Network fast-tracking feast underway

Sleepy Hollow, Agents of SHIELD, Hostages, Sons of Anarchy -what else is coming soon?

2013-09-09_0001Free to Air networks are hitting the “Go” button this month, fast-tracking new shows from the US in a bid for ratings and to combat illegal piracy, including shows such as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hostages and Sleepy Hollow.

TEN was the first network to fast-track US dramas with Jericho back in 2006 (there was a bit of an industry stoush later over Seven’s branding of “fast-tracking” first). Other shows followed suit in 2007, with shows like Prison Break, Bionic Woman, Skins, Californication, Heroes, Supernatural, Damages, Doctor Who

While some shows kept up the fast-tracking across recent years, it’s fair to say networks had also cooled on the idea.

But a year ago Foxtel ramped up its offerings, with multiple day and date broadcasts for premium shows, then excelling with afternoon premieres within 2 hours of a US west coast broadcast.

Foxtel Director of Television Brian Walsh tells TV Tonight, “We launched Express from the US exactly twelve months ago, and it firmly established itself as a very clear positioning statement to our subscribers about running programs day and date –so much so that it’s been adopted across the platform by other channels such as FX and Showcase to reinforce the fact that Foxtel is about watching television with the rest of the world.”

Free to Air networks know that pausing fast-tracked shows during summer annoys viewers and interrupts momentum. With promotional material sometimes limited, there have been conflicting views on whether established shows are safer to premiere than debut seasons.

“I remember that Tim Worner came out this time last year and didn’t necessarily hold the (same) view and that may be the case for Channel Seven viewers,” Walsh says. “Maybe they don’t download programming like the younger demographic do. But I think it’s something that our subscribers have come to expect from Foxtel and we have to remember they’re our subscribers, paying us a monthly fee and they’re entitled to watch television programmes when they’re broadcast –irrespective of the territory.

“They held onto Revenge for four months and the audience dropped significantly. I’ll be fascinated to see what they do with Downton (Abbey) because I bet they still hold that for six months.

“The older-skewing viewers are the ones who are going to JB HiFi and buying DVDs for Christmas. You can’t keep treating viewers like that. The world has changed.”

Amongst the fast-tracked new shows for Foxtel are new seasons of Revolution, Chicago Fire, Hart of Dixie, Grimm, The Vampire Diaries, The Carrie Bradshaw Diaries, Boardwalk Empire and Sons of Anarchy -most will air within 48 hours of the US.

But Seven’s Head of Programming Angus Ross maintains the decision to fast-track or not is dependent on the show itself.

“Fast tracking is looked at on a show by show and season by season basis and the question always asked is – will this strategy result in the best ratings outcome for a show and our overall schedule?” he told TV Tonight.

“With The Blacklist and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (pictured) we feel the AFL finals offer the best launch platform for success.”

Also coming up on Seven are the final season of How I Met Your Mother, and Once Upon A Time will air within days of its US premiere on on 7TWO. The Amazing Race will return in October.

Although not fast-tracked, Seven will also screen comedies Men At Work and The Neighbors and the second season of Scandal.

Nine is set to fast-track Hostages, starring Toni Collette, and Super Fun Night starring Rebel Wilson. There will also be new episodes of The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist, Person of Interest and, on GO! from next week, Survivor: Blood vs. Water.

TEN wraps up its fast-tracking of Under The Dome next week, launching straight into Sleepy Hollow. It will also fast-track new episodes of Homeland, Elementary, Modern Family, Law and Order: SVU, The Millers and NCIS: LA.

SBS has promised Masters of Sex starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as human sexuality pioneers Masters and Johnson in early October, four days after its US premiere.

ABC, which has a surprising number of Australian series still to premiere, is expected to fast-track the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special in the final week of ratings.

Meanwhile Foxtel is also excited about David E. Kelley’s new comedy The Crazy Ones.

“It marks Robin Williams’ return to (series) television since Mork and Mindy and co-stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. The guest in their first episode is Kelly Clarkson,” Brian Walsh explained.

“CBS are predicting this will be their big, new comedy hit. In the US it’s running between Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men on Thursdays. So they have high hopes for it, as do we.

“We’ll premiere the show in October running back to back with new (Pay TV) episodes of Modern Family on Sunday nights and will be Express in December. It will start in October a couple of weeks behind the US simply because we can’t get promo materials before it goes to air on CBS.

“But they always pre-empt episodes in November so we will have caught up to day and date by Christmas.”

