Why The Project is doing it tough, with no help from TEN.

2013-03-21_2315Question without notice to Network TEN:

Why on earth are you playing a premium first-run Drama series in Neighbours against a premium first-run Light Entertainment series in The Project, when they are both shooting for the same demographic?

How is this good business sense?

Which show is it supposed to be helping?

Aren’t you asking your viewers to decide between one or the other?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to protect your first-run local content rather than cannibalise the audience?

The Project has endured so many Programming changes that it has now ended up competing for the same audience as Neighbours, yet this was never the intent.

When Neighbours moved to ELEVEN in January 2011 it was scheduled against state-based news editions, with George Negus at 6pm. It was an alternative offering and The 7pm Project, as it was then known, was running against reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.

By April 2011 TEN moved Negus to 6:30 against Neighbours, but the two shows were still arguably shooting for a different audience -one was serious current affairs and the other a youthful soap audience.

By October of the same year the Negus experiment was axed and The 7pm Project became The Project, running for an hour at 6:30pm. That was the first time it went head to head with Neighbours. But by February 2012 the show moved again to 6pm as TEN moved its Reality juggernauts back to 7pm. It was a big ask to compete with 6pm news bulletins.

The most recent move was a return to 6:30pm last December, again commencing head to head with ELEVEN’s soap. The show has now endured so many timeslot changes that it has impacted on a loyal audience.

Two years ago when it was a half hour 7pm Project, the show was frequently above 700,000 viewers. Admittedly TEN was in much better shape and the landscape had not fragmented as much as it has now.

But last week it averaged 435,000, only just ahead of The Bold and The Beautiful on 400,000. At the same time another 300,000 viewers are watching Neighbours on ELEVEN.

Both are arguably shooting for the 16-39 and 18-49 demographics. TEN is effectively forcing one mass audience of 700,000 to split into two.

Even more bizzarely, all this time Neighbours has not attracted Drama points for the network when it could have if it had been played at 6pmon TEN. As of this week the government has ruled that first run Dramas on multichannels will finally attract points.

But it’s time to consider moving Neighbours to 6pm to encourage the same audience to feed into The Project at 6:30pm, coaxed by direct promos. Lifting The Project would also help give TEN’s 7:30 shows a stronger lead-in.

There has been some chatter that the license fee TEN has paid for Neighbours precludes it from switching it back to TEN. Both the network and FremantleMedia Australia declined to comment when asked by TV Tonight.

On Monday, TEN’s CEO Hamish McLennan acknowledged to the joint Senate committee that TEN paid lower or “market” rates for content that was designed to screen on a multichannel.

Whatever the limitations, my message to TEN is to put your first run local content against US reruns and find a better way to flow audiences from one local show to another.

Stop making the audience choose. Do what you can to protect your talent. Programming 101.


  1. These are dangerous times for spineless Television executives more concerned with keeping their job than exploring new and exciting programming decisions.
    Viewers are only just starting to come to grips with Time shifting and Multiple channel recording.
    The problem is extenuated by revolving door bumping,cancelling and late starting.
    It is now time for someone with the cajones of a Kerry Packer to have the courage of his/her convictions and give Australia a late night Letterman/Kimmel/Leno variety style show.
    Perhaps as previously suggested The project moved to a later timeslot with band,special guests etc(What a better way to introduce new young Australian acts).
    Some of the best Australian Television I ever saw was the blatantly Letterman copied Vizard show of the late 80’s early 90’s,while a lot of people may not have necessarily liked Vizard it was hard not to like the show.
    I have noted lately that Charlie seems to have toned down his leftist approach but the same can not be said of the others,someone here made reference to right leaning guests that is definitely not the norm and a more apolitical approach would make it a hell of a lot easier for me to watch.

  2. The Project is one of those shows which adds to the Australian TV landscape.

    It’s pretty much always interesting and entertaining. I don’t watch it as much as I used to. However I really think if it was to go, the TV landscape would be worse off.

    There’d be literally nothing on at that time i’d watch. I’d flick onto the SBS news then watch a TV show on a DVD or something i recorded from another timeslot.

