Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW FEN­TON

AF­TER a dis­as­trous year for orig­i­nal Aus­tralian re­al­ity for­mats, net­works are re­con­sid­er­ing their com­mit­ment to home- grown shows.

Ev­ery­body Dance Now, axed re­cently for the sort of rat­ings even SBS looks down on, is just the lat­est ex­am­ple of a for­mat to fail badly.

Add to that list The Shire, Ex­cess Bag­gage, Be­ing Lara Bin­gle and Young Tal­ent Time.

Ten’s de­ci­sion to gam­ble heav­ily on so many new for­mats has not paid off, with pro­gram­ming chief David Mott forced to step down on Fri­day.

And it looks like the net­work’s heav­ily pro­moted out­back tal­ent quest I Will Sur­vive may fol­low him out the door, strug­gling for at­ten­tion against top- rat­ing The X Fac­tor.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween those two shows neatly en­cap­su­lates the dilemma fac­ing pro­gram­mers: Why take a chance on a new lo­cal pro­gram when you can sim­ply buy in a proven for­mat from over­seas that’s more likely to work?

Nine’s di­rec­tor of pro­gram­ming, An­drew Back­well, says lo­cal ver­sions of in­ter­na­tional for­mats are nonethe­less risky.

‘‘ If a show works in the US or the UK and does well around the world, gen­er­ally we find it works in our mar­ket,’’ Back­well says. ‘‘ Not al­ways, but it does re­duce the risk.’’

Aware of Nine’s own dis­as­ter with an orig­i­nal weight loss show Ex­cess Bag­gage, which was shunted to GO! af­ter fail­ing to mea­sure up to The Big­gest Loser ( screening in 26 coun­tries), Back­well isn’t gloat­ing over Ten’s fail­ures.

‘‘ I don’t think it’s just a Chan­nel 10 is­sue,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s just the mar­ket. There are so many re­al­ity shows on air and com­pe­ti­tion is just so fierce.’’

So why do the net­works bother de­vel­op­ing any home- grown for­mats?

Pride, for one thing, says Tim Clu­cas, from Fre­mantleMe­dia, which pro­duces in­ter­na­tional fran­chises Aus­tralia’s Got Tal­ent and lo­cal Ev­ery­body Dance Now.

‘‘ An Aus­tralian- orig­i­nated big- TV for­mat for the world is the holy grail and out of pride and for fi­nan­cial rea­sons you want to do that,’’ Clu­cas says. ‘‘ You don’t just want to be sit­ting here mak­ing other peo­ple’s for­mats. We want to make our own.’’

There have been a few lo­cal suc­cess sto­ries, like Thank God You’re Here, which spun off into nine ver­sions around the world.

The My Kitchen Rules for­mat was re­cently sold to the US and The Block, de­vel­oped in- house at Nine, has 13 in­ter­na­tional edi­tions.

If Ev­ery­body Dance Now had taken off, 20 ter­ri­to­ries had ex­pressed in­ter­est demon­strat­ing the po­ten­tial re­wards for the risk.

But for all the rat­ings the global me­gabrands can de­liver, they come with sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tages. Se­cur­ing the rights is ex­pen­sive, about 5 to 10 per cent of the bud­get. On a big show that’s about $ 40,000 an episode or a cou­ple of mil­lion dol­lars a se­ries.

Clu­cas says ev­ery time a lo­cal show fails, the net­works be­come a lit­tle more gun- shy about try­ing again. But Back­well is more op­ti­mistic. ‘‘ Just be­cause we’ve had a show that hasn’t worked doesn’t mean we’re not go­ing to do any more lo­cal ideas,’’ he says.

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