Dear Hamish, seriously….

2013-02-28_2257In what is fast becoming a series of letters to TEN CEOs, today I offer my thoughts for free to Hamish McLennan, the network’s incoming boss.

I’ve previously blogged “Dear Lachlan” and “Dear James” letters as well as a “Why I Heart Network TEN” post.

Dear Hamish

Welcome to being the fourth CEO in just over two years. Five if you count interim CEO Russel Howcroft right now.

As a viewer I’ve watched with frustration, hope and dismay at a favourite network turn into a shell of its former self. Shows have been axed, personalities have left the building, programming decisions have left me saying “What the?” more times than Rove ever did.

You remember Rove? He used to have a show on Sunday nights. It was paired pretty well with Australian Idol or So You Think You Can Dance on Sunday nights. Now I’m not saying any of those shows should necessarily be revived, but collectively they all turned Sundays into Event viewing and a great way to promote the rest of the week.

These days TEN seems to promote the same handful of shows as to become irritating, while others just don’t get a look in. I also see very little promotion of shows on multichannels on TEN. Have you seen how cool American Horror Story is? In America that thing is getting awards while TEN is peddling Hawaii Five-0.

These days Nine has cleverly aligned itself as the new TEN by nabbing shows like Big Brother, Hamish & Andy and The Voice from under your nose. The story of the chairman refusing to up a few extra mill to get the rights for The Voice is now industry folk lore. Instead we got Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive, Don’t Tell the Bride, The Shire and that other one that may never see the light of day: Come Date with Me.

A lot has been written about whether TEN should be chasing younger viewers or shooting for a broader audience. Seven and Nine are already in a tussle over the latter, so why try and take them on? Historically you have always been the cool network, the cheeky kid on the block, the network that takes risks and runs its own race. So why was Breakfast close to being a clone of the other two?

I realise that younger viewers are supposedly turning their backs on Free to Air, and there’s a lot of truth in that. But here’s the thing: even the 16-39 year olds will always want content. In fact they crave it. They just want it now and on multiple platforms -proof that they are going to great lengths for their entertainment. A way of addressing this would be to fast-track US content while generating more local content that premieres first on TEN. You should be directing all your energies to the audience watching Live television with social media as part of a national conversation. Zeebox, one of your best partnerships of 2012, lends itself perfectly to this and Can of Worms is a step in the right direction.

Why is 10:30 such a deadzone in television? While costs probably prohibit a late night Tonight show, think of ways to offer a low-cost Live conversation. I really miss The Panel. What kind of form would it take if a show of this kind were on in 2013? And if the Breakfast landscape is too crowded and too hard the other end of the day might be a viable alternative, especially when paired with The Late Show with David Letterman currently wasted in a dead zone.

We are all smarter Programmers in hindsight, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of numbers Mr & Mrs Murder would get if it had David Attenborough’s Africa as a lead in. Neighbours would also be a sensible alternative to News offerings at 6pm (and you could have had drama points for the last two years had it been there). Only play MasterChef once a year please.

Make a pact with the audience to start shows on time. Watch your numbers enjoy an immediate upswing as a result.

Replace the Seriously brand. I realise it hasn’t been used for about 6 months, but what is the current message? It needs to be about stability. It needs to communicate you are hearing the audience more than those billionaire board members.

Please go and give everybody working in the Drama department the day off. They have been a shining light through this instability. Puberty Blues, Offspring, Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Mr & Mrs Murder -they all have unique qualities. But let’s face it, sometimes they have been dragged down by decisions and accompanying programmes outside of their realm. Also ask them to commission a behind the scenes drama on the making of Number 96: The Story of how Australia lost its Virginity. It could be your own Howzat or Paper Giants. Who would play Abigail?

I don’t understand ONE. I hardly ever hear anybody talking about a show that was on it. How’s that working out for you?

