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
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.
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.