Programmers Wrap 2012: Nine Network

Director of Television Michael Healy talks about Olympics, Tricky Business, Howzat!, new Reality shows -and reveals a new Drama series in the pipeline.

2012 is Nine’s Olympic year.

In July the network will offer viewers 17 days of adrenalin sport, including Live Opening and Closing Ceremonies, 18.5 hours of coverage every day, Live sport from 6:30pm, Daily Highlights from 9am, digital coverage and for the first time, 3D broadcasts.

Nine’s Director of Television Michael Healy, tells TV Tonight, viewers can look forward to plenty of action.

“We’ll pretty well be giving over almost our entire schedule to the Olympics. Obviously there will be a lot of Live events and highlights packages, but there will be very extensive coverage,” he says.

“The morning events out of the UK will happen primetime in Australia, but there are so many events happening that we’ll be picking up Live events and bringing the coverage wherever and whenever possible.

“Swimming is always the first week so effectively after the Opening Ceremony you’ll get Australians swimming for a period of about a week. So it’s a pretty good way to start.”

Nine is keeping its cards close to its chest about the use of its multichannels, but is tipped to be screening some events on GEM in High Definition while GO! is likely to offer alternative viewing (neither is confirmed).

Joining in the celebrations are Hamish and Andy, relocating to London, and potentially Nine News and A Current Affair. The games will also give Nine a platform to promote its upcoming product.

“It’s our view to launch some new Programming following the Olympics and historically it’s been a great launch pad. So we’ve got a couple of great shows in development and pre-production with a view to launching post-Olympics,” says Healy.

This year Nine is also stripping Reality shows at 7pm, following a gamble in 2011 that paid off handsomely.

“We had a lot of success last year at 7:00 and for us now it’s about big brand shows. What we are doing is less of the smaller shows is less of the smaller shows and more of the bigger event-type shows,” he says.

“What we’ve seen success if the bigger events and franchises and it’s becoming a harder event for the smaller shows in what is effectively a 15 channel environment.

“The early evening sets up your night and what’s becoming clearer for all of us is that it’s becoming more and more about local content.”

When TV Tonight spoke to Healy last week, ratings had not emerged for Excess Baggage, now battling it out with The Biggest Loser.

“I think we’ve got a really strong cast both with the celebrities and the everyday-Australians, and I think it will resonate with the audience. It has great locations and the presenters with Kate and Christian are really strong. It’s a different take on weight loss, but we’re really proud of it and Fremantle has done a great job with the production,” he says.

Also returning are The Block and Celebrity Apprentice.

The Block is well into production and we’re seeing some great material and a great cast. Scott Cam and Shelley Craft are back, so it’s the same show with a different view and twists and turns along the way. So we’re really delighted with what we’ve seen to date,” he explains.

“There will be a slight evolution in some of the format, so a few surprises coming.

Celebrity Apprentice casting and the publicity it’s generating already speaks for itself. So we’re all very excited about that.”

The local series of The Voice, to be hosted by Darren McMullen has already impressed the market with its judges Delta Goodrem, Seal, Joel Madden and Keith Urban.

“It’s a stellar cast and it has positioned the show very well and the cast and judges are already generating publicity.

The show had over 15,000 applicants who have been culled ahead of the show’s launch.

Nine raised eyebrows with its bold announcement to revive Big Brother, to be hosted by Sonia Kruger. The show will air after the Olympics, but Healy remains coy on further details including the location.

Nine is no longer promoting the series as Big Brother: Secrets. So is this a question of branding or is the ‘secrets’ element now out of the mix altogether?

“Watch this space on that one…. It’s not to be decided, we have a position, but I don’t know that we want to blow that position at this stage.”

Farmer Wants a Wife will return “anytime from mid-year.”

Nine has a busy local Drama slate this year too, with series, miniseries and telemovies to come. Hit series Underbelly will return this year from prolific producers Screentime.

“It’s a finely tuned machine now and we always work in advance in terms of the stories on the next chapter, so we’re already working on the chapter beyond the next one.”

So what can we expect from the franchise this year?

“We promise to excite the audience and it will be an Australian story,” he says.

Tricky Business with Shane Bourne, Gigi Edgley, Debra Byrne and Lincoln Lewis will launch in the first half of this year.