Are you fairly represented in the current ratings system? Kindly investigate. How many TEN viewers no longer have a landline phone, which is mandatory to being in the survey panel? If you own a third of our current ratings provider, are you content it is doing in 2013 what it did for you in 2001?

Update: OzTAM advises they do have mobile households in the panel.

Modern Family should not be treated as your very own Big Bang Theory.

We still like your shows and your identities. We are trying hard not to slap them for your mistakes. We want you to get back to your rightful place as an aggressive third commercial network.

In television there are also times when there’s nothing inherently wrong with most of the content you are stumping up, but the strength of the competition overrides all else.

Remember that you don’t always need to be the highest rating network -you only need to be the most profitable.

Seriously,

David.

ps. The Number 96 drama was for free, the rest will entail a fee!

50 Comments:

  1. Well said!!! Ten was my fave network for many years, but its glory days seem to be behind it. Totally agree about MasterChef. It needs to go back to being on once a year. They have diluted their star performer terribly over the last couple of years. I particularly like your suggestion re a Paper Giants treatment of No 96. I am old enough to remember the furore it caused when it first went to air, it was massively controversial and the brouhaha over it lasted for a long time. Have you pitched this idea to any production houses or other networks? If you haven’t, you should.

  2. @Secret Squirrel
    Ten starts most of its programmes on the half hour, according to the TV Guide. Glee, Mr & Mrs Murder, Elementary are all doing this.

    It is Channel 9 that has played around with delaying programmes to try and match up with Channel 7, not Channel 10. Though Channel 9 have now figured out that they do better starting their top ratings shows like the TBBT and POI during MKR and Revenge and taking some viewers of Seven. And are even starting The Mentalist close to 8:30pm tonight as advertised.

    Though if you have a show that viewers are not watching because Seven is running MKR till 8:45pm though there is no point in starting it at 8:30pm when most of your viewers can’t watch it. That piss them off more than the TV differences.

  3. @kimbeth – Totally agree. I switched over last night to something called TEN Late News, and all there was for 5 mins was silly waffle between 3 presenters, someone scrolling through “funny” pages on her laptop – everything but “news”. Switched off.

  4. I love these letters! Such a personal and sincere touch to the blog.

    I totally agree about The Panel. Maybe TEN should consider a show with Santo, Sam and Ed. Their Sports Fever shows were underrated on 7 and their Podcast is hilarious, and considering they’re pretty closely related should make an adaption a lot easier.

  5. 1 more thing. Promote the living room more, i watch quite a bit of Ten and i’ve seen 1 promo for it in the past week! You need to show the highlights of the past yr and squeeze it into a great living room promo, maybe intime for it’s new slot back to 7.30??

  6. Maev....Sydney

    Well one is never too old to learn something new….you need a landline to be able to be part of ratings…..
    Apart from me and two of my friends…I cannot think of anyone else that has a landline….most I know have gone to mobile/cell phones.

  7. I think the 1st thing he should do is order the project be cut back to 30 mins! Don;t show the news headlines at the start of the project but instead at the end of the 5pm news show the big headlines. Then that way the new upcoming seasons of bl and mc can start @ 7pm where they were most successful!
    Then bring back Sandra in some capacity be it a show for herself or put her on a breakfast show

  8. David you forgot to say about F1 and MotoGP on ONE as TENs share will get more on ONE then what they got last year as it will rate 400,000 that’s only for the race and 300,000 for Pre Race on ONE if they will show it on prime time on Sundays

  9. remember when neighbours was on at 630 and the project was on at 7?

    the target audience for the project is pretty much the same target audience as neighbours. so with viewing split some choosing the project over neighbours and vice versa. wouldn’t it be a better idea to move Neighbours to 6pm followed by the project? we really don’t need the Simpson’s every night at 6.

    Sandra Sully, Hamish McDonald are two very popular and trusted journo’s yet Sandra was moved to a local news program and Hamish to late news.

    Imagine the success of breakfast if Sandra and Hamish were hosting?

