Programmer’s Wrap 2013: TEN

TEN programming chief Beverley McGarvey plans to win viewers back in 2013.

MMMSince being appointed as TEN Programming Chief in October, Beverley McGarvey has been pushing “momentum and consistency.”

She arrives at the position at a pivotal time. On the one hand there is the excitement of steering the network’s content, but on the other hand there is enormous pressure to lift the performance when some of the problems stem to higher management during an advertising downturn.

Despite this she remains optimistic.

“It’s a great opportunity and it is very exciting. It’s a really great job but that opportunity obviously comes with a lot of pressure. But I enjoy it. I like what I do. I enjoy content, I enjoy TV so it’s great to get to work in that environment every day. We have lots of talented and creative people at TEN,” she says.

“I’ve worked at TEN a long time. I really like it here and I like the brand. I appreciate what you’re saying in that it has been one of our more difficult periods but while I haven’t been here forever, I’ve been here almost 6.5 years now and we’ve had some good times and some bad times. Things are cyclical, so you just keep your head down and do your job. It’s still a great job and a great place to work.”

TEN has refocussed on its Under-50 audience and has kicked off the year with a variation on the dependable MasterChef. Launched ahead of major competition, thus far it has been well-received.

“We’re very happy that we’ve had a solid start, but you’d be aware we’ve gone early for a number of years now. This is probably the sixth year we’ve gone early, given we have a very competitive sports schedule on both Seven and Nine. So we feel we have an opportunity to offer our viewers a slightly different entertainment schedule.

“I think they’re getting to know Marco (Pierre White) and like him. Marco is a very authentic person. His performance in the show is very true to who he is. He’s very genuine about food and his passion for people. Audiences are very savvy and they recognise that and respect that.

“He and Matt (Preston) have great chemistry as well. They’re a really good team and its a very different dynamic to (the conventional) MasterChef.

“Our next big push is Elementary and thereafter we have Mr and Mrs Murder coming into the schedule. We’ll obviously be launching first run episodes of Modern Family, NCIS, Bondi Vet, Bondi Rescue, Can of Worms, Glee and The Living Room are coming back. So really we are working back up into our schedule.”

Starring Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart, Mr and Mrs Murder is the first new drama from a promising TEN slate. The FremantleMedia production is harder to categorise than genre mysteries, mixing procedural with its offbeat lead characters.

Mr and Mrs Murder is something that’s a bit different.  There’s a lot of procedural crime on TV, but I think what Shaun and Kat offer is deep characters with a sense of fun. They lighten that sort of genre up. It’s actually a very hard job to offer a through-line with a bit of comedy on top. So it is a drama but is has comedic elements in it,” McGarvey explains.

This Sunday night TEN launches CBS drama Elementary, a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes tales which has been well-received in the US, despite the obvious parallels to the UK Sherlock.

Elementary has already been picked up for a full season. Its quality, really well cast,  quite procedural crime stories but they have a bit of a twist. Both Lucy Lui and Jonny Lee Miller are really watchable,” she says.

“They’re young and a bit edgy and I think our audience will respond well to that. It also helps our consistency to have that volume of episodes so people can watch and enjoy and know that it will be there every week the whole year.

“I really enjoyed the Pilot. The early episodes are good but it does get better, I think. Obviously with any show there’s a lot of exposition in the first episode. We really have to establish in the first episode how Sherlock Holmes has come to be in New York and how he meets Dr Watson.

“But once you get through that exposition you get into really meaty storylines.”

TEN will enjoy 24 episodes of Elementary, 12 more than a season of cable-produced Homeland.

“It really helps us build our Super Sunday throughout the entire year.”

McGarvey confirms that the “Super Sunday” brand is returning this year, now with 30 annual episodes of The Graham Norton Show at 9:30pm.

“It worked really well for us last year. We didn’t have the content to sustain it for 40 weeks but we do now.

Graham Norton becomes the icing on the cake to Super Sunday. It’s an excellent show and he probably has the best guests of any talk show.”

Romantic dramedy Offspring has been renewed for both 2013 and 2014 and is currently in production. Last year’s season grew week to week, especially in Consolidated numbers, and was the darling of social media.