  3. carolemorrissey

    I really like The Project, and I seem to be in the minority, but I love Dave Hughes, I find him really funny. I agree, it can be a lighthearted look at the news and enjoy when they make jokes, it’s what makes it entertaining, but they cover serious issues too and treat them with respect when it’s appropriate. It’s a nice alternative to the more ‘serious’ news and current affairs.

  4. Secret Squirrel

    The ABC’s 7pm News also had footage of Abbott back-pedalling from referring to “birth parents” (not mothers). An apology at an apology from an apology.

  5. I have to have a huge laugh when people say that a show such as The Project is “biased”, reading the comments here it seems that there is a fairly even number of people from both sides of the political fence saying this… just look at the comments of byeana (the show is biased to the right), closely followed by rudiger (the show is biased to the left).

    If bias meant anything then clearly biased shows such as Bolt, ACA et al would be gone. Bias means nothing, especially in a show which has none, in spite of people trying to prove it does because at that point of time it doesn’t agree with their own narrow point of view.

    @David, no time? Or does it go deeper than that. Could it be that the “news” organisations in this country are so scared of being shown up as the lying scumbags they are by the proposed (and sadly defunct) media laws that they are prepared to do anything (and I mean anything) to get rid of the people suggesting them?

  6. To all those saying that the Project would rate well if it was any good, let me just remind you of what *is* dominating the timeslot: TT and ACA. I think we can all agree that neither of those shows epitomise quality. So there goes that theory.

    Then there’s this theory that they treat everything as a joke and all they do is fluff. The people who are saying this clearly haven’t actually seen the show (or enough of it). Yes, they have fun where they can (which is appreciated by me) but they are absolutely serious when the topic demands it (e.g. organ donation, Royal Commission into child sex abuse, etc.).

    Everyone calling Charlie a “talentless anchor” who doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Seriously? He has handed people’s arses to them on several occasions. He asks intelligent questions and he knows when to challenge the interviewee’s answer (and he knows how to exercise restraint as well, which is important), based on genuine knowledge/research. I do agree, however, that Hughesy is not funny – but that’s just a small part of the show.

    What I love about the Project is that it makes the news more palatable and cuts through all the bs. It’s clever, funny and covers, in addition to news, topics of genuine interest or importance that might not make it onto the news (much like Hungry Beast). I often walk away feeling like I’ve learned something. (Sorry about the length, David!)

    • On Thursday night when the other media spent so long covering the leadership spill, The Project was the only place I learned about Tony Abbott’s offensive remarks about “birth mothers” at the national apology to victims of forced adoptions. He got away with it that day because other news bulletins seemingly had no time to cover it.

  7. Reason 1 ‘Dave’ reason 2 ‘Carrie’. Just about anyone filling in for these two does a better job. And they are both leftists I prefer a more balanced approach from a host, Charlie at least attempts this.

  8. @ Rob, Yes you would think that with analogue been switched off all channels would be the same. Here in country vic analogue has been turned off for a couple of years. On WIN TV which runs Nines programmes they moved ACA over to GEM at 7pm while The Block was on. ACA is shown at 7pm in rural areas as they show a local news service at 6.30 pm. It would be very interesting see how ACA rated on GEM.

  9. I do not think that most networks( but especially Ten trying to be a viable Alternative) do not understand the unintended subliminal effect of biased political cheap shots,interviews, biased hosts and guest hosts and biased interviews or even biased lead news items etc, especially with us the older viewer, and strangely it is us that the new CEO is asking to return to the fold we have slowly but definitely abandoned.

    For example, whilst many in a live audience, who may be of a generation of those “inclined” fit and able to attend tapings of for example ‘The Project’, the now deceased ‘Circle’ etc, who will give instant gratification to the snide biased humour of Hughes, a lessor extent Ellmo, and other hosts who choose to jump on the possible recall bandwagon, the blatant and unwavering bias of Price, and blokes like the Vizzard’s, Hockey’s,and Krogger’s and the list goes on.

    We of the older generation who are viewing at home, simply see it distastefully for what it is, and start looking for something better on other networks hence ratings numbers not only reflect a change of viewer attitudes, it more importantly reflects and no doubt if traced back, a change in the networks attitude towards us the viewers.