26 Responses

  1. David, sad to see no mention of Castle either ancient, modern or sexual.
    @Qubec: re fast tracking curbs piracy…agree with what you are saying…if you haven’t seen it Kevin Spacey argues an excellent case for this in his keynote speech at the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival in which he challenged TV channels to give “control” to their audience or risk losing them. YouTube video “Kevin Spacey urges TV channels to give control to viewers” (1,165,688 hits)…a very compelling argument per se. There’s also a link to a website for further reading of his speech.
    I don’t watch an awful lot of free-to-air television anymore (I subscribe to Foxtel)…I am no longer prepared to take second best..who would think we are in the digital age in Oz…we seem to be so far behind the rest of the word. btw I’m a 68 year old female, not IT savvy at all and…

  2. Greys Anatomy had a really good cliff hanger and I’m looking forward to its return but there has been no mention of it by 7. Last year Channel 7 did fast track stopped it for the summer and then returned it in april with double episodes. Illogical. I hope they don’t muck around with it this time. Its supposed to begin in the USA at the end of September.

  3. I also suspect that another factor in more FTA fast tracking is the failure rate and sheer amount of flops that they have generated for themselves this year. Or in other words – the cupboard is getting bare and they have no choice but screen some stuff earlier than they would prefer.

  4. @bogues- one, my statement was anecdotal. Two, you know what else is fact? Foxtel recording double the amount of ratings for the premier this year than last year. The finale was also the highest scripted show of the day. So while we may be the largest downloaders of the show, Foxtel’s hours after the US approach has certainly shown we are willing to watch things legally.

  5. Foxtel not only fast track within hours but they also have it in HD. FTA needs to also show these in HD.

    It’s ridiculous a few years ago they were in HD but since the advent of 7 Mate and GEM all the good stuff is shown in SD with no DD 5.1 sound.

    We must be the most backward country on the planet.

  6. I think 7 made the right choice with the Marvel show which I am so looking forward to (could have references to the movies etc)..don’t think the Blacklist would matter either way tbh.

    I have my fingers crossed that The Good Wife will be fast tracked as Im super excited for it but with TWL in its timeslot they may hold off.

  7. Networks should be looking at fast tracking less to do with taking on piracy (though, it would help diminish it) and more to do with building audience confidence, marketing and creating a stronger brand. Your audience will appreciate it more.
    Obviously, fast tracking does curb piracy. I don’t know a single person who has downloaded Game of Thrones, Dexter and Breaking Bad this year due to the fast turn around by Foxtel and HD. Last year people only downloaded them.

  8. Only NCIS: LA? Not NCIS too? That’s crazy. Especially with Cote leaving. If I were Ten I’d want to air that as soon after the US as possible as surely that’s something which will make people want to watch online so that they know how she leaves? But I guess they can do whatever they want with that since it rates well whenever it airs, even in repeats sometimes

    Excited to see Chicago Fire (although I already knew that one), Hart of Dixie, OUAT, SVU, & The Crazy Ones on that list 😀

  9. What Brian Walsh says about revenge is not true, Revenge held its audience very well, often the #1 US drama on Aus tv for the week, and that’s despite huge audience declines for the show in the US. It lost some of its audience, but that is more likely natural audience decay for a second season of a serial drama. If you want a show that has ‘dropped significantly’ look no further than Homeland. That show went from slow tracked S1 to fasttracked in S2 and lost half its audience in the process, and that show is very stable in the US.

  10. There really isn’t any reason for Foxtel not to fast-track stuff for subscribers.

    It is dangerous to try and launch so many new programmes at this time of year here. With a poor base from Underbelly people weren’t in the mood to even check out Power Games, and Wonderland has flopped.

    Some of the Fasttracking has just been the networks running out of stuff to show in Oct/Nov and delving into new seasons earlier than they may have otherwise.

    Revenge’s ratings held up for the first part of the season. It slumped during the middle when there were some bad episodes, like in the US. There it recovered enough to avoid being axed, here the ending was stuffed around for Celebrity Splash.

  11. This is all good, but what they have to do now is have the shows start on time at a real time, as in on the 00 or 30 min mark and leave the commercial break where they were edited to be at.

  12. It’s great to see Foxtel are still going strong and TEN are still doing well. When it comes to Nine and Seven I’ve learnt to take what I can get as if they don’t like a show/it’s ratings then it can disappear. But David please tell me that’s a typo that HIMYM will be fast tracked to 7TWO? 7MATE has repeats on all the time and when they finally put new eps on a sister channel they chose TWO over MATE?

  13. due to so much preemption in the US, I believe that Australian networks are always best to hold off until February for US content.

    Interesting that Californication has gone from being fast tracked on ten to being bumped months later, late night on a digital channel. It’s treatment like that which leads to obtaining content from other sources.

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