“People just love Asher (Keddie) and the rest of the cast as well. We’re well down the track, we have all scripts delivered. It’s a really interesting series this year and as you probably remember from last year’s finale Nina is pregnant. So as you can imagine that gives us great scope for all sorts of interesting storylines,” McGarvey says.

“It did well on the first TX but then when you look at it a week later it did really well. It’s great for our brand and sits in the heart of our demo.”

It was TEN’s dramas that endured through a difficult 2012, with Puberty Blues attracting critical acclaim and becoming the network’s strongest performer during a bleak period. In its second season it moves beyond the original novel, part of the reason TEN tweaked the ages of the central characters with a series in mind.

“Their stories can keep going, they’re still young, so we’re really excited about that show. We got a great response to Puberty Blues and at that time on air some of our other shows were really struggling. But Puberty Blues still held up ok. It was critically well received and again the Consolidated numbers were excellent.”

TEN has four other dramas due in 2013: Batavia, Wonderland, Reef Doctors and Secrets and Lies: The Track. The latter comes from Emmy-winning Brisbane-based Hoodlum productions and includes a heavy online component to complement its on-screen narrative.

“For years people have been trying to get shows that work online and have a really strong second screen, but Secrets and Lies is really the one for us that pulls that together in a really considered way.  It doesn’t really matter what part you engage with. It will work in pieces or together. If you only watch on air, great- you’ll get the whole story, if you only play online you’ll have a different experience but you’ll get a beginning, middle and end,” McGarvey explains.

“It’s a thriller with a lot of twists and turns along the way. There are 6 episodes and you get a conclusion at the end. The cop who is involved in the search for the protagonist is actually the through-line of the series. Secrets and Lies is a brand that is returnable so that we can return to the series next year and there will be a different crime.”

reefdoctorsAlso from Queensland is Jonathan M. Shiff’s first adult drama, Reef Doctors starring Lisa McCune. The series was due in 2012 but held until 2013 amid messages about whether it would work better in summer or winter. It is now due mid-year.

“For a variety of reasons, not least because we wanted something bright and fresh for winter, people really relate to that aspirational material. And we wanted to wait until we had really high sets in use,” she says.

“It’s an early evening series for the whole family.”

Meanwhile romantic drama Wonderland from FremantleMedia will also air in 2013. Is there a chance the latter could be led by Hugh Sheridan, given he signed a network deal with TEN last year?

“We have our projects in development and he is always our first call. He’s a young actor we’d love to get in one of our dramas so really it’s just about working with him and his availability,” McGarvey insists.

“He would always be our first consideration if he was available to do it.”

Also due this year is the lavish Batavia miniseries from Screentime. As a period miniseries yet to begin production, is TEN convinced it will air in 2013?

“We certainly hope to have it on screen this year, but the production will be determined by the casting. So we would love to have it on screen by the end of the year but if we have some amazing cast then we might decide to wait a few months just to get them. It’s not the kind of event that is time-specific. It’s not connected to any particular date or anything. So I think we will wait until we get the project right.”

On the Reality front there is a second MasterChef series, The Biggest Loser: The Next Generation and a local version of Recipe to Riches.

Recipe to Riches will be on later in the year. We’re very near the end of production. Due to the nature of the series and the products having to appear on supermarket shelves there’s quite a bit of time between filming and TX dates,” she explains.

“It’s not really a cooking show. About a third of it is cooking and the other two thirds is inventor, Apprentice-type challenges, with marketing and business. The word Recipe in the title makes people think its more food oriented than it is.”

But what of Come Date With Me, originally announced for 2012? As a stripped half-hour show, McGarvey won’t be drawn on whether it will air on TEN or elsewhere.

Come Date with Me will be on later in the year. It’s targeted to a predominantly female audience and will likely skew quite young. Now that we’ve just had it all delivered we will look at it and decide where it will do the best business and be most effective for us. Truthfully we haven’t made that decision yet,” she says.

“We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll play it on TEN or ELEVEN.”

TEN has also signalled its intent to return to Breakfast Television, but isn’t hinting at new plans yet. After last year’s failed Breakfast the network received plenty of feedback, whether it wanted to or not.

“Obviously we know what people responded to, what we got right and what we got wrong. So we’ll consider all of that moving forward.”

Other international titles this year include Ripper Street and The Americans with new local titles Shock of the Now and The Truth Is with Hamish Macdonald.

