Today marks twelve months since GO! has hit our screens.
Since being “soft-launched” on August 9th 2009 it has become the most popular multichannel on the air. 7TWO, which launched in November, may give it a run for its money, but it hasn’t toppled GO!’s stranglehold -especially with younger viewers.
It began with themed nights (sci-fi, crime, reality, female-skewed, male-skewed) aimed at 14 – 39 year olds, promising shows including Fringe, Survivor, Weeds, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Gossip Girl, The Hills, Moonlight, The Big Bang Theory, CSI: NY, Neighbours at War, Bad Lads Army, The Bachelor, Dog The Bounty Hunter, The Wire, ET, CSI, Just Shoot Me, Little Britain, Aliens in America, CSI: Miami, Eleventh Hour, Privileged, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Seinfeld, TMZ, Hell’s Kitchen and Wipeout Australia.
By it’s October full launch it added The Vampire Diaries, Nip / Tuck, Father of the Pride, South Park, Reno 911, Drop Dead Diva, Dance Your Ass Off, Bridezillas and later The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Middle, ER, Community, Eastwick, The Inbetweeners, Chuck, Crash Course, Total Wipeout (UK), Help Me Help You, Top Gear, The Listener, Side Order of Life, Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes, New Amsterdam, Tool Academy, Speeders, Hotel Babylon and Dante’s Cove.
GO’s primetime shows have been a mix of Australian premiere content, Nine reruns and titles which have already aired on Pay TV. It’s daytime schedule is unashamedly built on a “Pay TV-style” model of repeat block programming including classic sitcoms like Bewitched, Here’s Lucy and The Partridge Family.
Like 7TWO, Australian content is slim on the channel, particularly in the area of first-run content. The government has recognised digital channels need time to build revenue before they are required to meet local content quotas. The Screen Producer’s Association of Australia has pushed for minimum quotas in the future, especially in the light of the industry’s $250m rebate. GO! has added short “Newsbursts” and is promising two-minute comedies from former Chaser member Charles Firth.
With its alternative pitch the channel connected so well with viewers that by the end of the year CEO David Gyngell was even referring to it as a channel becoming “the new TEN.” The channel share, which recently hit a high of 6.9% in a single night, has been known to outperform SBS and in a year when Nine and Seven are so tight it has often given the network the winning edge. Indeed when a tussle for demographics in 2009 was going down to the wire in the final week of November, programming on GO! was frantically reshuffled at short notice to try to help the network fall over the line.
Lately Nine programming habits have crept into the GO! schedule. The ARIA Music Show has disappeared. Advertorial content now runs late at night. Shows get dumped without notice. Anyone who has tried to watch Gossip Girl knows how infuriating it has been to keep track of new episodes. Gossip Girl along with as Nip / Tuck, Chuck, Eastwick has been elbowed out to midnight or later, replaced by 9:30 movies (indeed Chuck has had three timeslots and is out of schedule entirely). Even the movies have been pulled at the last minute in favour of marathons of The Big Bang Theory -still the channel’s most popular title.
TBBT is also a Nine brand, which blurs the channel’s point of difference from Nine. There have been other Nine brands including Top Gear, CSI and ER which hardly fit the channel’s “youth” brief. GO! is now sitting somewhere between both youth and broad programming as well as first-run and Nine repeats. For a channel that only shows first-run content for a few hours in primetime it could surely be offering alternative programming without viewers being forced to wonder if the shows are going to air or not. On this front, both 7TWO and ABC2 beat the channel hands down.
Forums on GO!’s own website -at least the handful that are available- are littered with angry rants from viewers including those who dispute the claim that the channel has “listened to its viewers and pushed back the times of some of your favourite shows to accommodate your late-night viewing habits.”
But there is some hope on the horizon.
This month it launches the anticipated first-run series Spartacus: Blood and Sand plus Human Target. It is also promising new Vampire Diaries, Community, Inbetweeners plus Hellcats and Nikita. Fingers crossed they get decent timeslots and aren’t ripped off air to be replaced by more reruns of Seinfeld or The Big Bang Theory.
For now GO! has the numbers of the board, and an enviable brand resonance with young viewers.
Such commodities are worth protecting long term instead of just chasing a few extra ratings points for the night. After all, now that viewers have a taste for switching to digital channels, their remotes could just as easily flip to another one.