    What better example can there be with likes of Paul Henry and Andrew Bolt and unfortunately sadly, many of same purveyors of bias and gloom, are the now also appearing on the New Meet the Press.

  10. Maev....Sydney

    I have to agree with Rob…all channels will be equal by the end of the year….so does it really matter what is on which channel…I guess… the issue is that the two programs do not clash….
    And yes….programming seems to be the core of the problem.

  11. Neighbours should be moved to TEN at 6.30pm weeknights and make The Simpsons replace at 6.30pm on 11 and Neighbours encored on 11 (Sunday afternoon) and make The Project renamed as “7PM Project” as it was traditionally before

  12. I really don’t understand why the *main channel* is relevent anymore as we move into the new age of digital television. I get that on analogue the main channel was it, but nowadays with analogue being switched off, one channel is as good as the other.

    Absolutely agree TEN needs a kick in the bottom when it comes to scheduling, and definately shouldn’t run their two programs against each other, but these comments of “deserves a better channel”… makes no sense.

    Eleven is a great channel, I really enjoy the old sitcoms, could do without couch time, but everything else fits the channel perfectly.

    Move Neighbours wherever you want, but understand that a channel is just another channel in my book…

  13. Neighbours is my last remaining appointment viewing. Everything else is recorded for later.

    Moving it back to Ten, airing at 6 would be the right move. Most nights, after Neighbours is done, my partner and I will flip over the project and catch the back end of it. If it didn’t clash with Neighbours (which, despite the move to 11, I would argue remains a strong tentpole of the 10 brand), then most nights I would catch the whole broadcast.

    But, I do agree, the project needs a shake up. Maybe a few different hosts. Maybe 1 negus story a night, to give their serious stuff a more… ‘legitimate’ air. And get Roy and/or HG on Fridays, for the sporting weekend ahead. It’s a good show, but if it isn’t connecting, it needs a re-tool.

  14. I have never watched the Project but occasionally catch Neighbours because a family member watches it. Yes, from what I have seen, it has certainly improved in recent months but I just wish that they’d find a way to write some episodes that don’t have love-triangle angst stories. These are so tired and cliched!

  15. Eleven is full of sitcom re-runs so neighbours seems so odd on that channel. It’s almost lost amoungst the schedule. I can only think the decision is based on wanting neighbours to be no1 show on eleven whereas without it eleven would have nothing. What’s the point in having one good show when they’ve got mothing else.

  16. The thing I like about The Project (over ACA and TT) is the virility and the fact they don’t take them selves too seriously most of the time but when they have a serious topic they get on with the job. The other 2 shows are nothing more than infotainment masquerading as news shows. The ABC has the only real news shows in this country on FTA.

  17. Good point, I haven’t seen The Project since it moved to the same slot as Neighbours – I’m watching Neighbours. Maybe they could stop being cheap ***** and pay a bit more for a show that, if they tried (like, did something nuts like a proper promo campaign), could get some decent numbers for them considering how poorly their numbers are?

  18. There is more to this than unusual programming choices. ASIC should be paying more attention here since it has implications to the longterm owners of Ten and it all started when Murdoch and Hancock and her crew started to rule the roost.

  19. I have never watched neighbours but i am quite proud of that!

    The project is entertaining compared to aca and tt i really dont know how they rate so well??

  20. Sorry David, but if The Project was a good show, it would be pulling the numbers (even up against Neighbours). Yes the damage was probably done when Ten expanded to an hour moved it out of the 7pm timeslot, but viewers clearly don’t care enough about the show to follow it to a new timeslot.

    I would move The Project back to 6pm – its a more compatible lead out of Ten news, it rates better than Simpsons repeats and provides a quality alternative to Seven and Nine.

    Put Modern Family back at 7pm including a new episode on Mondays – it would rate more strongly than The Project and new episodes at 7pm would get people watching throughout the week.

