Fewer people tune in to ORF

The ORF’s market share keeps decreasing.

Media consumption researchers found that the national broadcaster ORF 1 channel had a market share of 15.8 per cent last month. This is an improvement of 0.8 per cent compared to the same time span in 2011. The slight increase was tarnished by the worsening popularity of ORF 2. It had a market share of 22.1 per cent, down by 2.6 per cent compared to March 2011.

ORF 2 – which offers romantic comedies, documentaries, political debates and weather programmes – was not the only TV channel to do worse in March 2012 than in the same month of last year. Private channel ATV’s market share dropped by 0.3 per cent to 3.2 per cent. The Viennese station used to be Austria’s most popular private broadcaster for some years before Puls 4 overtook it in February.

Puls 4 improved from 2.5 per cent in March 2011 to 2.9 per cent in the same month of this year. The Vienna-based station had a market share of 3.2 per cent in February 2012, when it was listed above ATV in the market share chart for the first time in its four-year existence.

The programmes of ATV and Puls 4 bear certain resemblances. Both stations screen Hollywood films on a regular basis. They also broadcast American series, Austrian real life documentaries and live discussions about political and sociological developments.

ATV does not shy away from producing programmes about Austrian singles trying to find a girlfriend in Eastern Europe (EE), the Austrian plastic surgery boom and countryside teenagers’ binge-drinking weekends. Puls 4 has succeeded with model casting format “Austria’s Next Top Model” and live broadcasting of international football matches.

ATV bosses decided to launch ATV2 in December. The station – which screens films previously seen on ATV but previews of popular own productions – bagged a market share of just 0.2 per cent last month. ServusTV fared much better. The station – which is subsidised by energy drink manufacturer Red Bull – managed to increase its market share from 0.6 per cent in March 2011 to 1.1 per cent in March 2012.

ServusTV has been praised by many newspapers’ TV critics for concentrating on high-quality programmes such as regional culture features and award-winning nature documentaries. A recent study carried out by media experts at the University of Münster in Germany revealed that the Salzburg-based broadcasting company was focusing much stronger on sophisticated programmes than its rivals. Experts nevertheless think that bosses will feel increasing pressure to achieve significantly better market shares in the foreseeable future to justify the immense financial support by Red Bull.

The ORF charges television consumers – in contrast to its private competitors which depend on revenues from commercials to make ends meet. Austrian households with satellite or cable TV connections must pay between 19 and 26 Euros in ORF taxes a month – regardless of whether ORF’s programmes are consumed at all.

Only a few days ago, media regulation authority KommAustria said it considered the ORF’s latest efficiency concept as convincing. KommAustria warned the ORF from using the austerity package as an excuse to lower the spending on news and new programmes. Around 16 Euros go to the ORF. The rest of the sum is transferred to the nine provincial governments which use it to support local events and artists.