Chang­ing the TV tides

Lo­cally pro­duced shows will be the win­ners as net­works bat­tle next year to at­tract new view­ers — or just hold on to an ex­ist­ing au­di­ence, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

Bru­tal. That is the only word to use when you look at the 2016 rat­ings war set to take place be­tween Chan­nels 7, Nine and Ten.

The stakes have never been higher for the three com­mer­cial net­works as they face un­prece­dented chal­lenges from Fox­tel and stream­ing ser­vices, in­clud­ing Presto and Net­flix.

Nine has re­sponded to the chal­lenge by dump­ing all of its US shows ex­cept The Big Bang The­ory. Next year it is in­vest­ing in an un­prece­dented line-up of Aus­tralian shows, in­clud­ing drama Hide & Seek, minis­eries The House of Bond and com­edy Here Come the Habibs!

“Never be­fore has lo­cal con­tent been as im­por­tant as it is right now,” Nine di­rec­tor of tele­vi­sion Michael Healy says.

“We have di­verted funds nor­mally spent on in­ter­na­tional pro­gram­ming to in­vest­ing in sto­ries shot right here in our own back­yard.”

Nine has two other gamechang­ers up its sleeve. Next Mon­day it launches new life­style chan­nel 9Life, and will screen all of its main chan­nel con­tent in high def­i­ni­tion.

Chan­nel 7 is play­ing it safe by com­par­i­son. It will lead the year with an­other My Kitchen Rules as well as its Molly minis­eries, with Sa­muel John­son as mu­sic guru Molly Mel­drum.

Jes­sica Mauboy drama The Se­cret Daugh­ter, Re­cecca Gib­ney’s Wanted, and dat­ing show Kiss Bang Love are the most ex­cit­ing of the new of­fer­ings.

Ten’s strat­egy is all about build­ing on the strong foun­da­tions it set in place in 2015. It suc­cess­fully launched five new shows this year. A new Off­spring as well as Jes­sica Marais drama The Wrong Girl, the Brock minis­eries and re­al­ity show Sur­vivor Aus­tralia will be added to the mix.

Seven will win the 2015 rat­ings year in To­tal Peo­ple (its ninth vic­tory in a row) but Nine will snag more view­ers in the de­mo­graph­ics sought by ad­ver­tis­ers.

Ten is the only com­mer­cial net­work to make rat­ings gains this year — up around 1 per cent to 18.7 per cent — but they are still a dis­tant third. Seven (down 1.2 points to 29.1 per cent) and Nine (down 1.1 points to 27.9 per cent) have lost view­ers.

“Over­all, we’ve seen au­di­ence evap­o­ra­tion due to poor pro­gram­ming choices, with Nine and Seven the main cul­prits,” me­dia an­a­lyst Steve Allen says.

“The de­ci­sion to strip re­al­ity se­ries at 7.30pm across mul­ti­ple nights and push first-run drama to 8.40pm and be­yond has been a dis­as­ter. ”

2015 has cer­tainly seen its fair share of rat­ings de­ba­cles. Nine’s Gal­lipoli minis­eries was pro­moted as “event tele­vi­sion” but some­one for­got to tell the au­di­ence. Then-Nine CEO David Gyn­gell de­scribed the rat­ings fig­ures as his “big­gest dis­ap­point­ment”.

Restau­rant Revo­lu­tion was way off the boil. Seven quickly chopped episodes and re­placed

“Over­all, we’ve seen au­di­ence evap­o­ra­tion due to poor pro­gram­ming”

STEVE ALLEN, ME­DIA AN­A­LYST

it with cat and dog video shows, which rated through the roof.

But there were big win­ners, too. 800 Words, with for­mer Packed to the Rafters star Erik Thom­son, is a stand­out. The lo­cal dram­edy av­er­aged up to 1.3 mil­lion view­ers across the five cap­i­tal cities. Re­becca Gib­ney’s Win­ter, as well as minis­eries Catching Mi­lat and Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, also rated very strongly for Seven.

The Chase Aus­tralia, which re­placed Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute, is giv­ing Ed­die McGuire’s Hot Seat a run for its money at 5.30pm. Nine grabbed huge num­bers with Mar­ried at First Sight. Ten launched spin-off The Bach­e­lorette Aus­tralia, with Sam Frost, and it was an im­me­di­ate suc­cess.

Ten also saw strong re­sults for new shows I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, The Shark Tank, The Great Aus­tralian Spell­ing Bee and Gog­gle­box as well as main­stay MasterChef Aus­tralia.

“We’re very pleased with this year,” Ten pro­gram chief Bev­er­ley McGar­vey says. “The crit­i­cal thing is that it gives us mo­men­tum into 2016 be­cause those shows still have a lot of growth in them.”

Fox­tel’s 2016 in­cludes the sixth sea­sons of US smashes Game of Thrones and The Walk­ing Dead, and fourth sea­sons of lo­cal hits Went­worth and A Place to Call Home.

New Aussie pro­grams in­clude The Ket­ter­ing In­ci­dent, with El­iz­a­beth De­bicki and Matthew Le Nevez, and minis­eries Se­cret City with Jacki Weaver.

Game on.

Sa­muel John­son as Molly — with Molly. Jes­sica Marais will star in Ten’s new drama The Wrong Girl.

Geral­dine Hakewill, Stephen Pea­cocke

and Re­becca Gib­ney in Win­ter.

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