    As for Neighbours, there’s no way it would rate any better than what The Simpsons is currently doing on Ten. Moving it back to Ten with a significant timeslot change to 6pm only risks alienating the audience further. I agree with Beverley McGarvey’s comments in that its become a staple for Eleven and helps prop up the rest of the night’s programming.

  21. The Project is rubbish. Viewers prefer Today Tonight and ACA because The Project have comedians acting as presenters. But I do agree with you about moving Neighbours back on Ten.

  22. John Jackson

    Hmm.. those thinking The Project is left wing, Is Steve Price left wing? He quite often appears on The Project. Also Joe Hockey basically makes weekly appearances too ( though not at the desk ).

    Also Bolt would appear on it at times too before he had his own show.

  23. For the same reason, I don’t understand them programming Wednesday night on one with 4 great first runs dramas and putting them up against first run dramas on ten and then wondering why none of them rate well! I think they think these are male orented shows on one and female oriented on ten but you should never decide what your audience wants to watch…

  24. The Project is a uniquely refreshing program. There is nothing else like it on free-to-air TV. It is the best commercial TV available at 6:30 pm by a country mile! Long may it survive! Worryingly though, Andrew Bolt listed it as part of the left-wing media a couple of weeks ago in his regular weekly newspaper rant (left-wing being anything he doesn’t agree with). Given his close association with Ms Rinehart, Mr Murdoch & others, perhaps there is another agenda causing The Project to be doing it tough. Wear it down, don’t promote it, program strongly against it to get the ratings critically low enough and then you have no choice but to give it the chop. Wouldn’t that please certain people? Go Charlie & co!

  25. John Jackson

    PJs Ronin – the project does deal with sensitive stories on many occasions. Not sure how much you’ve watched it, but they can be on quite regularly and afterwards its common for a few members of the panel (especially Carrie and any other female it they’re on at the time to get emotional). It isn’t all fluff and jokes.

  26. jezza the first original one

    @ trev, I did say the project was a consistant performer, not the best. Yet everyday in DKs ratings report it is nearly always in ch10s top 5 performers, yesterday it was 2nd for ch10.

    Ch10 will not continue to exist as a going concern if its ratings doldrums persist, but do you ditch one of its shows that provides consistant numbers?

  27. Spot on, David. I see the effort that 11 puts into promoting Neighbours, via guests on Couch Time and reruns of earlier series at 9.30am, etc. And the producers are doing everything they can via social networking. etc. It’s just a shame that Ten doesn’t support the product. Pitting Neighbours against The Project is simply dumb.

  28. I can’t stand Neighbours, but I appreciate I am in the minority. Thus I agree that it deserves a better channel/timeslot.

    On the other hand, The Project suffers such an identity crisis that no amount of scheduling will help it. Comprising two ‘comedians’ and a fluff, no real news story is going to see the light of day. Can you imagine these folks dealing with issues such as rape, paediatric oncology, domestic abuse or (heaven help us) politics or religion to any degree of depth… yep, lots of laugh material there folks. That resolves the program to addressing issues of little consequence.

    Dump the project and fill the hour with Neighbours/Simpsons. God, did I just say that?

  29. The Project has never known exactly what it wants to be. Yes it presents news in a different format but the transitions from a serious, sad story to something silly and amusing are incredibly jarring and uncomfortable. You invariably have comedians attempting to debate serious, complicated issues and its clear they often don’t know what they’re talking about, or don’t care.

    I think this format has a place but it cant be everything to everyone. The Panel was brilliant because it was such a simple, clearly defined format – comedians having an amusing look at the days events – they never bothered pretending to be serious, or genuine – they’re comedians, and there’s serious news for that.

  30. Why is the Project doing it tough?
    According to Jezza the first, it’s one of Ten’s most consistant performing shows, even though it struggles to average 500 K in peak viewing time and very rarely finishes above fourth place in its time slot.

    The show is stuggling because hardly anyone is interested in watching a talentless anchor, an unfunny comedian and the nation’s worst newsreader acting like complete idiots each and every night.

    To answer carolemorrissey’s question, Neighbours was relegated to 11 because hardly anyone was watching it on 10, simple as that.