“It has a very strong balance between family and procedural.”

Some have drawn early parallels with Packed to the Rafters based on promos alone. Healy is pragmatic about early reactions.

“I think it’s an understandable assessment because it’s a drama about a family. It’s not a hard parallel to draw but we see it as being a very different show.”

There are also three true-life projects to be dramatised by Southern Star and Cordell Jigsaw.

Beaconsfield (1 x 3hr) has great performances by Shane Jacobson and Lachy Hulme and The Great Mint Swindle is fantastic.”

Miniseries Howzat! is likely to be shot in Melbourne, and features Lachy Hulme as the former Nine mogul.

“It’s an extraordinary story about Kerry Packer and the story of how he pulled off World Series Cricket. So it has the highs and lows, what he went through personally to achieve the success that he did with the series. Obviously it’s a very important to Nine and a project that John Edwards is very proud of,” he says.

Healy also announces for the first time, a new local drama.

“There is very likely to be a new Australian drama launching in the second half of the year,” he says.

“It’s a great idea and it’s really taking shape. It’s a very contemporary story.”

Next week Nine premieres two international drawcards.

Alcatraz has done 10 million for FOX on a Monday night and that’s a big number, particularly for drama, on FOX nowadays. It’s a really strong complement to Nine’s schedule this year,” he says.

The challenge for serials in the current market is not to succumb to convoluted storylines that leave viewers dissatisfied (FlashForward, The Event anyone?).

“What they do cleverly with Alcatraz is they make sure each episode is self-contained, although there is an over-arching storyline as well. So at the conclusion of the hour you feel satisfied with each storyline.”

Then there are the three diabolical telemovies from the UK, Sherlock.

Sherlock is brilliant. It’s the kind of show where you have to sit up and take notice and it’s gone to another level this season.”

Healy is clearly excited by the acclaimed thrillers. Meanwhile period US drama Pan Am features Australian Margot Robbie is awaiting clarity on it future.

As evidenced by Sherlock and Attenborough documentaties, Nine has cleverly forged a relationship with BBC after years of uneven success with Warner Bros. product with audiences.

Three Great Barrier Reef documentaries will air in the near future. Whilst not David Attenborough docos, these will be narrated for Australia by Karl Stefanovic.

“We’re a co-producer so we were always in the position we were always going to put in a local host,” says Healy.

Earth Flight, a documentary series about birds, will also screen. BBC period drama Parade’s End will air in late 2012.

Despite the loss of Two and a Half Men as a nightly offering, Nine has had remarkable success with Big Bang Theory .

“He keeps pumping them out. Long live Chuck Lorre!,” jokes Healy.

New US comedy Two Broke Girls is co-created by Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City) and would seem to be a perfect fit with Big Bang and Mike and Molly.

“If you look at the success of New Girl, Two Broke Girls is actually doing better in the US so we have high hopes for it. It’s about putting it in the right slot and giving it an opportunity to find an audience.”

Nine has historically been known for its News brand and after some tough battles, Nine News has been winning in Sydney, neck and neck with Seven in Melbourne. The Today show, which recently refreshed its set, has also been winning the two biggest markets, now joined on air by Mornings.

“Sydney is doing extremely well and we’ve had a really good run in Melbourne of late, so we’re really happy with the way it’s tracking. And the Today show is doing extremely well,” says Healy.

“It’s a really warm set with a great cast and a new set revitalises them for a new year, so everyone’s really up on the Today show. There will be a real relationship between Mornings and the Today show. There’s a great chemistry between Sonia and David and the whole idea is to create a relationship between the shows.”

Hot Seat regularly beats Deal or No Deal, then there are proven performers ACA and 60 Minutes.

But what of Top Gear Australia, which failed to attract enough numbers last year?

“We have 6 episodes in the can that will probably go to air at some point in the next couple of months. So we’ll see how the next local series performs.”

This Is Your Life?

“We still hold that under license and when we decide there are some worthy recipients we’ll certainly push the button on that again, as specials rather than a series. We were happy and Eddie did a great job with it.”


