When ELEVEN launches tomorrow, chief programming officer David Mott will see another chapter in TEN’s network strategy fall into place.
It may be arriving later than some of its rivals and in a quieter period in terms of viewing patterns, but Mott tells TV Tonight the channel is part of a long-term vision.
“This has been all about laying the bricks and charting a new path for TEN and therefore ELEVEN,” he says.
“I do liken it to TEN being the CBS of Australia. When you look at its appeal it’s 18-49 and 25-54 and ELEVEN is very much an Under 30s channel.”
A joint venture with CBS, ELEVEN is built on block-programming of mostly US content but becomes the new home for Neighbours, the only first-run Australian drama series on a commercial digital channel. It picks up from its 2010 cliffhanger tomorrow night at 6:30pm, changing launch plans to simulcast on both TEN and ELEVEN.
“We made the call just before Christmas when we thought this is what is strategically right for the channel. Let’s not underestimate the strength of where we see ELEVEN. The fact that we are putting Neighbours on this says a lot about the channel,” he says.
“We’ve got a lot of new content there and probably a lot more than what you’re seeing on the others at this point in time. There seems to be a lot of reruns and product from their main channels.
“Our philosophy has been very clear from day one, that what plays on ELEVEN stays on ELEVEN and we’re not going to be running shows on both TEN and ELEVEN. They are going to be destinations in their own right and I think we have the content to deliver that.”
ELEVEN’s schedule may offer classic titles during the daytime and overnight, but there are a number of first-run and even fast-tracked shows that will feature in primetime.
There is also no “soft-launch” for the channel, with the current line-up intended to roll through into ratings survey.
“We’ve gone with an alternative to what the others are doing with on Sunday nights. So we’ve got a brand new New Zealand’s Next Top Model at 7:30 leading into new Smallville for two hours and then Mondays it’s Supernatural leading into new Dexter,” says Mott.
“Supernatural did a good job demographically on TEN so it’s a known brand, Dexter‘s a known brand, Nurse Jackie, Californication, clearly The Simpsons, Futurama and there’s a new series of So You Think You Can Dance.
“So I think what you’re seeing is quite a unique decision for a new multichannel to take.”
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson will be the first show on air from 11am on Tuesday morning, ahead of its regular weeknight slot of 10:30pm.
“There are some things he’s going to be doing for us to help promote ELEVEN, particularly for that first episode. He’s very excited about ELEVEN, so I think it’s a great addition to add to the schedule,” he says.
“He is tonally more appropriate for ELEVEN. We did have the ability to run Letterman, but when you look at that TEN / CBS quality, Letterman belongs on TEN. Craig Ferguson belongs on ELEVEN. He’s Scottish, he’s got a real attitude to him, he’s younger with a fresh approach to him.”
The channel will also be hosted by Brisbane radio hosts Jason “Labrat” Hawkins and Stewart “Stav” Davidson. Couch Time interstitials will appear from 3:55 – 6:30 Monday to Friday, using social networking to invite audience interaction.
“These boys are our face of the afternoons on ELEVEN and I think that’s a very clear distinction from what the others are doing. We’re invested in the boys, we have an ELEVEN studio. They will launch the channel on Tuesday and they will host the entire day on Day One. So it helps create a community feel to the channel,” says Mott.
“Couch Time has a retro feel to it but the guys have got a really cool approach and they will be talking about product, giveaways, sponsorship, Twitter opportunities –there will be a lot of interactive activity that the audience expects nowadays.
“We went out and cast and decided on two playful boys and they tested particularly well. They are fresh faces to television and they have a lot of energy and a fair bit of attitude.”
ELEVEN will be available to Foxtel cable viewers, but Mott says there are hopes to add the channel for satellite viewers.
“There are discussions going on with Foxtel at this point in time and we’re hoping to resolve that soon. But that’s probably all I am prepared to say at this point in time,” he says.
ELEVEN will help Network TEN to take the ratings battle up to its competitors, at a time when multichannels have been attracting big viewing numbers.
Mott notes that unlike some of his competitors, the channel has given adequate notice to OzTAM to deliver ratings data. By Wednesday morning, TEN will get its first glimpse of what might be possible for its newest offspring. But philosophically he also knows a new channel needs time to gather true momentum.
“We know that it’s summer and things take time,” he says. “Interestingly enough the others are kind of wary of it. They’ve changed their line-up for that day.
“But we’re not concerned about one night, this is all about getting the tone of the channel right.”
ELEVEN launches at 11am on Tuesday January 11.