  31. I like the idea of Neighbours moving back to Ten, but I’m wary about changing the timeslot to 6pm. I think one of the major reasons the ratings dropped when it moved to Eleven was that it broke viewing habits. People who would normally leave their TV on Ten for the News, The Simpsons then Neighbours probably stayed on Ten or found other alternatives rather than switching to Eleven. It didn’t help that the move happened after the Summer break and with no warning of the switch in the final episode of 2010 on Ten. As a Neighbours fan it’s surprising how many people I come across who don’t realise the show is still on air! A move to a new timeslot could cause more viewers to abandon the show. Perhaps a marketing campaign promoting the timeslot and channel to a mainstream audience rather than just Channel Eleven viewers would be a better alternative?

  32. @Pertinax – I don’t think secondary channels were a mistake. The mistake is that Ten effectively agreed to create a channel that canibalised its own audience. More programming across free to air is a good thing. There’s a bunch of programs I watched that I would have missed if it hadn’t been for the secondary channels. Ten’s issue is there’s programming on Eleven that would rate just as well if it were on the main channel – probably better.

  33. oztvheritage

    Yeah makes more sense Neighbours being on Ten at 6pm. But The Project Is become abit all the same. And sick of the panel laughing at unfunny stuff – Especially from Dave. He’s not funny! Lemo or Pete Helliar are soooo much better. If you are there to be funny – it’s quite important that you are!

    But it is still better than the alternative rubbish on 7 and 9.

  34. carolemorrissey

    Yeah, David should take off programming for ch 10.

    I tape Neighbours and The Project, and watch the news and A Current Affair or Today Tonight and Home & Away. Can’t even remember why Neighbours was switched to 11.

  35. TasTVcameraman

    talking at work about this and everyone here agrees Neighbours should stay at 6.30 as it is the time parents are able to relax and watch Neighbours with their children, who prably are not that into The Project or is there any law saying you cant show the project on Ten and eleven at the same time. It would be anitersting experiment because some people do not bother watching the secondary channels.

  36. From day one the The Project should have been a late night panel type show.

    Hughsey and Charlie have now become these polished semi-funny news readers. Who are restricted to what they say. From the first episodes you could see they were struggling to not swear and let it rip. Which is what they should have been allowed to do in the first place.

  37. My entire family love The Project. It offers the usual news headlines but also interest stories (public interest stories) that are really intriguing and captivating, compared to those offered my ACA and TT. Hughsey definitely isn’t as funny as he was back on Rove, but he offers a lighter side to the panel, and having a different fourth member every week from varying backgrounds really adds to the stories presented – such as when Dr Andrew is on and there are medical stories which he puts his 2 cents in on, Natasha on any political news, and Steve Price on just about anything as being a radio jockey he has an opinion on everything (but everyone should have a look at the stories he done this week on child unemployment in Australia – truly inspirational). It is really hard though also being a Block fan and missing the second half of every show because TEN don’t offer reality programming at 7pm (even though I’m pretty sure they were the first network to back with Big Brother – correct me if I’m wrong). Here’s hoping TEN can be bigger and better this year!

  38. Have to agree! I can’t help but notice Neighbours has dropped in viewers since the projects move. I also think the way Ten treat the talented project team is a tad criminal. I never actually know when the shows gonna start and often forget its on due to watching ACA or Today Tonight following on from my 6 o’clock news fix. No wonder Ten has problems.

  39. John Jackson

    Yeah, I watch The Project and Neighbours so it is definitely hard for me so I end up missing pieces of both programs as I flip between them.
    The days were great when the project crew used to make promos for those who were watching Neighbours. I think they may have even been live promos telling the audience to stick around after Neighbours or when Neighbours moved to 11 they’d tell people to move over to 10 after Neighbours was over.

  40. Eleven is a join venture between Ten and CBS. Neighbours moving to Eleven was part of that deal. It is not a simple matter of Ten doing what-ever it wants.

    Secondary channels were a mistake. They were an excuse to tie up more spectrum, after HD was revealed as gimmick, to keep it from being used by competition and to try and damage Pay TV.

    A semi-autonomous secondary channel that competes for your most profitable demographic was a really stupid mistake. One Ten are paying for big time.

