Last year a litle show about decorating the suburban house for Christmas was one of the biggest rating programmes on Subscription TV. Another show about auctions scooped the ASTRA Awards for the second year in a row.
Both Aussie Christmas Lights and Selling Houses Australia were produced for the LifeStyle Channel -the same channel that also won ASTRA’s Channel of the Year.
LifeStyle, LifeStyle Food, LifeStyle You and the newly launched LifeStyle Home feature some of the most successful shows in Pay TV. So what’s the magic?
General Manager Nicole Sheffield is unashamedly passionate about her products, and especially about the Australian-produced content. Thankfully so are the viewers. The Aussie shows regularly top the list of content across the 4 channels.
“Our vision is to be the leader in Lifestyle and to achieve that you need to have a very strong brand and you also need to have productions that are local. You need to have talent and ambassadors who are local and you need to build franchises,” she says.
They have certainly been racking them up. Local productions include Selling Houses Australia (the “Extreme” edition is airing at the moment), Donna Hay: Fast Fresh Simple, Relocation, Relocation Australia, Grand Designs Australia, (a second series is in production). Later this year there is Eat Yourself Sexy: Australia and there have been three seasons of Come Dine with Me Australia, under consideration for a fourth.
On Monday the first local production for LifeStyle You will premiere, Trinny & Susannah’s Australian Makeover Mission with the two UK makeover queens, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine filmed in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane.
“They’re fun ladies and very wilful, but we weren’t sure how they would work with the Australian market. They’ve never done an Australian show before and Australian women are also quite wilful,” says Sheffield.
“Trinny & Susannah say it as they see it. They have very strong opinions and you can’t really change their minds.
“So when you see Australian women saying ‘I don’t wear red,’ and they say ‘Yes you are wearing red’ it’s an interesting combination.
“British women are quite considered even if they don’t like something but the Australian women drop quite a few expletives. It’s quite funny, but there’s also quite a few tears.”
An upcoming local production is also in the planning for LifeStyle Home and a new ‘cake format’ is also to be announced soon.
With so many local productions on the go, LifeStyle is constantly talking to production houses Beyond, FremantleMedia, Detour, Southern Star, Shine and Granada Australia.
Sub-genres of lifestyle (including food, property, design, DIY, health, makeovers) vary in popularity from territory to territory. In Australia food is booming, with the Food channel doubling its ratings in the last year. No doubt Free to Air shows have aided that surge?
“Our passion for competition in food is quite massive,” Sheffield acknowledges.
“MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules are much more entertainment than food shows, as such. But I think they open people’s eyes and get them interested and look at other options out there.
“Property waxes and wanes depending on the economy, but it’s very strong in the US and Canadian market, less so in the UK.
“‘Life Changes’ is a really important category whether its Secret Millionaire or Undercover Boss, How the Other Half Lives. A lot of these are doing very well. It’s a turn-away from instructional content and a look at lifestyle that is very much observational style.”
The LifeStyle Channels also drive audiences to their websites, to stay in touch with audience tastes, offering forums for fans to interact.
“Sometimes they’re a bit scary, particularly in relation to Come Dine with Me Australia,” says Sheffield.
“But the viewer is central, so hearing they’re likes, dislikes and interests is extremely important.
“There’s massive fragmentation and choice so you need to know what your viewers are watching.”
Trinny & Susannah’s Australian Makeover Mission airs Mondays at 8:30pm on LifeStyle You.
Donna Hay: Fast, Fresh, Simple airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on LifeStyle.
Selling Houses Australia: Extreme airs 8:30pm Wednesdays on LifeStyle.