Content is king for TEN

Today TV Tonight continues its feature interviews with Network Programmers, as TEN’s Chief Programming Officer David Mott discusses some of the highlights of 2011.

This week TEN is rolling out a pile of new and returning shows as part of its annual bid to get a jump start on the year. Last night it offered a full night of first-run episodes beginning with its new state-based News bulletins plus The Biggest Loser, Modern Family, Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS: Los Angeles. And we’re not even in Ratings yet.

In the past few years TEN distributor deals have delivered solid shows including Glee, The Good Wife, Modern Family while new local shows such as Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, Offspring and Junior MasterChef have put the runs on the boards.

Chief Programming Officer David Mott agrees that while TEN was once reliant on juggernaut shows it now has more diverse content, which results in more programming options.

“I think at the moment it’s not just about tentpoles. The fact that our US suppliers are giving us better content going forward means that we’re less reliant on the tentpoles,” he says.

“It’s probably fair to say it wasn’t that long ago that TEN was known as the Big Brother channel but I think those days have well and truly changed.

The 7PM Project created the ability to drop some shows down to 7:30, ie. Biggest Loser and Masterchef, and then coupled with Modern Family, Glee and shows like that.”

This year’s Biggest Loser has cast four families who are each trained by four instructors including newest recruit Tiffiny Hall. It weighs in with a slimmer output of four, instead of six, nights per week.

The Biggest Loser: Families is looking absolutely outstanding. Certainly we had some pressures with last year’s series, given some certain contestants we had on the show. There were also some creative issues around the show, to be honest,” he says.

“But in the hands of Shine, Mark and Carl (Fennessy) and Paul Franklin have absolutely focussed on the show for many months now and I think what you’re going to see is a really riveting series. We’re thrilled so far with what we’re seeing.

Biggest Loser will not be stripped six nights a week because we have a lot more content there that has worked for us. So that gives us the ability to reapproach Loser and go ‘Ok, we want to make it a compelling show but we have to reduce the amount of hours down.’ And I think it’s for the benefit of the franchise.”

In US acquisitions Hawaii Five-0 with Australian Alex O’Loughlin has become the most successful new drama of the US fall season.

“I’ve seen every episode now in the US and it just gets better and better. They’ve done a great job and we’re launching that at the top of the year,” says Mott.

It is joined on Wednesday by US police drama Blue Bloods.

“It’s the return of Tom Selleck. I think there’s a retro feel about Tom Selleck, it’s his first series return, although he did a bit of a stint on Friends. Now he’s back in a full series that’s just done a great job for CBS.

“I think there’s no argument that we got the pick of the crop with the two biggest shows of the US in terms of one-hours. Defenders has done a good job as well, so with Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods we’ll roll it out at the top of the year and rightfully so. They are very polished, well-produced, well-scripted shows,” he says.

“Then we run into Glee, Modern Family, NCIS, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation.”

Generation will again be split into 2 blocks for 2011.

Later this year TEN will premiere new panel show Can of Worms from Zapruder’s Other Films, hosted by Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson.

“We’re thrilled that Andrew Denton knocked on our door with Dicko. It was an absolute standout pitch session and we just said yes on the spot. It was a no-brainer and we were delighted that he came to us first with the idea. We’ll obviously be capitalising on Can of Worms around the time of MasterChef and leading into The Renovators as well,” says Mott.

A local version of Swedish observational format Class Of … will seek to improve the lot of under-achieving school students. TEN was very taken by what it saw at international sales festival MIP TV.

“It made us lean forward,” he admits. “For me, television is all about ‘lean forward.’ The sizzle was just outstanding. And when you’re listening to a whole lot of people talk about promos, and suddenly there’s this sizzle for a thing called Class Of… we went ‘Wow!’

“Within an hour we had the distributor for a cup of coffee and had a deal done.

“Then we thought ‘Who is the most appropriate production company?’ given that it was a format we’ve secured, and for no other reason it was Mark and Carl (Fennessy) and Paul Franklin because of the work they did for me on Jamie’s Kitchen Australia –that’s kind of the tone of the show.”

