Reef Doctors an object lesson in mis-scheduling

Twice-delayed and bumped after one episode. But was the real problem the show, the network or both?

2013-06-11_1828Reef Doctors has been pulled from TEN’s Sunday nights after just one episode.

From Friday June 21 it will now screen in the low-rent 9:30pm slot. Double repeats of Modern Family will now screen in its place on Sundays from this weekend.

However you look at it, this is has been an object exercise in mis-scheduling.

The show pulled just 357,000 viewers on Sunday, widely reported as the lowest debut for a local drama on a commercial primary channel in prime time. Nobody has bothered to actually verify the claims with any hard facts, but there’s no escaping those numbers regardless.

It follows the network twice delaying the series starring Lisa McCune, no doubt impacting on the audience’s confidence in the show.

But bumping it to a 9:30 Friday night slot further diminishes the network’s faith in the show. It’s a shame it couldn’t make room for it in an early Saturday night slot.

TEN refused to directly answer whether it still expected a family audience for the show in its new timeslot.

Reef Doctors clearly did not resonate with viewers in its Sunday timeslot and has been moved,” said Neil Shoebridge, TEN’s Director of Corporate and Public Communications.

“TEN remains committed to Australian drama, eg, Offspring, Neighbours and – to come – Wonderland, Secrets & Lies, Batavia and others we have not yet announced.”

It’s fair to say that TEN’s drama slate under Rick Maier, also including Puberty Blues, has been it’s shining light during a difficult period.

Originally due to air last October, then twice-rescheduled, Reef Doctors is in many ways a victim of internal network changes. Since being commissioned the network has had three CEOs, two Programming Chiefs and two Heads of Publicity. At one point we were told the show would be perfect for summer, then perfect for winter.

Eventually it premiered on a long weekend, doing nobody any favours.

Bumping it after one episode is also pretty reactionary, but let’s hope such haphazard treatment isn’t indicative of future TEN dramas, especially given CEO Hamish McLennan recently signalled the network had “over-indexed” on Australian drama of late.

But the network is not entirely responsible for the show’s dud reception. Others have endured in the same climate.

It didn’t help that the first episode was weakly executed (and let’s not start on that terrible opening theme song). Reviews have not been kind.

Trying to score a family audience in 2013 is also a big ask, even if it is the timeslot where Merlin worked. That was when TEN was firing on all cylinders.

Two weeks ago I suggested to producer Jonathan M. Shiff that Reef Doctors may be challenged by its weak timeslot. But Shiff was optimistic, already looking beyond TEN and Australia with his content, as he has done for many years.

“I think the world is turning more and more into content viewing so I’m not really hung up on timeslots. To be honest I think the timeslot days are finishing. Timeshifting is the norm,” he said.

“The audience will find the content. Australia may not be in step with the rest of the world just yet, but come back in a year and we will more and more line-up with the rest of the world that’s show-driven.

“If an audience embraces it and finds it, then I think the analytics of timeslot are an ending game. They’re not the future.

“The content will find the audience, notwithstanding the broadcaster’s timeslot.”

Be careful what you wish for…

55 Responses

  1. Jason, it’s not as simple as going to the dictionary, which is not the right source for the point about phraseology. You needed to research the phrase ‘object lesson’, as distinct from the misused term ‘abject lesson’.

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