A year ago when TEN unveiled its programming for 2009 it brazenly shocked the nation when it said Big Brother would be replaced by a cooking show. And it promised other local titles including Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation, Guerilla Gardeners, Bondi Vet and even some that never eventuated: Australia’s Hidden Genius and Undercover Boss.
Unveiling its 2010 titles last night in Melbourne, TEN programmer David Mott played it both safe and sure, only promising one new local title, the Junior Masterchef spin-off. For a network that has prided itself on taking risks (including the Big Brother brand, dropping Sunday night movies, and commissioning MasterChef Australia and The 7PM Project), it is a stark contrast.
As Mott tells TV Tonight, he is buoyant about heading into the new year from a position of strength. The network has confirmed its returning shows will be led by Masterchef, The Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, Australian Idol, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, Rove, Recruits, Bondi Rescue and Rush.
“That’s the good thing about where we sit today. We haven’t had to take a big risk,” he says.
“Yes a lot of it’s what we’ve known but that’s the best position for any network to be in. Because at the end of the day we’re creating television that people want. They have clearly resonated with these shows.
“Media-buyers, advertisers, key clients, they want shows they know have some audience numbers there that says ‘this demographic watches that show.'”
Mott says 2009 was all about building domestic content.
“We knew we were saying farewell to Big Brother. We knew we had a big job convincing the market and coming up with new shows. It was hugely risky.
“If you think 12 months ago when we gave a sense of a lot of new programmes, how did the market react? MasterFlop I think was the term used,” he says.
“A number of those on your site referred to it as MasterFlop but I’ve got to say you are my site of choice in terms of updates on television and to get exactly what’s happening in the industry. You’re the first site I go to. And I have absolute respect for people on that site, because you need to get a sense of what they’re talking about.
“And when I read about MasterFlop I thought ‘God have we made the right decision? These are our viewers.’ But again, people probably didn’t see what people saw in that show.”
Other titles to return in 2010 include Merlin, House, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Dexter, Californication, Burn Notice, Bondi Vet, Good News Week, Neighbours, Numb3rs, The Simpsons, Jamie Oliver, Lie to Me, Law and Order: SVU, Criminal Intent, Medium, TEN News, AFL. They will be joined by new US series The Good Wife, The Cleveland Show and Modern Family along with the continuation of Glee.
“The benefit was while MasterChef was just launching we then went to the US for the LA screenings and suddenly we’re seeing some shows coming through and we’re thinking, ‘Now we’re starting to cook.’
“This is starting to become the network that we’ve been looking forward to for some time. We’ve never had the sum of all the parts,” he says.
Pivotal to this were the deals with CBS and the winning deal with FOX Studios.
Local drama Offspring, described as Brothers and Sisters meets The Secret Life of Us, is hoped to proceed to a series. The Hawke telemovie is also slated for 2010.
But not everything is settled. The 7PM Project has struggled to build an audience amid comment its format is still in need of change. Mott says he would be happy with 850,000 viewers.
“It’s not right, it’s not there yet,” he concedes. “But I gotta tell you, it is going to get there. The idealogy behind 7PM is absolutely right. And there’s nothing stronger in my mind that that show will be around in 5 years plus. Things may change within it, but the idea of that show absolutely belongs at 7pm. I completely stand by it.
“I’ve been very clear with that show from day one. We are completely changing the landscape of news gathering and news reporting each day. Now have we got it right? Not 100%. My view is we’re 65% – 70% there.
And as I’ve been saying to a lot of people, it’s content over comedy not comedy over content.”
TEN plans to continue the show through summer, into the new year and indeed, into the ratings year moving key shows such as The Biggest Loser and MasterChef to 7:30pm. Mott is adamant the shows will improve their pull at 7:30pm.
“Suddenly people are over with dinner and they can now sit down as a family and watch television. All the shows get a bump at 7:30,” he says.
“Whenever I would extend the episodes from 7:00 to 8:00 –and I did that often– with MasterChef and with Loser, you always got a bump at 7:30. There’s some switching going on at 7:30. So potentially those shows can perform even better from 7:30 – 8:30.”
One of the networks other weak points is Friday nights. Next year TEN will rollout extended episodes of Biggest Loser on Fridays with a ‘healthy living’ outlook. Based on the succes of its Friday Masterclass on MasterChef, It will include a dietician, doctor and cook.
“I think Better Homes and Gardens great show, but you know what? It doesn’t deserve the figures it’s getting. We’ve proven that with MasterChef up against it. We can knock it off.
“We are committed to doing something broader on a Friday night. It’s tough. You’ve got NRL and AFL. We’ve tried series. But I’m very open to ideas from our loyal fans about trying to find a solution there but they need to go back and study what’s gone there before. I think we’ve got the answer with extended Biggest Loser and extended MasterChef.“
As for Australian Idol, Mott defends its one million viewers and its demographics. The network is yet to begin discussions with FremantleMedia on how it would adjust the show for 2010.
“All the product we try and develop nowadays is the ‘stickiness’ factor of these shows.It’s not just a linear broadcast now. That’s not what television’s all about. It’s the stickiness: online, catch-up, mobile… Australian Idol still plays a function of bringing content to consumers in a number of different ways.”
With the Delhi Commonwealth Games set for October, TEN is also considering its option for the programming of Idol next year.
Another show yet to be clarified is 9AM with David and Kim. With David Reyne departing the show at the end of the year, TEN is still considering its options for the competitive morning slot, particularly when it enjoys no significant lean-in.
“It’s like having 3 casinos in 3 shopping centres all delivering the same thing. What you need is a real point of difference there. You’ve got male / female, female, blah blah blah… all well and good. But when you’re delivering the same message in principal and the same reason why they belong then we need to create something new,” he says.
“Where we lose out in the mornings, we gain in the afternoon, and we do. Look at the numbers.
“There is a great opportunity to come up with something new and different in that timeslot and that’s what we’re about at the moment.”
Finally, TEN confirmed its plans for a new digital channel to replace ONE SD, at a time of its choosing.
“We’re assessing where Nine are at, where Seven is at, so it gives us the ability to go ‘Ok where do we see our channel going forward?’ We are technically ready.”