It begins filming at the top of the school year.

“There are a lot of shows that have a ‘Me Too’ format, and we’ve been accused of that but I think there seems to be a lot more on other networks, but this stood out as being quite special,” says Mott.

“I am hearing anecdotally that the others are now searching for formats that are similar.”

With Neighbours shifting to ELEVEN, TEN now has two drama series: 13 episodes for the returning Offspring and AFI-winning drama Rush, trimmed to 13 episodes.

“Given the plethora of cop shows out there, Rush has stood the test of time and I believe has been the pick of the crop of the Aussie crime dramas,” says Mott.

Offspring I think will see a better season. I think a lot of people are still yet to find it, and tonally it has hit the spot for us. (TEN Drama Executive) Rick Maier and the drama team have come up with a great slate and there is a lot more drama that we’ll be announcing over the coming weeks.”

In development is the Prisoner-inspired series Inside Out.

Inside Out at this point in time has been an ongoing discussion with Freehand. Certainly if it’s going to be this year it will be the back end of this year,” he says.

While the addition of new channels is a win for viewers there is little doubt it ramps up the pressure for Programmers to deliver.

“There are a lot of benefits that we’re seeing in multichanneling with some sensational numbers coming through in all sorts of market research and ratings data, but it also means that ‘Least Objectionable’ programming has no room in a multichannel environment,” he insists.

“Shows that were ‘Oh that’ll do, I’ll watch that,’ ain’t gonna cut it anymore. So we are going to have to be bolder, we are going to have to be brave –and that’s all Free to Airs– in terms of how we present content going forward. The ‘stickiness’ is going to mean a lot more as we go forward.

“But that’s kind of in our DNA anyway from the days of Big Brother and those kinds of shows that create a social movement.

“We’ve now got an entire year’s schedule and for the first time there’s a lot less gaps where we might have been struggling for content. We’re now producing 2 or 3 new hours to our schedule, plus US content and renewals, and we haven’t lost anything with the exception of Medium, so we have gained a lot more.”

2011 is likely to be a watershed year for the network. With TEN’s new, high-profile shareholders, a new channel and a bold revamp of its 6 – 7pm slot, media observers and buyers will be scrutinising the network even more. But Mott takes comfort in the slate of content -and TEN still retains television’s biggest show.

“Looking back at last year and where the others sit, I think we have diversity with where our schedule sits with US and Australian content. We’ll be serving a lot of domestic content over the year. We will maximise MasterChef to launch a couple of key properties around that time,” says Mott.

“We have 24 x Hawaii Five-0s, 24 x Blue Bloods, NCIS: LA is a full series… and then as we leverage off the MasterChef brand we will have Can of Worms and Renovators. And then you’ve got Junior MasterChef.

“So we’re very comfortable where things sit.”

TOMORROW: Seven Network.


  1. Ten should have given 90210 a fair chance and not axed it after three episodes after all It would have been the first time since Heartbreak High and the OC they had a teen drama.Currently only ABC 3 with Degrassi Next Generation offers something that is not an Australian Soap for todays teen market.

  2. @ Craig

    On the deathslot thing. I was talking about my personal deathslot. The rest of Australia might be watching but I won’t be. I watched most episodes of House until they put it on Sunday i.e. 5 seasons. I watched most episodes of Supernatural except when they put it on Sunday (i.e. last few episodes of the third season) and I saw none of them. That said when they put the fourth season on Monday I started watching again. I made sure I’d seen the last episode of the third season as I got the DVDs as it was released the week before. Although I hadn’t fully caught up with a few of the last episodes. By the way as I’ve mentioned elsewhere Supernatural is my favourite show on their network (but not of all the current shows though it is high on the list). So if what I consider their best show can’t get me to watch it’s just never going to work out. For me. Hence my “To me” comment. Also if they debut shows on Sunday it’s just means don’t bother watching as I’ll never be able to see all of the episodes or even most of them. To fix it they could repeat them later that night or another one as that would mean I could occasionally watch it in primetime. Oh well I guess I should just give up about Ten and Eleven. I tried not to. So DVDs it is then.

