With last week’s unveiling of the kid’s channel ABC3, and the preschool offering ABC for Kids on ABC2, the public broadcaster has a tempting offering for families with digital television.
There are World Premieres, Australian Premieres, new kid’s presenters -even Live TV. It’s a smorgasboard of choice.
ABC TV’s Director of Television Kim Dalton tells TV Tonight as Pay TV has grown there has been a fracturing of audiences into genre-specific channels, even for children.
“In the area of kids inevitably that’s what was beginning to happen in the subscription base,” he says. “And I stress I’m not being critical of these channels. They do what they do very well, but they are primarily franchised channels from the US and the UK. I’m all in favour of choice but I’m about part of that choice being local culture and local content. The ABC is the obvious organisation that can provide that.
“When I got here a few years ago the amount of (kid’s) material being commissioned by the ABC was quite limited, but that’s exacerbated by the fact that when you’re running one channel you’ve only got a certain amount of hours in the day that you can put children’s materials on,” he says.
“Clearly we have an adult audience coming in at 6:00 at night and that’s when we were signing off on our children’s television offering. That’s the very time that kids are finishing their homework or getting back from their after-school activities and starting to watch TV in larger numbers.”
The new offerings will unashamedly compete with Pay TV channels Disney, Nickelodeon, CBeebies and Kids Co.
“Once households go subscription. children migrate to those dedicated children’s channels. What the ABC will do as of December 4th in those households will provide an alternative. During the day we’ll be offering ABC for Kids on ABC2 and for the school age kids we’ll be offering ABC3 right through until 9:00 at night.”
But with the move comes questions over the remainder of its audience: adults. During the daytime two of its three channels will be aimed at kids, and while programming remains on ABC1, at some points in the day there will be children’s television across all 3 channels simultaneously.
Dalton is quick to compare the ABC with broadcasters internationally and in Pay TV.
“An essential part of children’s television is that you provide content in the pre-school area and you provide content in the school age area. That’s what happens across all the major subscription offerings. That’s what the BBC does, that’s what other broadcasters do around the world. You’ve got very distinct ages, very distinct tastes, very distinct programming,” he defends.
“It’s quite true that there will be periods of the day where there will be children’s content across all three channels but that’s an interim arrangement. We can’t just suddenly pull the children’s content off ABC1. There are still 40% plus households in Australia who have not made the switch to digital.”
Spanning broad genres including reality, games, music, factual, entertainment, drama, animation, news and more, ABC3 will launch with 40% Australian content. But despite some original commissions, some Australian producers in the children’s arena are said to be disappointed their back catalogues were overlooked for new international titles.
“It’s obviously more expensive for us to acquire that material than it is to acquire material internationally.” Dalton says. “Within our budget constraints we’ve maximised the amount of Australian back catalogue that we’ve purchased, as well as international material and commissioning new material. We have to juggle our budgets.
“The priority is commissioning new material, the second is to relicense Australian back catalogue and the third priority is to buy-in a range of content that’s available internationally.”
Dalton says it is simply cheaper for the broadcaster to purchase titles internationally than to re-license loccal titles.
“One of the issues is we have about Australian drama is that the producers have to go back and pay residuals on the performing rights. There’s a much more complex rights equation that goes on when you re-license Australian content than if you’re simply picking up acquired material internationally.”
When ABC3 launches, one of its key attractions will be Studio 3, a live daily morning show hosted by Amberley Lobo and Kayne Tremills. The two will host games, competitions, guests and more. Dalton says the show will offer an opportunity for the channel to speak with its audience.
“There will be 2-3 hours of live material that will be coming out of there everyday.
“It will be fast and furious.”