“We are also in development for several slots in the back quarter and we will be making announcements at an appropriate time, I suspect not much before March or April.

“But we definitely have more to announce later in the year.”

On paper, McGarvey’s plans look pretty strong, spearheaded by a bold drama slate under Drama Exec Rick Maier. But in the television game there are so many unpredictable factors. The one dependable is the OzTAM ratings but McGarvey, who is still the only female in a top programming role at any Free to Air Network, actually looks forward to a daily snapshot of her performance.

“Every morning at 8:30 you press a button and you get the numbers and you get a bit of a report card for the day. We don’t just look at Overnights, we look at trends,” she explains.

“It becomes something you get used to and I actually quite like that now. I don’t think I’d like an environment where you only got tracking four times a year. I think I’d hate that. It’s good to know where you’re going.

“There was a day last year where we didn’t get ratings till about 3:00 and we were all a bit low!

“People tell me patience is a virtue but I’m not very good at that!”

30 Responses

  1. I’m afraid if Ten goes down this year they’re determined to so with a whimper and not a bang. Puberty Blues rated poorly last year and frankly would have worked better on the ABC. And Reef Doctors is a co-production with ZDF in Germany, so expect the token German doctor etc. Not promising. Mr & Mrs Murder could be yet another Shaun Micallef flop, he’s had many. The only proven drama for Ten is Offspring which has never got a consistent million plus audience. Advertisers are a brutal bunch so all Ten can do is put on a brave face and hope something works. But the commissioning is far from inspiring.

  2. Nice read David!
    Ten will not go very far without bringing in something new to their other channels 11 and onehd. They are left to suffer ten;s failures and they have most timeslots and days of shows totally wrong! Like californication being on after 10pm! or nurse jackie it’s ridiclous when you give us repeats of crap @ 8.30 instead of giving us first run eps of new shows like those.
    As for Ten well all they can do is listen to us:)

  3. Thanks David, a good read. Despite some negative comments from viewers I look forward to what 10 has to offer. I mostly will try the Aussie dramas as they do it well, but the Living Room and an alternative to current Breakfast TV will be good. I find & & 9 repetitive and while ABC is newsy I find it skews towards political and International topics.

  4. Scary months ahead for Beverley’s first schedule:
    Mr & Mrs Murder has everyone who’s seen it very worried – mixed genres like this can go badly wrong, and they don’t know where to schedule Reef Doctors – it’s family and very soft – typical Jonathan Shiff. Puberty Blues is a big risk for Ten – unusual for a second series to do better than the first, and the first worked in a very small niche. The Americans will not last beyond 1-2 weeks (I’ve seen it and pretty sure US execs will be fired over how bad it is). Offspring and The Good Wife will continue to do well. It will be nerve wracking looking at the overnights…

  5. Unfortunately for Ten, they stopped listening to their viewers some time back, and to say that they are ‘listening’ now, doesn’t mean they that their mega rich vested interest influential share holders who have much to much input, Will Not Still Ignore Us.

    Otherwise they would have acted swiftly when they heard from multi demo’s the magic words of “I’m bored ars we there yet”.

    Nor do they ever seen to want find out why, and what better examples can there be than shows that should have suceeded but didn’t, and show that stayed and shouldn’t have, such “Henry’s Breakfast debarcle” and the show voted the worst “The Bolt Report”

    But unfortunately Money Talks and always get listened too

  6. alex –

    what are shows like The Living Room and Puberty Blues doing back after their disastrous figures?

    Puberty Blues i think had a low rating Last Man Standing before it so that didn’t help.

    Without a show like The Living Room it means Seven has the only lifestyle show on Friday nights . Even if the show is low rating, most stuff on Ten on Fridays is low rating anyway and if I understand the show is not expensive to produce. I like it much better than the older skewing BH and G.

  7. I know sport is not everybody’s cup of tea , but to have no local sport, the network is never going to improve greatly. B’ball is nothing major (but should be live) and netball has been dropped as it is not a “premium sport” Before they had AFL at least they had the Melbourne Cup. They have no sport that an audience would go and find. But that was probably Mr Murdoch’s plan all along. Sport is way more important for Foxtel than Ten.

    Was hoping there might have been a Breakfast show announcement. This is clearly not a priority. Their AM line up is just appalling. May as well be a test patten like it was 45 years ago.

