Spartacus fights for GO!

Les Sampson, the man behind GO!, tells TV Tonight why he is so excited by the Spartacus premiere and what the channel has learned in its first year.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is set to become the new flagship show for GO! when it has its Australian premiere tomorrow night.

The US cable series, featuring Australian Andy Whitfield as the leader of the Roman slaves, has been a hit series for the Starz Network and attracted buzz for its buff gladiators, gory violence, CGI special effects and sex scenes. It is the kind of alternative viewing that Nine’s Director of Acquisitions and HD Channel, Les Sampson, calls a perfect fit.

“It’s got action, sex appeal, it’s the brand of the channel. It’s a mega series,” he told TV Tonight.

“And the great thing is there’s an Australian in the lead, and another in Season Two and it’s shot in our region as well. So it’s got some good breeding!”

Since launching a year ago, GO! quickly established itself as the leading multichannel.

“We’ve won every week in 16-39, 18-49, 24-54 and Total People. We’re very much focussed on the 14-39 demo and giving complementary programming to the premium channel. So we’ve met all the targets which is great.

“We’re also very focussed on a 24 hour schedule which is so important in a multichannel environment.

“The premium channel is focussed on the 25-54 demos so it gives our sales team a great product to go to market and sell.”

Sampson says there have been lessons learned along the way, and that the infant channel is still undergoing change.

“This channel has grown from Day One. Every single day we’ve learned something different about how the channel performs.

“For example, we thought Music would be a great fit. And it is an important part of the channel but everybody’s taste is different,” he says.

“We found with Music Programming it didn’t deliver the eyeballs. People found their music in other forms rather than just on television.

“We also learned what shows were successful. Comedy shows did extremely well. Sci Fi and Movies have done very well. So we’ve learned as we go through the process what the audience likes and what the audience doesn’t like.”

With its Pay TV-model of block programming in the Daytime, the channellaunched in August 2009 with its hottest titles in primetime: The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fringe and The Hills.

More recently some key titles have seen their timeslots replaced by movies, reruns of The Big Bang Theory, Top Gear with midnight starting times for some shows such as Chuck.

“I was very disappointed with Chuck on GO!” says Sampson.

“The issue we had was that it had already been played quite a lot on Foxtel and there was DVD access as well. As a result it didn’t deliver. So we reacted to the audience, and the audience wasn’t there.

“I don’t want to pull things off the schedule, but we’ll move things around.”

Rights for the second series won’t become available until 2011. Sampson also responded to numerous timechanges for Gossip Girl.

“In Sydney where the penetration of Foxtel is a lot higher a lot more people have seen Gossip Girl, particularly Seasons 1 and 2 which are doing very strong numbers on iTunes.”

But GO! will launch Season Three of Gossip Girl within the next two weeks, ahead of the DVD release in early December.

“Every show I put on the schedule I’m hoping it will deliver solid numbers. I don’t put any show on the schedule unless I have real passion it will do solid numbers. If it doesn’t I guess I have to swallow my pride and find a better spot for it.”

As a national signal channel, there are also restrictions on replays of M and MA related content during the daytimes during school holidays. There have been 9 weeks of school holidays across Australia during May – July.

“So we can’t do our catch-up element during the Daytime in that area. But when we are outside School Holiday restrictions we’ll do catch-up.”

Sampson says the youth audience for GO! is tapped into the online community and he defends late programming changes are quickly understood via Twitter, Facebook and social networking sites.

If we do a programme change in the morning they would know within a period of about an hour that we’ve done the change. That’s one thing which is great about the 14-39 demos they are media savvy, tech-savvy and have a massive appetite for content,” he says.

Despite negative feedback on it own website that suggests otherwise, Sampson says the audience has reportedly given positive feedback to the idea of late night timeslots for some of its key titles.

“People are saying ‘We love the fact you’re playing it at midnight because we want to watch something else at 8:30,” he says.

“We want to at all times maintain first-run content. I said at the launch we aim to have 10 or 11 first-run shows in primetime, which we continue to aim to do, unlike Foxtel where most of the channels consist of repeat content.

“At least 10 or 11 shows in primetime are first run, and that includes Movies.

“On average 2-3 per week are Free to Air first runs.”

GO! plans to also fastrack The Vampire Diaries and Hellcats soon as the US Fall season gets underway.

44 Responses

  1. the problem is the fat cats in charge of the net works want every penny they can get by offering guthy renker and the like more air time because air time doesnt actually cost them anything. If the informercials have to pay X amount for time on one channel, then the networks will offer them a second network air time for a little more than X amount so that its looks like a bargain to the infomercials peoples.
    you see this with every product these days eg. coca cola – $4.00 for a 1.25L or $4.50 for a 2L. doesnt cost them a thing. but to the consumer its a bargain

  2. Well it wasn’t too bad altho’ there was less gore and naughty bits than the rating would have suggested. Snow must have been not as cold back then as the Thracians were getting around in the equivalent of shorts and singlets. There was even a cricket chirping in the background at one point.

  3. Boo! Why did we get the PG version? What is the point in screening it at 9:30pm if they’re going to show the edited “international” version?

    Thank goodness I’ve already seen the “real” version and that is certainly the version I’ll be buying on Blu-Ray with the four “extended” episodes (hopefully including the “ladle” scene whatever it is).

  4. Haha what did they edit the show??? I didn’t want.

    Was it the official cut version of did the network cut it or what?

    I guess something like the episode “whore” will not be shown then.

  5. What the heck happened to Spartacus??? Rated AV for Strong Violence and Sex Scenes, and GO! broadcasts a laughable PG-rated show! So much for the “flagship” show… What a freaking joke! And sad, because the uncut show is brilliant.

  6. I don’t think the infomercials are going anywhere people…. if they stopped playing them on GO! or Nine, then people would choose the channel with a program, and they would not get any money for the infomercials because no one would watch them….. I hope 7TWO still persist with their footy reruns – which I love now because thats all that is on!

  7. @ everyone who is bagging the instatement of infomercials on go at 2am. You are all right! so sick to death of infomercials and go was a safe haven if the ABC didn’t have anything decent on. was also a chance to catch up with stuff i missed during the day (when I was actually sleeping). get rid of them GO or I’ll go Spartan on you…

  8. There may not be much cut by GO!

    They don’t bleep South Park like SBS had. The InBetweeners is certainly not edited or cut for language, maybe Spartacus is the International Version, guess we’ll know after tonight.

  9. Don’t forget people that the version showing around the world is a drastically censored version(called the International version). If you can find any way to see the original version, then do so…:)

  10. Have to agree about the infomercials, for us nightowls/shift workers/baby parents/insomniacs, its not fun to have a choice of informercials about creams to fix disfiguring acne where they actually show the gross pimples, some lamo overpriced dance weight loss program that you could make up yourself anyway for free or the oven thingy where they show that weird footage of the chicken shriveling up as it cooks….not that i watch any of them ;p But theres always the alternative of bowls on abc, such riveting stuff i worry it might keep me awake!

  11. “I was very disappointed with Chuck on GO!” says Sampson.

    “The issue we had was that it had already been played quite a lot on Foxtel

    And whose fault is that. If Nine had been smart they would have not onsold Chuck and Gossip Girl to Foxtel and saved them for their new channel .

Leave a Reply