“I’m a big fan of Survivor, it’s been no secret. Last year it’s overnight numbers weren’t bad but it does extremely well in catch-up. Almost 70% of its audience in catch-up. We certainly hope to have it on air very soon, but I can’t confirm if it’s a Nine or a GO! proposition at this stage. But we’d like to get it to air as soon as possible.”

Rumoured Jamie Durie projects?

“I’m personally a big fan of Jamie’s and there are a couple of projects we’re talking with him about, so we’re not at the point of making any announcement.”

And lastly, with Nine’s cricket commitments tieing up some nights until the second week of March, how difficult is it to launch new series when they are interrupted by sports? Or does it give the network a platform to drive other fare?

“We see it as an absolute positive because we have an expectation that cricket will do enormous shares,” says Healy.

“The cricket is consistently on the Sunday and Friday. It obviously poses greater problems if it’s scattered through the week, and obviously there are a couple of nights where we have it on a Tuesday or a Wednesday but at this stage it’s consistent scheduling and we’re very grateful for it.”

And really, based on the numbers the Cricket has been doing this summer, who can blame him?

23 Responses

  1. One of the key programming platforms of any network is its drama slate and there has been no head of drama at Nine for months. This is beyond ridiculous with the first casualty being not even managing to get Rob Carlton to reprise his brilliant performance as Kerry Packer. How could this be allowed to happen? Why more Underbelly – it’s tarnished as a T&A fest that has run ouf steam. Tricky Business sounds like another Michael Healy drama by the numbers – put one person representing someone from each demo and hopefully you’ll get a broad audience. Just like LAC, SP, RSO, will probably be reduced to TB and should be avoided.

  2. I am really concerned at the increasing relationship between the BBC and Nine. Unlike the American studios, there is no exclusive output deal between the BBC and the ABC, hence Nine has been able to secure so many BBC programs to fill its schedule (and Ten is able to poach The Graham Norton Show from the ABC for the same reason). Since the BBC and the ABC are both publicly-funded, when it comes to programming supply shouldn’t the ABC get the preferential treatment?
    I also don’t like Nine’s treatment of some BBC programs e.g. using local narrators for some documentaries. A few years ago Cate Blanchett narrated Monarchy and this year, Charles Wooley will narrate Earth Flight for the Australian broadcast. When the Earth Flight DVD comes out will it feature Wooley’s narration or the original version by Doctor Who’s David Tennant?
    If the trend continues, eventually all the BBC programming (including children’s programs and current affairs programs) will only go to Nine, and the ABC and SBS will be forced to pay Nine for the rights to these programs.

  3. @JB

    Good to know. Like i said will be on my recorder and will see what Nine do with it. I personally think Revenge is going to dominate that timeslot with at least 1.5m viewers. Everyone i know is talking about Revenge, even the ones which hardly watch TV.

  4. @Kenny i know Nine Adelaide isn’t owned by Nine, that’s part of why Nine sucks so much. No national conformity. No surprises it’s SA & WA that Nine struggles.

    @Guy, Alcatraz is nothing like Flashforward or The Event. Alcatraz is essentially a police procedural, there’s one open and shut case (one prisoner) each episode, with the mystery explored along the way. Worth watching. But Revenge is better if ya need to choose between the two. Plus Nine can’t be trusted to show the whole series anyway.

  5. Nice wrap David. There is very little that interests me on Nine this year and the only real thing that does is 2 Broke Girls, The Olympics although will probably watch on Fox, and Howzat. As for Beaconsfield we know what happens already. 2 guys trapped in a mine and get rescued. TV Networks scramble to get in the thick of it. Sorry but i won’t waste my time with it.

    I was looking forward to Alcatraz but after hearing raving reviews about the pilot then bad reviews about the episodes following saying its not living up to expectations it makes me think its just another FlashForward or The Event. Plus with Revenge on Monday i will be PVRing it anyway.

  6. @JB-NWS9 is not a Nine O&O station. It’s a WIN station. Call WIN in Wollongong Hq.- although these days the Adelaide phone is probably answered in Wollongong too.

  7. With the Olympics being in the UK, all of the major events will be on in the middle of the night. I think Nine will regret spending big dollars buying the rights. Especially if it means they don’t have enough left in the budget when it comes time to bidding for the NRL rights.

