The bat­tle

Lo­cal con­tent is back on the menu as the net­works gear up to of­fer the bright­est and best in an at­tempt to lure the elu­sive ad­ver­tis­ing dol­lar in harsh eco­nomic times, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Tv Guide -

JUST when you thought tele­vi­sion couldn’t get any more com­pet­i­tive, along comes the world eco­nomic cri­sis to suck po­ten­tially hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars out of Aus­tralia’s $2.5 bil­lion ad­ver­tis­ing pie.

That means the com­mer­cial net­works will stop at noth­ing to grab ev­ery last rat­ings point and dol­lar of ad­ver­tis­ers’ money.

All are plan­ning a range of new shows to do just that be­cause this is a year where if you stand still, you’ll get left be­hind.

The em­pha­sis is again on Aus­tralian con­tent. The net­works were burnt in 2008 by the US writ­ers’ strike, which slashed the num­ber of episodes of shows such as CSI, House and Grey’s Anatomy.

They won’t make that mis­take again, and most US shows are shed­ding view­ers any­way.

Chan­nel 10

CHAN­NEL 10 made the bold move of an­nounc­ing its 2009 line-up in early Novem­ber. It had to be­cause it needed to re­as­sure ad­ver­tis­ers it had some ex­cit­ing new pro­grams com­ing up af­ter a big rat­ings drop in 2008.

Ten also had to show it had the pro­grams to fill the gap­ing 120-hour hole left af­ter it axed Big Brother. Since then, it has also lost Thank God You’re Here to Chan­nel 7.

Ten CEO Grant Black­ley says the net­work is still aim­ing to grab more view­ers in the 18-49 age bracket as well as main­tain its lead in 16-39s. But does it have the pro­grams to do it?

A lot will be rid­ing on the suc­cess of MasterChef Aus­tralia, which is Ten’s Big Brother re­place­ment. The re­cent rat­ings for The Chop­ping Block and Ram­say’s Kitchen Night­mares sug­gest Aussie view­ers may have had enough of cook­ing shows.

Ten is con­fi­dent its new show, which con­cen­trates on novice cooks rather than celebrity chefs, will be a win­ner.

Event shows So You Think You Can Dance, The Big­gest Loser (which will fea­ture cou­ples in the new se­ries) and Aus­tralian Idol are back and Rush, with new cast mem­ber Jo­lene An­der­son, will be moved into the ear­lier 8.30pm slot in a bid to cap­ture more view­ers.

Ten is also in­vest­ing heav­ily in smaller-scale re­al­ity shows: Re­cruits, which cen­tres on the New South Wales Po­lice Col­lege in Goul­burn; Guerilla Gardeners, where six young war­riors con­vert big city eye­sores into gar­den oases; and Bondi Vet, which tracks Dr Chris Brown on his rounds.

Un­der­cover Boss puts bosses into me­nial jobs in their own com­pa­nies, Aus­tralia’s Hid­den Ge­nius aims to un­earth rare tal­ent, and Talkin’ ’bout my Gen­er­a­tion is a pop-cul­ture quiz show that pits baby boomers against Gen­er­a­tion X and Gen­er­a­tion Y.

In­ter­na­tional of­fer­ings ap­pear to be a mixed bag. There’s Mer­lin, which aims to trade off the pop­u­lar­ity of Harry Pot­ter.

Tim Roth is in Lie to Me from the O’Mara ( mi) and Har­vey Kei­tel. There are also the sit-com Worst Week, and one-hour drama Harper’s Is­land.

Ten has also scored the rights to Matt Lu­cas and David Wal­liams’s six-episode Lit­tle Bri­tain USA.

A re­ju­ve­nated Neigh­bours re­turns along with more NCIS, House, Simp­sons, Law & Or­der: SVU, Good News Week and Crim­i­nal In­tent.

Ten will also launch its new allsport dig­i­tal chan­nel, One. team be­hind 24 and Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment, and there’s a US re­make of Life on Mars, which fea­tures Ja­son

Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: Mia-

Chan­nel 7

CHAN­NEL 7 CEO David Leckie is so con­fi­dent of suc­cess that he an­nounced Seven would win the 2009 rat­ings way back in Oc­to­ber.

And why wouldn’t he be con­fi­dent? Seven may have lost au­di­ence share last year, but it has a strong line-up of suc­cess­ful lo­cal pro­grams.

For a start there is a sec­ond se­ries of Packed to the Rafters, last year’s big­gest drama. Add a third se­ries of City Homi­cide, new episodes of re­al­ity rat­ings win­ners Find My Fam­ily, The Zoo, Bor­der Se­cu­rity and RSPCA, more It Takes Two, Aus­tralia’s Got Tal­ent, Bat­tle of the Choirs and Danc­ing with the Stars and you have a strong base.

Plus there’s the AFL cov­er­age, in­clud­ing the Brown­low Medal.

Leckie has ac­knowl­edged that ‘‘Sun­day night has been our prob­lem slot’’ so the net­work is tak­ing its big­gest gam­ble there with Sun­day Night, a new big-bud­get cur­rentaffairs pro­gram to take on Nine pow­er­house 60 Min­utes.

Then there is the coup of steal­ing Thank God You’re Here from Chan- nel 10. It is ex­pen­sive (re­port­edly more than $1 mil­lion an episode), but it is a sure rat­ings win­ner.

So­nia Kruger fi­nally gets her own show with makeover pro­gram 10 Years Younger in 10 Days.

Seven will also have se­ries Triple Zero He­roes, which re­con­structs real-life emer­gency calls, and Be­yond the Dark­lands, which delves into the minds of se­rial killers.

Seven is also hop­ing to snare a new se­ries of Kath & Kim and, tap­ping into Un­der­belly’s rat­ings tri­umph, will pre­miere new docu­d­rama se­ries Gangs of Oz.

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