After rewriting the record books in 2012 the key to Seven’s success, they insist, is planning and investment in local product.
Head of Scheduling and Acquisitions Angus Ross tells TV Tonight, the year kicks off with its third season of My Kitchen Rules.
“It’s got the added extra of New Zealand contestants, expanding the format and the number of in-home dinners this year. So it’s real people, real food in the part of the competition that resonated with viewers last year,” he says.
“There will be some surprised but there’s also some pretty amazing characters this year. We have our usual bunch of good guys but there’s also a few ‘villain-esque’ type characters in it.
“As well as the ‘Princess’ there’s a couple of Queenslanders in a couple of episodes that are quite spectacular. It’s how everybody gets along, or doesn’t get along.
“The characters are stronger than in previous years and they’re going to enthrall people more. Some of them are quite extreme and that creates a vibe that makes you think ‘I can’t stop looking at this.’”
Unlike their rivals, Seven’s early evening schedule sees no change.
“Deal is returning, then News, Today Tonight, the foundation on which we built the whole network, then into Home and Away which had its best year in All People and Demographics for about 4 years. It kicked off with the River Boys and it stayed solid all year despite different attacks from our competitors. They’ve been experimenting with that slot because it’s been under-performing for them. We think Home and Away is rock solid and in the storylines this year we’ve got a wedding –or will we? – coming up. That’s always the question…”
Despite some noises from the host last year, Andrew O’Keefe is confirmed for more Deal or No Deal.
Ross is also thankful that Seven has a point of difference to the early-evening battle currently underway on Nine and TEN.
“There are two weight-loss Reality shows going head to head, but we’re not in that space. But we’re confident of Home and Away in that space and then My Kitchen Rules which is different to that weight-loss space. Quite the opposite, I would say!”
New dating show Please Marry My Boy follows My Kitchen Rules. But is the show designed as a sincere romantic format or tongue-in-cheek? Current promos differ from the lighter footage that was presented to media buyers in September.
“There are a number of different shows going to air, so like most of our shows we have different audiences we need to target, particularly across our multichannels on 7mate and 7TWO. You’ve got to create different sorts of promos to attack different sorts of audiences.
“But the promos that are running are tonally reflective of the show. There’s a lot of love, a lot of laughter. There are 4 unlucky in love guys who are all looking for love, with the added bonus, or not, of the mother thinking she knows best. That mixture is going to get a lot of tears a lot of laughter and a lot of warm feelings!”
The Morning Show encounters new competition this year, but so far it has won every week it has been on air. Despite media rumours there are no major changes due for Sunrise.
“It’s a show that wins its timeslot and does great demographics. There are always challenges and we’re putting plans in place to address (the competition). But it has a very loyal audience so why would you want to alienate them with wholesale changes?” asks Ross.
Fans of Packed to the Rafters will see the show return next week, and after last year’s scheduling, are finally in for some good news.
“Rafters will be a full-season run, consecutively, starting very soon. We’ll be giving viewers all that we’ve got. And we also have a full season of Winners and Losers.”
‘Tentpole’ shows returning include Dancing with the Stars (“after Easter”), Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor.
There is no decision on a renewal for Four Weddings, but World’s Strictest Parents, Highway Patrol, Border Security and The Force are all back.
One change to Seven’s schedule will be a move Better Homes and Gardens due to extra AFL commitments.
“Better Homes and Gardens is returning to its usual timeslot of 7:30 Fridays in 90 minute episodes which is what we were running at the end of last year –it was a huge success for us,” he explains.
“There will need to be some adjustments this year because we have 4 games of AFL per weekend, with the biggest and best games on Seven. So there will be live footy, which means some adjustments need to be made to the schedule.
“One of those adjustments will be Better Homes and Gardens and we have a plan for Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.”
So it stays on Fridays for Sydney and Brisbane?
“That could well happen. It’s a timeslot where people respond to the show so why would we move it if we didn’t have to?”
In AFL markets the show will be moving to Thursdays.
Also ruled out for a return is Kyle and Jackie O’s Night with Stars
“Kyle and Jackie O’s Night with Stars unfortunately didn’t get the ratings despite the best efforts of the talent and people involved in making it. So that show won’t be back but other roles for Kyle, who is obviously on Australia’s Got Talent, can’t be ruled out in other programmes,” he says.