    Underbelly has gotten progressively worse since the first series, Big Brother has flop written all over it and Tricky Business will be even worse.

    Looking like another long year for Nine.

  8. In years past….things like the Olympics…have caused a rush to the video rental stores….but with so many other channels now…maybe not this time….Not a lot of people want to watch the games….all day…every day….most will watch a few favourite events…and then look for other viewing….

  9. I didn’t find 2 Broke Girls very funny, watched the first 5 episodes and it was more crude than funny.
    Not sure that it’ll find as wide an audience as Nine are hoping for.
    Even the new Two & A Half Men episodes are funnier (and cleaner)

  10. “what’s becoming clearer for all of us is that it’s becoming more and more about local content.”

    Really? Then why are Nine’s early evenings cluttered with repeats of TBBT?

    It’s good he’s optimistic about 2 Broke Girls… I’m looking forward to it too but I don’t think he should be expecting great things based on New Girl’s success. After all I’m pretty sure 2.5 Men as well as Mike & Molly outperform New Girl in the US and look how they’ve worked out here..

  11. Nine and Fremantle are working together again to try and rip-off channel 10 and produce a knock off version MasterChef Masters.

    This may not happen, because at the moment there is a massive blame game going on between Fremantle and Nine over excess baggage.

  12. Nine is making a lot of noise about its mini-series (which sound good) but that’s only 4 or 5 episodes.
    What Nine needs are successful drama series that run at least 13 episodes (ask Seven). Nine has Underbelly, they’re trying Tricky Business & there may be third later on. That’s a move in the right direction. Leave the mini-series to the ABC, where they’re better suited. Oh,if only Howzat was on the ABC.

  13. I’m glad you asked about Survivor, at least the programmer is wanting it to do well. If Nine/GO! would just make sure it doesn’t finish beyond midnight like most other seasons have it probably would do better. Perhaps it could be stronger on a Saturday in primetime on Nine.

  14. Channel Nine don’t have much of anything. Terrible network with terrible shows. Alcatraz is good, but it won’t rate on Nine and they’ll take it off or move after a few weeks. I’ll prob watch Sherlock on Nine, and maybe Survivor too if they fast track it.

    All i wanna know is if Nine will play NRL live on Gem or Go in Adelaide??? Seven can do it with AFL, Ten use both it’s main channel and ONE for sport. But Nine seems to be behind the times and reluctant to listen to viewers. And i’ve tried ringing Nine but the Adelaide people are rude and dismiss any questions. Hope it’s the last year Nine have NRL.

  15. I’ll buy the DVD of Sherlock season 2 because Nine just can’t be trusted and there are too many ads. It’s only $24!! I am waiting for Chuck and Fringe, although, as with Sherlock, I might just give up and buy the boxed sets. If they actually showed the programmes, then we would watch!!

  16. Nice wrap David.
    As with last year, a lot of Nine’s content doesn’t interest me.
    Looking forward to The Block and Celebrity Apprentice again, as well as The Voice.

    I’m interested to see what slot The Voice airs in. One would think it would suit Monday at 7:30 or Wednesday at 7:30 but it could find itself against Masterchef by the time it airs.

  17. I also am a Survivor fan. I don’t think it does good enough numbers for nine and definitely should appear on Go. As long as it is fast tracked with the US. Go desperately needs some regular new shows as part of it’s content. Very ordinary at the moment.

  18. OK I’m interested in Beaconsfield and Howzat! if aired sensibly probably on a Sunday at 8.30pm. Not against Downton Abbey.

    Also I’m really looking forward to Sherlock and these days with GO! Fringe plus Chuck. Someone on Facebook mentioned that GO! might not play Chuck because it had given the rights to Foxtel. I thought they had replay rights however. Someone in the TV Lounge said that Nine/GO! had to wait a year. Could that be confirmed? Because I hope they could play it once a week on Monday at 11.30pm. If it is a year then they could play both the third and fourth seasons if timed correctly.

    I also really would like confirmation that they still have Fringe although would prefer if they play it on a Wednesday they wait until after Sherlock. Therefore preventing a clash. But hopefully straight through 22 episodes because they’d have all of them to play once a week. If they stuck to that commitment.

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