  41. Such a pity. The Project has become a great show. It’s funny, covers actual news and the panel have fantastic chemistry. Ten really need to help this show more.
    On a side note, I’m finding since the start of this year that the news they cover is often very Melbourne-based. I’m from Melbourne, so it doesn’t bother me. But surely its not good for ratings.

  42. Sadly I think the biggest problem with The Project is that it isn’t very good.

    It has no chance against the strong reality formats or news programs from the rival networks.

    Ten needs to replace it with reality strip stat.

  43. I think many viewers would be switching from News to Neighbours at 6.30. Changing timeslots could do more harm than good.

    Neighbours should probably return to 6.30 on TEN and reinstate The 7pm Project.

  44. Spot on. I’ve said all along Neighbours should be back on Ten, but at 6pm. Neighbours viewers are either younger and therefore not watching the news, or older and more likely watching ABC news.
    The Project should stay at 6.30, but i think it should go back to a half hour program. It offers an alternative to the crappy tabloid trash on 7 & 9.
    Ten started the trend of reality shows at 7pm and it worked brilliantly for them. No idea why they don’t put Masterchef / Biggest Loser back at 7.

    We are talking about Ten here. Nothing they do makes sense anymore. And they haven’t made a good programming decision in years, hence the position they’re in

  45. Better yet, move The Project to 6pm on Eleven. It would serve as a “news alternative” to its intended demographic, who possibly don’t watch traditional 6pm news anyway. It would also serve as a lead-in to Neighbours, given they (are supposed to) appeal to the same target audiences.

  46. At the time I’m sure moving Neighbours off the main channel was a good idea at the time but I agree it’s not working, maybe it should have moved back to TEN at 6pm, just before The Project?

  47. TasTVcameraman

    I like “The Project” and sometimes wait for the encore up late, but at 6.30pm it is Neighbours time, put the project back at 7.00 pm where it used to be and also put Neighbours back on TEN, where it belongs. I am not in the age group of either I am in my 60’s and watch Neighbours, if I am out it gets recorded on 3 PVR’s just to ensure the recording is there.
    By the way I like the fact that I am “youthful” Thanks.

  48. Interesting TEN’s programming is being blamed, we gave up watching the show a 18 months ago, looks like others are now following suit. Was on in the background in my hotel a couple of nights ago and is past it’s prime now, too many revolving presenters, Hughesy past his best, trying to too hard to get something funny out of wach segment, Carrie very pretty but all fluff now, Charlie even more arrogant, not funny and more left wing as ever.

  49. Great article, David. You should be the programmer at Ten. Seriously.

    Re Neighbors, I remember it rating really badly before it was moved to Eleven, which made sense at the time. But it’s lifted it’s game and is in top form at the moment. This weeks episodes have been great with the wedding and explosion.

  50. jezza the first original one

    The Project is one of ch10s most consistant performing shows. In the new fragmented landscape its numbers are ok and there could be an argument that by pitting it against Neighbours the network has fully secured its main target demo. I am not convinced that if you ran them consecutively you would secure an audience of 700k for each.

    So called lead ins are becoming less and less relevant, the remote is king and catch up tv online is always available. The Last Resort gets one of the biggest lead ins across the week and its ratings are…….Some lead ins may work, but this mentality is so 2004….antique

  51. Never thought of it this way, great article David. Always assumed it was just because of the constant time-slot changes, not the fact that they’re competing against Nine, Seven and themselves.

    Although that’s just Network Ten for you. No idea what they’re doing, even with great Australian shows like The Project and I assume Neighbours.

  52. I see some merit to your argument. And no doubt there is some over lap between the Neighbours and Project audience. But you can’t presume everyone that likes Project on Ten also likes Neighbours on Ten’s digital offshoot Eleven.

    40% of people also have DVRs and can watch both if they wish.

    But you are right mostly I think. Maybe it’s time to something like

    5.00 Ten News
    6.00 Neighbours
    6.30 The Project
    7.30 Primetime

    And put The Simpsons back on Eleven for an hour long block 5-6pm.

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