SYDNEY: It was with mischievous glee that Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald reported a clash of warring egos in Australia's media-buying sector. Revealed the newspaper: "The self-proclaimed king of TV advertising buying, Harold Mitchell, has been dethroned according to confidential research figures obtained by the Herald."

Mitchell is chairman and chief executive of Mitchell & Partners, the largest independently owned media company in Oz, and has long claimed control of the largest chunk of the nation's media-spend. But not any longer, contend his rivals - supported, it seems, by Nielsen Media Research.

According to the latter's data for the February-September period, M&P lags Publicis-owned media network Starcom as the biggest TV advertising spender, the former having spent A$196.9 million ($148.42m; €118.59m; £79.48m) with the three TV networks compared with Starcom's $198.9, million.

And to the joy of his competitors, Mitchell's former roost-ruling TV negotiating alliance MIMO - whose membership includes IPG's Initiative - has been relegated to third place after a series of mergers and takeovers in the past twelve months.

The numbers tell their own story. WPP's GroupM has taken a commanding lead in the TV buying market, with an estimated $420m of TV airtime placement so far this year. Runner-up is Australian Media Exchange, which negotiates on behalf of the Starcom and ZenithOptimedia agencies, with spend of $320m to date; while Mitchell's MIMO languishes on the bottom tier of the tripodium with $272m.

Chortled a rival to the Herald: "That's a very different story to the one Harold pushes. Not only is he not No 1, he's No 3."

Around 40% of MIMO's advertising allocation has gone to the Nine Network this year, while Seven collected 36% and Ten a meagre 24%. "Harold's always supported Seven and Nine at the expense of Ten," said an observer. "He's always said there can only be two winners."

Nielsen data for the year to September 30 indicates Seven as the clear winner with a 36.5% share of total metropolitan TV revenues, Nine has slipped to 36.2%, while Ten holds 27.3%.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff