"My view is that the news is the most significant thing a station does. It's the point of contact with the community we serve," producer Terry Plane explained in 1993. "News selection remains part science, part instinct. But because we have a family audience, with up to 65% female viewers, we tend not to go for the macho, blood and guts stories. Presentation matters, but we take care over the words."
Each commercial channel in each of the capital city of Australia showed its own news program and "nowhere is the ratings battle for viewers and advertisers, who spend more than $1.7 billion on television annually, more keenly fought than in the nightly news bulletins," John Huxley reported in 1993.
In October 1993, 'Seven Nightly News' in Sydney toppled 'National Nine News' for the first time in the ratings since 1977. Producer Paul Fenn insisted, "There is no set formula. So much depends on the news of the day. Obviously, we aim for a mix of local, national and international news, with long and short items. But we try to give each story what we think it deserves."
In 1992, in the 4 weeks leading up to the Barcelona Olympic Games, 'Seven Nightly News' in Sydney campaigned to attract viewers with a scratch-and-win Bingo game promotion. 'Seven Nightly News' drew level with 'National Nine News'. Dynamic Marketing told the world years later, "…The late Kerry Packer, not used to being beaten in the ratings by anyone, instructed senior management to find someone to produce an innovative ratings stimulus which would win back the Australian viewers. They contacted Dynamic Marketing and we were briefed to produce a winning concept in record time.
"Under a secrecy clause, the team at Dynamic began work on a repetitive viewing promotional concept, along the lines of a national Bingo game. This involved a letterbox distribution of 3 million 'Big Winners Game' cards along the east coast of Australia (in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), inviting viewers to watch the 6:00p.m. nightly news…At this time, Australian audiences had never before experienced such a massive million dollar promotional prize pool so it definitely had a 'wow' factor.
"Australian television had never before experience such a dramatic instant ratings increase in its history (and never has since)! During the Olympics, Sydney's channel Seven 6:00p.m. nightly news had jumped from 16 to 23 ratings points, with the Brian Henderson hosted Nine News bulletin dropping from 23 to 19 ratings points. During the first few days of the 'Big Winners' promotion, Nine's 6:00p.m. bulletin jumped to a massive 41 ratings points, creating a world record lift that has never been surpassed.
"Nine's 6:00p.m. News ratings for the 4 week period averaged out at 36 points, setting a landmark which will probably never be reached again for a free to air news bulletin...The above case study demonstrates the effectiveness of a good promotion i.e. Having a clear outcome or plan for the promotion, knowing your target market and what appeals to them, adding a wow factor, communicating your offer clearly and often, and enhancing your customers' experience."
John Dwyer was the marketing guru.