  10. David, is drama the only department at Ten that hasn’t been tampered with by Lachlan and Warbs? Maybe if they’d just left the ‘television people’ alone to do their jobs Ten would be in much better shape right now.

  11. Armchair Analyst

    Very well said David. I wuld just like to ad a couple of things regarding the multichannel. Firstly ONE. A former 24/7 sports channel at least it had a identity, yes it cost too much but so did the other sports channel and now its saving Foxtel from being a useless waste of spectrum. I would like ONE to truly be a male orientated channel. The content that is has on is not what i would classify as what men would want to watch. Give men what men want i have said it before BABS (Building Stuff, Action content, Babes/hot Sexy chicks, Sports (Live). Those are the things you need to do. Secondly Eleven, needs to have more diversity in Scifi content surely endless Star Trek repeats is not all you have, what about Battle Star Galactica and Stargate Universe, what about another Gene Rodenberry Scifi series called Andromeda. Also i good kids block wouldn’t hurt finally you could actually use Labby and Stav for something useful, i mean it worked with Jade and Ryan in the 90s and Go! is doing it with Kids WB. Also i would like to see more classic Spelling content screened such as the Original 90210 and Original Melrose Place. There needs to be a clear and consistent strategy in what the multichannel are there fore otherwise it is just a waste of spectrum,

  12. Oh I agree with others too… I miss Sandra Sully. I also think Can of Worms should be 930pm Wednesday’s. I still want The Goodwife on air though.

  13. Secret Squirrel

    Another well-written letter, David. I think you pretty much hit every nail on the head, without repeating what you had previously written. I actually went back and read the ones to Lachlan and James W. and they still ring true.

    It’s amazing that it is now two years (wow) since you wrote the one to Lachlan, and it’s pretty clear that, despite your many clear and cogent suggestions, that not one of them was taken on board.

    @Pertinax – starting programs on time doesn’t mean on the half-hour, it means at the time that they are advertised. Putting 8:30 in the printed guides, 8:40 on-line, and 8:42 in the EPG is false advertising but, more importantly, it pisses people off (especially when the EPG is updated an hour before the broadcast).

  14. My 2 cents… Scrap the new late news which is neither here nor there and reinstate a standard news program with sports tonight and occasional entertainment news segments. Any chance we can get Sandra back also?

  15. I used to love Ch 10, now i have totally switched off except for American Horror Story and The Project, for the life of me i can not understand how people what TT or ACA over The Project, is it because they simply hate Ch 10 and refuse to watch anything on this channel ??? Probably.

    David you have summed it up perfectly. I don’t understand how everyone in control at 10 are so clueless. I don’t have faith that the current management team will fix anything. I think that someone like Todd Sampson would have been a much better fit for the channel rather than Russel Howcroft, if it wants to maintain its cool image.

    Ch 10 please do not try and become clones of 7 and 9, people want and alternative, some cooler and hipper (for want of a better word).

    Give Masterchef a rest Please!!! I beg of you.

    I am not going to waste my breath on shows i think they should be showing, said it all before as many others have, and no one there listens or cares. But starting shows on time and do not move them around, don’t sneaking repeats mid way through a season would be a start.

    I would also love to see what season & episode of a program I am watching, just like foxtel does. Is it so hard to do that??

    I have given up on Ten the channel I once loved. Sad really what has happened to this once loved station.

  16. @ Hamish.

    I’m pretty sure one of your people will bring David’s letter to your attention. I’m also pretty sure that until you tell Lachlan to ‘bug out’ nothing of substance is going to change and to be honest I don’t really give a damn. Ten has had more than enough latitude to get it’s act together and has failed on every count. You don’t deserve another shot in a dwindling market.

    Between the internet and the increasing mobility of today’s young folks, your target audience is disappearing faster than a politician’s election promise.

    Regards

    Ronin

    PS… don’t you go touching Sons of Anarchy… just screen it and go play with your toys.

    @ David. OzTam needs a landline??? How 90’s is that?

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