Seven days of TV viewing
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.