Rise and rise of ABC
COMMERCIAL networks are blinding us with end-ofyear-spin on their alleged ratings and programming success and pumping up their prospects for 2009.
The ABC, meanwhile, has not only recorded the biggest overall lift in audience share of all stations this year, the public broadcaster has announced a raft of 2009 programs certain to deliver audiences the commercial networks would kill for.
Andrew Denton has quit chat show Enough Rope, but is the brains behind one of the ABC’s most imaginative, albeit high-risk, concepts for next year.
Denton is producing Project NEXT, a cutting-edge reality show that sets out to discover the next generation of Australian television talent.
‘‘It’s daring and risky, but that’s Andrew Denton,’’ ABC director of television Kim Dalton says.
‘‘They (Denton and other ABC talent) come to the table with intelligence, creative risk-taking and relevance. Sometimes when you get all those elements, that will bring you a big audience.’’
Also coming our way is Prison Sings, boasting the talents and passion of Jonathon Welch — the face of ABC ratings hit The Choir of Hard Knocks and a judge on Channel 7’s Battle of the Choirs.
Welch’s new show aims to create a choir from a group of female prisoners, the aim being to help the prisoners prepare for life on the outside.
‘‘Jonathon (and a producer) came to us with this idea about the power singing has to be transformative . . . it’s got huge risks, but we leapt at it,’’ Dalton says.
The ABC has also signed renowned trouble-maker John Safran for Race Relations. The program description promises no topic will be too hot, no country too dangerous, for Safran’s globetrotting adventure.
The broadcaster will deliver second seasons of Bed of Roses, East of Everything, The Gruen Transfer and The Librarians.
The ABC will also screen mining industry drama Dirt Game, starring Joel Edgerton, and The Cut, a John Wood series set in a sports-management business.
On the 2009 agenda are a string of children’s shows, documentary series and specials including Penguin Island (a six-part series about Phillip Island’s penguin colony) and Drugs, Death and Betrayal, an Underbelly- inspired special about corruption in the drug squad.
A new deal has been sealed with The Chaser boys. Dalton, however, scoffs at reports the Chaser deal is worth $6 million.
‘‘In their dreams,’’ Dalton says with a laugh when asked about the figure. ‘‘It’s ($6 million) a nonsense.’’ In 2008, the ABC’s five-city prime time share is up 4 per cent to 16.9 per cent — the largest growth of any free-to-air network year on year. The ABC has also made huge strides in multichannelling and online operations.
An impressive 8.2 million vodcasts have been downloaded this year, with the most vodcasts coming from At the Movies (839,000), triple j TV (724,000) and Bed of Roses (705,000).
Internet broadcast site, ABC iView, has proved a massive success.
The concept was launched in July, offering audiences the chance to watch shows when and where they wanted, full-screen and in high resolution.
To the end of September, the service had recorded 1.4 million views.
‘‘The ABC is there to service a broad and diverse audience,’’ Dalton says.
‘‘I think in a way everyone (including commercial networks) is comfortable with the idea of the ABC leading the way in the digital area. As a public broadcaster, we don’t have a business model that says the main aim of the game is to aggregate large audiences. We have a different set of expectations at the ABC.
‘‘The online engagement is broad. If we have a Chaser or Chris Lilley ( Summer Heights High) then we get a huge number of young people coming in. But Bed of Roses and Gardening Australia are popular with the older audience. It’s (access to iView) spread across the demographics.
‘‘It’s no secret the ABC is under-resourced and I think we do a great job with the resources we’ve got.’’
ABC’s director of television Kim Dalton promises bigger things next year.