  3. “The fact that our US suppliers are giving us better content going forward”

    I take issue with that quote. I don’t think it’s good enough to rest your hopes that the U.S is giving you better content therefore you should be doing better in the ratings year. As in why not focus on producing terrific drama content yourself?

    Seven’s biggest show is Packed to the Rafters, Nine’s biggest show is Underbelly and there you have Ten making do with Offspring and Rush? Please!

  4. I was pretty disgusted with the attitude of the contestants. They were probably told to eat how they normally would eat, that was the point after all, but they’re on a show to lose weight and they just seemed to take delight scoffing all that food down and laughing about it.
    I was more cynical of Tiffany’s reaction to a chicken parmi. Like come on you’ve never eaten a chicken parmi. She was acting like it was snails on a plate or something.

  5. Two things struck me in particular watching the episode last night. The enormous portions and sheer volume of calories was gobsmacking. But if you’re going to have a massive pig out, and I certainly indulge from time to time, I’d rather go down in flames eating something superbly cooked, using the best ingredients and enjoying every mouthful. Which brings me to the second point: no one seemed to take any pleasure in the food they were shoveling into themselves at all. That’s just really sad, and says it all about addiction.

  6. I saw it as people with a dangerous addiction going about getting their ‘fix’ – no matter how embarrassing or even disgusting it comes across to the trainers and viewers.

    Obviously these people spend a huge part of their day doing nothing but eating and I can’t see them stopping the second they find out they are on the show. This is why they have applied, they do not have the will power to do it on their own.

    The pasta chick was loving it, no way she was gonna eat a salad or something or cut down on the booze just because Tiffiny was there.

  7. @Jerome…also regarding your comment about Rush…it is critically acclaimed having won best drama at the AFI awards last year. Ten should be applauded for keeping a quality Australian drama on the air even though the ratings have just been okay. Networks are criticized for taking shows off too quickly, but when they leave them on they are also criticized. Can’t win!!

  8. @Jerome…Maybe Mott gets his information directly from CBS, the people Ten buys those shows from, and they’ve told him how happy they are with their new shows. TVBythenumbers concentrates more on the 18-49 demographic, and Blue Bloods is a very old skewing show, so they wouldn’t consider it as successful for that reason, but Blue Bloods has done so well on a Friday night that CBS has moved it mid-week following Criminal Minds to see if it is worth moving to a higher viewer night. Mott is correct in saying that Defenders has done a good job as well. I think it has surprised most people, and has been moved to Fridays to replace Medium.
    Also, the other two shows (Life Unexpected and Lonestar) you say that have been cancelled have never been shown in Australia, so how can Mott include them when talking about returning shows? They don’t factor in to Ten’s schedule at all.

  9. I think the contestants on Biggest Loser knew they were going to be on the show (having the camera crew in their respective houses was probably their biggest clue), but they didn’t know the format for this year. They probably wouldn’t have been expecting a phone call from their trainer, or being told that their trainer would be spending a week living in their house and eating what they usually eat. So that’s why they were all so surprised as that has never been done before on the show.
    They would have been told to continue with their usual routine so the trainers could experience a week of their lives and learn why they have become the size they are. I don’t think what we saw them eat was contrived at all…you only need to see how overweight they are to realise that. The blonde control freak mother was the only one trying to convince Shannen that while the others were eating bacon and eggs etc, she only ate weetbix and sometimes toast. So not all of them admitted to over-eating.
    I was more shocked hearing one of them say that she had never eaten any salad in her life except for once trying a chicken caesar salad. Another saying that she eats take away (and feeds her kids as well) for 3 meals a day!
    It’s amazing how cynical some people are when watching these shows now. I just felt really sorry for these people.

