwide right now) is something that deserves commendation. The attempt to provide a point of difference at 6pm in story choice, is also a plus.

Interesting times lay ahead for Melbourne's bulletin once Mike Larkin goes in September, and Melbourne's weather forecasts are effectively confined to a studio. Mike Larkin is going to be a huge asset to wherever he ends up next.
However, I am astounded that the traffic reports haven't been suspended while traffic in Melbourne is light thanks to the Stage 4 lockdown situation. You could easily squeeze in a extra story or two just by temporarily suspending traffic reports in the 5-6pm hour.

However, I will rank Melbourne's news tonight: a 7.75/10. If the traffic reports had been absent or curtailed, the rating would have easily gone over 8, possibly a 8.5: but the 7.75/10 ranking is still praise for the hard work the team at South Yarra have had to face in the most trying circumstances in many people's careers.
RATINGS FOR FRIDAY NIGHT (Melbourne market): 104,000, well behind the figures for both 7 and 9's 5pm gameshows in that market.

Well, that is now it. Five nights of reviews, and five nights of wildly different products to deal with.

The winners in this survey:
The leader in local stories: is a tie, between Sydney and Adelaide: with 7 local stories each during their night of survey.
The leader in live crosses: is Melbourne: as seen in this post.
The leader in sports reporter visibility: is Melbourne, again as seen in this post.
And finally, the leader in V/O'd reporting: is a tie between Sydney and Perth with five voiced over stories by the anchor each, during their nights.

However, the overall standings paint a different picture.

Gold to NEW 10 Perth: 8/10
Silver to ATV 10 Melbourne: 7.75/10
Bronze to ADS 10 Adelaide: 7.5/10
4th to TEN 10 Sydney: 6/10
Wooden spoon to TVQ 10 Brisbane: 4.75/10

The final wrap:

10's news come September 14, will be a very different beast to what exists now. However, there surely are far better ways to deliver cost savings and better presented bulletins than cutting local presentation in markets that have had local presentation continuously for (in the case of Brisbane) as long as 45 years.

For example, 10 could leave the Perth market to do it's own thing (that is: retain a fully locally presented news bulletin) and make major changes to the three east coast news bulletins to match the flow of Perth and Adelaide: no more 18min opening segments or outsourced traffic reports for example.

Alternatively, you'd keep the Perth market doing it's own thing, and have Adelaide and Brisbane's local news delivered in the opening window of the 5pm bulletin (a roundabout way of having a dual-anchored bulletin for those markets where doubleheaders are the norm on commercial television), and a local window inc. a traffic update at 6pm, with national news and sport delivered from Melbourne and Sydney respectively: with pre-6pm outsourced traffic reports axed on the east coast. This would then allow local presentation to be resumed in Brisbane and Adelaide at the earliest opportunity.

There are  plenty of options on the table: but the biggest fear is sadly, the "Frankenstein's news bulletin", where Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth steadily lose local coverage with their new hubbed bulletins, to the point eventually, 10's 5pm news on weekdays is a national product, with very little local input from the three smaller capitals: possibly a story a night for each of the smaller markets, while the bulletin is Sydney/Melbourne/Canberra dominant.

There also needs to be changes in news management, towards one that is willing to convince executives that investing in 10's news may be the right thing to do, instead of a worse case scenario: a outsourced 10 News service (much like Channel 5's news in the UK) that is performing badly.

As we leave you, let's take a look at the one promo that should sum up this survey, why it was brought forward... and why 10's local news cuts will hit so close to home, for so many outside Sydney and Melbourne.
(From Australian TV Fan on Youtube)

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