    Reef Doctors does not sound all that encouraging. If they thought it was engaging – they would want it on air ASAP and not delayed twice.

    Mr Mrs Murder I am interested in. Hopefully it works cause it is different and fresh.

    There does not seem much to be excited about. They just can’t rely on Masterchef to get them through again!

  8. Just looks like the same old, same old to me. There’s nothing even slightly interesting about Reef Doctors which I’m predicting will just go down the same way as all their other dramas, reminding me of rubbish like Big Sky and Medivac. And Mr and Mrs Murder looks pathetic, it’s not a drama nor a comedy, do they actually know how to create a serious drama series, one that actually rates?

    And what are shows like The Living Room and Puberty Blues doing back after their disastrous figures? Who exactly is channel 10 trying to appeal to here? And Graham Norton back in prime time? Another one loved by the critics, despised by the masses and the figures prove it.

    And Bondi Vet/Bondi Rescue, more hoo-haa in them trying to be too cool for school as that is the underlying motif for these shows. Give us something with a bit more substance, give us something new!

    It’s just lucky they’ve got Masterchef but even with that I think they’ll be lucky to beat the ABC this year. It’s just the same old low rating rubbish they’ve been dishing out for quite a while now. There’s nothing there to really get peoples’ interest and in signalling a top quality number 1 network.

  9. Very guarded comments from Beverly re the new dramas…from the promos, Mr & Mrs looks terrible…clunky and awkward and the fact they’re not even promoing Reef Drs. and it’s been on the shelf for so long speaks volumes.

  10. Good i/v. McGarvey has a tough job made worse by an appalling second half of 2012. Impressed that she didn’t say “innovative” and only used “fresh” once. Also pleasing to see that there don’t appear to be any programs that qualify for the “bold, irreverent, fresh, innovative and noisy” tag (or will they be resurfacing like unflushable turds in the latter half of the year)?

    Looking fwd to M/M Murder and Elementary, altho’ at 40 and 44, Miller and Liu are no longer “young”. Will give Batavia a look too.

  11. Good on Ten for local drama. Ten seem to do that better than the other commercial networks. Just a shame last year they invested in so much reality crap that really was the worst lot of crap they could have chosen. It really ruined the network and i think it may take a long time to win viewers back.
    If they can start shows on time well that will give them one up on the others.

  12. Ten actually did fairly well at the start of last year. Until the Voice, @l^mp!cs and X Factor came along and Warburton’s local Reality TV scheme failed badly. Sunday nights after Homeland S1 and evenings after Masterchef were disasters.

    Ten are going with a new evening lineup hoping that the Simpsons provide a lead into The Project, after the over 55s switch to 6pm news.

    Elementary they held back so they would have 6 months of content to show this ratings season. Having shown Homeland over Summer (to 600k live viewers) and NCIS failing there they had no other options. It will face tough competition is they are hoping that it being the most appealing to younger demographics will work.

    What they mean by “it [Reef Doctors] would work better in … winter.” is that it would have been one epic fail too many last Spring. So they will screening during the Reality TV season in the US Summer break and screened NZ dramas over summer to make up the local drama quota points.

    Reef Doctors, PB and one cooking show will have lot of work to do covering July to October.

  13. @JoshS

    Reported over the weekend by News Limited that TEN has dropped the rights to netball due to being “insignificant” – news.com.au/national/tvs-own-goal-on-netball-champs/story-fndo4bst-1226562535368

    1. This goes for all the Programmer interviews: I can’t cover every show, so because it isn’t mentioned is no reflection other on a limited time frame. I try to tackle all the big guns. Thanks.

      Also: ratings are delayed today due to OzTAM checking Brisbane / Gold Coast data. Another nervous wait for Programmers!

  14. Are TEN planning in screwing F1 and MotoGP and Netball fans again this year?

    If its not live, in HD, then sell it. We will watch it elsewhere.

    Same with TEN’s shows really. Mr and Mrs Murder will be viewed elsewhere. After last year, I hope viewers stay away.

  15. Great interview, and she did well trying to sell the programs, or at least get the names out there and when to expect to see them. The US can deliver a full year summary two months before the TV season begins, and Australian networks often hide their plans or give you a title, but no indication of when it will be played.

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