    • Not so sure it’s audience cynicism so much as audience insight into the methods of modern television production. In a post Big Brother world they are simply smarter now. I would have bought the contestants saying to trainer “here is the meal I used to eat.” I just didn’t buy them happily scoffing it down for the cameras having committed to the show. It actually reminded me of that awful “last supper” feast (series 1?) that was heavily criticised.

  10. @Goonies
    I don’t want to gang up with David to put the boot in to you, but try to imagine that you’re dangerously obese and want to try to save your life by the embarrassing and very public expedient of going on this show.
    Would you continue to chow down on toxic waste in front of the cameras and a scornful trainer? Would you hold up your tragic tummy folds for the nation to see in the cut-aways but then tear-up at the thought of the first weigh in? Would you really sleep in until 3pm with a trainer and camera crew in your house?
    Nope. Not unless the producers have told you to play it up for the cameras or you don’t get your chance on the show. Or your cheque, or whatever it is they use to tempt these poor, poor people onto the show.
    I’m really glad you enjoyed it, but don’t pretend for a moment that it’s not a carefully staged manipulation of sad people with genuine physical – and probably psychological – problems.
    BTW – At the other end of the spectrum, imagine being so physically perfect that you have to go spew in a toilet bowl after a hotdog and some cake!
    What kind of insecurities are the trainers compensating for?

  11. Mott could do well to check how his shows are rating in the US before doing interviews like this. blue bloods and especially defenders are not doing well at all in the US. Tvbythenumbers has them as “likely to be cancelled” and “highly likely be cancelled” respectively. also Medium in not the only show they have that has been axed there is also Lonestar and Life Unexpected, ten have lost the most out of any Australian network. (9 has The whole truth and Undercovers, 7 has My generation and Outlaw).

    and a lol at Rush: ” stood the test of time” its obviously only ever been renewed so ten can make their drama quota, why else would you want an expensive show that regularly slips into the 600’s in your schedule?

    don’t like Mott knocking the other networks for making “me to” decisions and then talking up shows like The Renovators and Can of Worms, there is only so far you can stretch those premises away from the many attempts that have already been made.

    they do seem to be trying to skew a lot older this year mainly through their imports but also through shows like class of… which i think is a good move but will have to be very competitive with 7&9.

  12. Will there be an “encore” screening of Hawaii 5-O. Does anyone else think it’s s strange decision to programme this against the Aussie open tennis final? I mean really, why do that?

  13. Just because a camera crew was there doesn’t automatically mean they were going to be on the show, they could have told them they were there just in case.

    Also why would they change the habit of a lifetime re junk food? They have a major problem and just because a camera is there isn’t going to stop them getting their ‘fix’

    I really enjoyed it last night but what I really wanted to know was what these people spend on groceries each week !!

    • Goonies: Sorry I don’t agree. It doesn’t make sense to effectively say “Yes I am going to give up all my time to appear on a show to reinvent my life but first I will gorge down all this bad food and laugh about it as if there’s nothing wrong.” It felt too contrived to me.

      JJ: TEN does not have a “new drama boss” so not sure how accurate that rumour is.

  14. Don’t know how true it is but I read somewhere that Ian Bradley one of the producers of the original Prisoner and now the man behind this new version Inside Out allegedly had a falling out with the new drama boss at Channel Ten over the direction the new show should take and they have since parted ways so that may be the reason for the holdup of this new show.

    I just wish Channel Ten would let the guy have free reign on creating this new show, since he was one of the people behind the very successful Prisoner there’s every chance he can make a success of it now. We all know Channel Ten’s recent history when it comes to creating good drama, they wouldn’t have a clue.