“Kyle is always talking to us about new programme ideas which we’re more than happy to do.”
Seven will soon unveil one of its new US titles, Revenge starring Emily Van Camp.
“Revenge is holding up in the US really well and is absolutely addictive. It’s like Dynasty on steroids. I’ve had so many people, particularly females, come up to me and say ‘What’s this Revenge show and when is it starting?’ So we have very high expectations. The research we do looking into intention to view is off the charts at the moment,” he insists.
“Once Upon a Time is biggest US Drama of the new season. It’s all about characters from fairytales trapped in the modern world and not realising it. It’s very different to anything on television at the moment.
“It’s quite different to Grimm, which has a lot of horror and police procedural. But this is a fairytale.”
Meanwhile, Ross won’t commit to whether Good Christian Bitches will be re-titled for the Australian market as GCB, as it is in America.
“There’s a lot of marketing in development in the US and we’re waiting to see what that looks like and then we’ll be making the call about what works best for us,” he says.
“A title like that is not something we’d rush into, but it’s something we’ll carefully consider.”
Then there is the anticipation for one of 2011’s hit, Downton Abbey.
“Downton Abbey is coming soon. We’re awash with quality Julian Fellowes productions this year. There’s Titanic and potentially two seasons of Downton Abbey,” he says.
“Titanic is Julian Fellowes’ take on one of the most famous stories of all time. It’s a four-parter and I saw a new trailer the other day and it looks spectacular.
“The post-Easter ratings falls on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, in the week commencing April 15th.
“We also have an amazing BBC documentary on the sinking of the Titanic, which is the definitive doco on it. We know how well the BBC make those sorts of programmes and this is a pretty spectacular 2 hour doco.”
But Seven faces stiff competition from the Olympic Games in July, to air on Nine. How does a Programmer counteract such a juggernaut?
“We’re planning to continue with our regular programming. With the timezone they’re in for this market there will be a ton of stuff on turnaround for primetime. There will be a suite of Foxtel channels showing it. I don’t know how many channels Nine will have with it. I can get my results from numerous sources as they happen, so it will be very interesting to see what numbers they do. But we will be continuing regular programming.
“I’m not saying there won’t be any repeats in there but I view it we will be running regular programming through the Olympic period. And I wouldn’t be launching anything during the Olympics but if something has launched then I would envisage we will keep running it through.”
Other new local fare includes the new drama from Bevan Lee, A Place to Call Home. Seven’s local dramas have been almost without fault recently, but Ross is coy about a delivery date.
“A Place to Call Home is potentially going to be later in the year. The development is coming along amazingly and the scripts are amazing, but it comes down to casting and other elements, so it’s (a question of) how quickly it comes together,” says Ross.
“At Seven we don’t rush Dramas to get them on air by a certain date. We want them to be right and traditionally we’ve had great success in launching shows out of the Tennis. So it all depends where the show is at and we’ll make a decision from there.
“When we look at a Drama we want to be able to look at a show that’s coming back year after year. We don’t just make them for Quota here.”
Critically acclaimed Amazing Race Australia is also coming back.
“The feedback I’ve got from the producer is that the ante has been upped again, with the cast involved. I think there will be a couple of people you love to hate.”
So is casting a villain essential to Seven reality shows?
“All of these things are like sporting contests where you have your favourites and people you like to shout at. It’s all about getting the mix right, but mix we have in shows like My Kitchen Rules and Please Marry My Boy is outstanding.
“Seven is all about having a commitment to local Australian programming which is driven by Brad Lyons as Head of Production, Rikkie Proost is the Executive Producer on My Kitchen Rules.”
Finally, Working Dog also has Sports Fever on air, with Pictures of You hosted by Brian Nankervis “coming very soon” but Ross declines to detail whether the show is half an hour or longer.
“That’s a tough one to answer, is all I will say. The guys from Working Dog have never been ones to say ‘We’ll just follow convention.’ They like to do things in their way which is always incredible.
“Is it a half hour or an hour? I can’t tell you,” he admits.
“When they showed us a teaser reel it was amazing. You get the full gamut of emotions. You laugh, you cry, it’s amazing what they can do with pictures.”
Which very possibly sums up the network itself.