Why The Project is doing it tough, with no help from TEN.
Pitting The Project against Neighbours is a great way to cannibalise your audience.
Why on earth are you playing a premium first-run Drama series in Neighbours against a premium first-run Light Entertainment series in The Project, when they are both shooting for the same demographic?
How is this good business sense?
Which show is it supposed to be helping?
Aren’t you asking your viewers to decide between one or the other?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to protect your first-run local content rather than cannibalise the audience?
The Project has endured so many Programming changes that it has now ended up competing for the same audience as Neighbours, yet this was never the intent.
When Neighbours moved to ELEVEN in January 2011 it was scheduled against state-based news editions, with George Negus at 6pm. It was an alternative offering and The 7pm Project, as it was then known, was running against reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.
By April 2011 TEN moved Negus to 6:30 against Neighbours, but the two shows were still arguably shooting for a different audience -one was serious current affairs and the other a youthful soap audience.
By October of the same year the Negus experiment was axed and The 7pm Project became The Project, running for an hour at 6:30pm. That was the first time it went head to head with Neighbours. But by February 2012 the show moved again to 6pm as TEN moved its Reality juggernauts back to 7pm. It was a big ask to compete with 6pm news bulletins.
The most recent move was a return to 6:30pm last December, again commencing head to head with ELEVEN’s soap. The show has now endured so many timeslot changes that it has impacted on a loyal audience.
Two years ago when it was a half hour 7pm Project, the show was frequently above 700,000 viewers. Admittedly TEN was in much better shape and the landscape had not fragmented as much as it has now.
But last week it averaged 435,000, only just ahead of The Bold and The Beautiful on 400,000. At the same time another 300,000 viewers are watching Neighbours on ELEVEN.
Both are arguably shooting for the 16-39 and 18-49 demographics. TEN is effectively forcing one mass audience of 700,000 to split into two.
Even more bizzarely, all this time Neighbours has not attracted Drama points for the network when it could have if it had been played at 6pmon TEN. As of this week the government has ruled that first run Dramas on multichannels will finally attract points.
But it’s time to consider moving Neighbours to 6pm to encourage the same audience to feed into The Project at 6:30pm, coaxed by direct promos. Lifting The Project would also help give TEN’s 7:30 shows a stronger lead-in.
There has been some chatter that the license fee TEN has paid for Neighbours precludes it from switching it back to TEN. Both the network and FremantleMedia Australia declined to comment when asked by TV Tonight.
On Monday, TEN’s CEO Hamish McLennan acknowledged to the joint Senate committee that TEN paid lower or “market” rates for content that was designed to screen on a multichannel.
Whatever the limitations, my message to TEN is to put your first run local content against US reruns and find a better way to flow audiences from one local show to another.
Stop making the audience choose. Do what you can to protect your talent. Programming 101.