  15. I’m embarrassed to say I watched Fattest Loser last night to see if it was any different. And it wasn’t.
    Did you notice how the four families of fatties were So surprised to have their dinner interrupted by a phone call from their respective trainers to be told they were Actually going going to be on the show ! OMG!! Sensation!
    So surprised! Despite having a camera crew in their house filming them as the phone rang. And how in the space of 20 minutes they’ve already established who to hate and who to cry for.
    Still all fake. Still all manipulated. Still the same b*llShat.
    BTW this is not a safe or healthy way to lose weight – one year down the track it all goes back on plus more. Believe me, I know :-{

  16. I haven’t watched the Australian version of The Biggest Loser for many years, but thought i’d give this series a go, as it looks to be a different show. I must admit I only realised after watching the show last night that it will be shown a total of 4 hours a week. I stopped watching the aussie version when they went to daily shows because it was to drawn out, and with 4 hours a week I suspect this will be too. With the different format maybe it can work, time will tell. However, if they do what they’ve done in the past and focus more on making the contestants cry, versus the competition aspect, i’ll be switching off once again.

  17. How are Ten going to reach their drama quota now that Neighbours doesn’t count, there’s only 13 episodes of Rush and Offspring, and only the possibility of Inside Out airing this year (they don’t sound very keen on it)?. Can we just expect more NZ dramas as they scrape their way towards the quota? No mention of the first week of the news evolution?

  18. Forgot about Dicko’s new show. Not really interested in it.

    I think its a good move trimming down Loser. Having it on 6 nights a week was a bit too much.

    I like the idea of having 12 – 13 episodes for Rush and Offspring. Having 20+ episodes is good an all but sometimes you get one or two episodes that are just average or filliers. Having a shorter season I feel makes it for better story telling.

  19. Tasmanian de√il

    “Biggest Loser will not be stripped six nights a week because we have a lot more content there that has worked for us. So that gives us the ability to reapproach Loser and go ‘Ok, we want to make it a compelling show but we have to reduce the amount of hours down.’”

    Don’t forget though that in its first four seasons, Biggest Loser would have about 3 hour long episodes and 3 half hour episodes a week, totalling 4 and a half hours. Now with 4 hour long episodes a week, that’s only a difference of half an hour. And also remember that the show started 30 minutes earlier, so the amount of content they are showing in 2011 at 7:30-8:30 weeknights is no more than the amount in 2006-2009, if not less.

  20. @steven guy, would you prefer another channel with repeats of TV shows and movies instead of one?

    I rarely tune in, but look forward to when they have the rights to more sports, and can play them exclusively. With 16 other channels, having one as 24 hour sport is a great option to have on free to air.

  21. “So we are going to have to be bolder, we are going to have to be brave”

    But not brave enough to show 90210 after 3 episodes.
    Be brave and keep showing 90210.

    I actually watch Eleven more than Ten and I do not watch One.

  22. I think Channel 10 should do alot better in the ratings thanks to all these new shows. I also think that The Simpsons and Neighbours haveing been moved to Eleven will also help Channel 10 get their prime time audience increased significantly…..

  23. I hate to break his bubble but I didn’t watch Ten or Eleven at all last night. To me Sunday is their deathslot as the other channels offer different content sometimes that I watch. So I watched ABC1, Seven, SBS1, back to ABC1, Nine and Seven during primetime. Then turned off the TV after the sports results.

    The only series that I’d be tempted to watch on Sunday is Sherlock on Nine because it should be on Sunday as well as only being 3 episodes. I might catch the end of Castle or sometimes the full thing if the ABC doesn’t have something I’m interested in. And I’m grateful that they repeat it: as I often catch it then. If I like Hawaii Five-0 and they repeat it then I might see them together. Or on Tuesday. As that’s when I plan to catch it.

    I’ve been saying if they put Smallville on a weekday I’d probably watch it as long as it isn’t against Fringe or on Monday. I never watched Supernatural when it was briefly on Sunday and had to wait for the DVDs plus it might be my favourite contemporary show on their network. I know of other family members that might watch more of Ten including MasterChef. As well as NCIS and the like. By the way they too like Poirot so anything against that other than Sherlock is pretty much doomed those nights. I say this as a viewer I’ll admit. It can be ignored but I’d like to watch Ten and Eleven more. As they unintentionally kill things for me. This has included House and Medium. It’s not too late for Smallville. If you must insist on Sunday: repeat it later in the night as I might catch it then.

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