Fast-tracking, as a promotional concept, will become a thing of the past in a few years’ time according to TEN’s new Programming Chief Beverley McGarvey.
In her first interview with TV Tonight since replacing David Mott, McGarvey says eventually fast-tracking will become the norm.
“I think in 2 or 3 years people will not use the term ‘fast-tracking.’ It will just be presumed you play the shows as soon as they become available,” she says.
“We’ve been doing it for 5 or 6 years now. You probably remember way back when we did Jericho.”
TEN is currently fast-tracking a number of US shows, with mixed success, as a way to lift its ailing figures. While some shows are played within 48 hours, others are several weeks behind.
While other broadcasters such as Foxtel are playing shows just hours behind the US, some networks such as Seven are taking a cautious approach to the concept and keeping key titles until 2013.
So how “fast” does a show need to be in order to justify the “fast-tracking” term?
“You’ve got to be as close as you can be. There are so many factors to consider and every single show is different,” McGarvey explains.
“I think if a show is brand new with no brand heritage in the market, you can afford to be a little later. Also if a show is known in a particular slot and there’s a different show finishing up there then you might have to wait a couple of weeks.
“The important thing is to give viewers shows when they want it.
“It is our intention to maintain it as much as we can given that we have to control our schedules.
“The other thing is we suffer from US pre-emptions. If the US has a pre-empt because of a baseball game we won’t have that game so we have to consider what we do in that week. So there are so many things to consider.
“It’s obviously not an easy thing to manage but we want to make sure we can do it.”
McGarvey was installed in the top job following several months as Acting Chief Programmer, but she has six years with TEN including several as Head of Programming. Last week she presented the network’s key 2013 programmes to media buyers. Having worked closely on TEN’s Development slate, she says this isn’t entirely a slate she has inherited from her predecessor, David Mott.
“A lot of the shows we’ve announced are things we’ve had in pre-production development for quite some time. So obviously I would be involved with all of those and we really only have firmly greenlit a lot of these projects in the last few months.
“So next year will certainly be 100% (my slate). We have great people who contribute significantly to that but obviously I’ve been involved with TEN for six years, so it’s not like coming in the door from the outside and saying, ‘this is the slate I inherit.’”
“I worked with David for a long time and really learned a lot from him. In terms of a different approach, I’m not sure that’s how I would frame it. I think now we’re moving forward, the environment is very different than it was 5 or 10 years ago for TEN and for everybody. So it’s about future-proofing our business and moving forward. I think the consistent thing is people like quality. People want to watch good shows, premium content, premium Australian and US content. So that’s really the theme and how we serve that to them and where we serve that to them is really critical thing.
“We need to be able to respond to our viewers’ needs and they change and evolve quickly so we need to be able to move with that.”
TEN hitched the words “smart, different, authentic” to its 2013 line-up, which includes an impressive Drama slate including Mr & Mrs, Murder, Batavia, Secrets and Lies: The Track and more Puberty Blues and Offspring.
“I’m really looking forward to Wonderland,” says McGarvey. “I’m a huge Offspring fan and I like our Drama generally and it’s really an Offspring-style show from a male point of view. So that’s exciting.
“I’m looking forward to MasterChef: The Professionals, I think Marco Pierre White is fantastic talent and the combination of him and Matt (Preston) will be quite daunting for our contestants and therefore very entertaining for us.
“Recipe to Riches is very innovative. I think it’s really exciting to offer our viewers the opportunity to taste the food and that’s not something that’s happened before. It’s really important for TEN’s brand to be seen to be innovating and to take our food formats to the next level.
“Can of Worms is a really entertaining show and Shock of the Now comes from that production company and talks to our audience in a way that they can relate to. We’re still in development on that show. We have commissioned it and we’re just working through all the different elements now. But it’s shaping up potentially to be something that’s really compelling.”
“It’s about providing a foundation for the rest of the schedule. We want to get younger viewers back into that slot and provide a real alternative. In terms of the things we’ve been talking about –smart, different, authentic– The Project epitomises that and it’s a really important show for us. We want to use it to make our early evenings consistent and to build the rest of our schedule,” she insists.
“People love The Simpsons, it’s worked all over the world. It’s worked really well for ELEVEN and now it’s time for it to go back to 6:00 on TEN. People miss it and they want it back there and we’re really just responding to that.”
Was there any consideration to return Neighbours back to TEN, a move which would have delivered Drama quota points?
“Neighbours is a key show for ELEVEN, it’s really the anchor show. It does incredibly well for ELEVEN and it’s often then #1 multichannel show of an evening or week. It’s certainly the #1 multichannel show in Demos. So it’s really important for ELEVEN’s scheduling.
“Obviously TEN is our priority but looking after all our multichannels is important.”
I ask about shows that are not returning. At the 2012 UpFronts Young Talent Time was hailed as a major component for TEN’s 2012 schedule, now its name doesn’t even warrant a mention.
“We have no plans to do anything with Young Talent Time at the minute. We were very happy to reinvigorate that brand. It’s a big, shiny show but it didn’t perform as well as we would have liked. So it’s very unlikely at this point. We do like the brand but I would never say never,” says McGarvey.
“It’s fairly obvious that we won’t be doing shows like The Shire and I Will Survive. Some other shows we haven’t decided yet. We’re just looking at the options and trying to decide if we should bring a Series Two back for a show that we could potentially build year-on-year in Series Two or should we do something new with a different format.”
Being Lara Bingle is believed to be one on that short list…
Despite some decisions still to be made, TEN has made some positive noises to the market last week, acknowledging it hasn’t performed well enough in recent times, unveiling new local content and telling media buyers it has a 40 week schedule in place. “Consistency” is a word being promised, but history will judge them on that one later.
“We have locked in the schedule for 40 weeks. Obviously this is an incredibly competitive market and we won’t be releasing the entire schedule. But to our partners and key sponsors we will be willing to have quite detailed conversations when required. But we have a 40 week schedule which is earlier than we would usually have it,” she explains.
“Obviously it’s important to have a base and if we need to react to things to happen. If suddenly there’s a great mid-season show from FOX that looks amazing and we want to find room for it then of course we’d find room for it. But we have an excellent foundation for the entire year.
“It’s our intention to be consistent but nobody has a crystal ball. If something really doesn’t resonate with people then we’re going to have to react to that.”
Lastly, I can’t help but ask for one more promise. Can we ban The Devil Wears Prada for at least the next 12 months please?
“I think we don’t currently own any runs on The Devil Wears Prada. We may own one other run but we certainly don’t own multiple runs.
“We’ve had multiple runs but I think we’ve used them now!” she laughs.
“We certainly have no plans now to play it anytime soon. Maybe we’ll wait until people build up and appetite and they miss it again!”