Aussie drama landslide has the audience trying to keep up

Is this a record? 8 primetime dramas fighting for attention -but how do networks cut through?

2014-03-04_1453Be careful what you wish for.

Count ’em up, there are now 8 first-run Australian dramas screening at 8:30pm, or thereabouts, on Free to Air Television.

Three of them are on the ABC while Nine and TEN each have two.

Sunday: Rake (ABC), Fat Tony and Co. (Nine)
Monday: Love Child (Nine), Secrets and Lies (TEN)
Tuesday: Winners and Losers (Seven)
Wednesday: Puberty Blues (TEN)
Thursday: Janet King (ABC)
Friday: The Doctor Blake Mysteries.

It has to be some kind of record.

That’s without even adding in the soaps Home and Away, Neighbours or the comedies including The Moodys and This is Littleton. Foxtel also has others, including Wentworth, waiting in the wings.

For the most part, these dramas are almost universally top-notch stuff. But while we celebrate this ‘golden age of local drama’ the downside is that not everything is going to cut through. Winners and Losers indeed….

Understandably, networks are desperately trying to get your attention to ensure they have every fighting chance. Against Reality juggernauts there are some very creative tactics being employed.

For the last few Mondays Nine has run A Current Affair overtime which has seen The Block doing its best to emulate the running time of My Kitchen Rules. Last night The Block began at 7:40pm leaving Love Child scheduled for a 9pm start, as MKR ended. This kind of clever ‘protection’ saw Love Child win its timeslot against Revenge. Nine even ran a Love Child “sneak peek” at 8:35pm before continuing The Block.

By contrast Secrets and Lies, which aired from 8:30pm was smothered at around 400,000 viewers. TEN has scheduled three replays, tonight on ELEVEN then on TEN on Thursday and Saturday. It’s hoping to pick up more viewers in the same way Broadchurch increased as its mystery deepened.

On Wednesday TEN returns Puberty Blues, but it will use an upcoming “sneak peek” of an Offspring scene to help draw in viewers.

The ABC has three local dramas, more than any of the commercials, on offer. So far they are performing well, especially Dr. Blake which owns its Friday timeslot.

Seven may only have one “8:30” drama on air right now, but its INXS miniseries outrated all the rest. Next week Winners and Losers will comprise a double episode.

The challenge for Programmers right now is to support their content with the best-possible lead-in, effective promos and clear destinations for overwhelmed viewers.

The challenge for viewers right now is to simply try and keep up.

And have a bloody good PVR.

21 Responses

  1. Completely agree with the comments about 90 min shows, or even 60 min shows with 1/2 of it being ads & time wasting recaps eg most of the singing/talent & cooking shows. With all the content on atm my pvr is in overdrive & i wonder what else will be left come winter time. I also agree the odd starting times etc are sneaky tactics, as you said David they can start/finish whatever time they like & its not exactly trickery if it follows the epg but like already said, if its a good show why do they need to make sure theirs starts before the others etc, a fairer race would be all shows starting at 8.30 etc

  2. MKR is starting to look repetitive with just the characters changing. Cooking skills are not the criteria more the characters on stage.

    Ten’s Secret & Lies is actually a good show. Just needed a better lead-in show. Personally l think Ten needs to re-vamp their entire offering & scheduling.
    Time for some classy station ID’s to like nine had back in the 90’s.

  3. Yes, David. But there is no real reason for these shows having to run 90 minutes, its just a lot of extra padding and adds. I just wish they were more succint, we could see in an hour what they drag out 1.5 hours. As you’ve noted, with these programming moves a new show adhering to traditional program times suffers. And so do viewers.

  4. @JimboJones. I have to agree. Australian scripts are cliched, often boring and also exercises in box-ticking. I want to be entertained, not preached to. Furthermore, the promos for Aussie dramas often insult the intelligence. Why do the voice-over people put on those funny voices??
    Frankly, I’d rather watch repeats of Doc Martin, New Tricks, Frost and even Dalziel & Pascoe than most first run Aussie dramas.

  5. “…there are some very creative tactics being employed”. No, there are some very underhanded, dishonest and viewer-infuriating tactics being employed! It’s long overdue that we stop calling tricky nonsense like this “creative”. It isn’t, it’s dishonest and one the main reasons FTA has such an appalling reputation in this country.

    If they have a good show that people want to watch they wouldn’t have to employ these sorts of tricks to attract or retain an audience.

    1. Dshan:There is no trickery in stating that a scene from Offspring will be seen with Puberty Blues premiere. To trick is to deceive. It’s a creative way to help bring in viewers. Given they are telling you what will be seen, where is the deception? There is also no trickery in MKR running a 90 minute episode that is clearly labelled in the EPG. It’s their prerogative whether they run a show for 20, 60 or 90 mins. When the EPG informs you of this, you as viewer make the choice whether to opt in or not. Again, that is not deceptive. Nine’s promo for Love Child actually indicated a 9pm start. Print guides are a bit of a dinosaur so I agree that is problematic, but we all have EPGs. As I said below, I concur that when the show does not match the EPG this is unacceptable.

  6. I agree that perhaps TEN should program their dramas on Thurs/Fri/Sat. The convention is, of course, that people go out on those nights. Well a lot of people do … but millions don’t, and the commercial networks mostly schedule crap on those nights.

    If I remember correctly the Graham Norton Show used to be on Saturday nights, but it’s relegated to a later timeslot during the week now, where it’s completely lost. Saturday nights are just appalling at the moment.

    And if they are going to repeat programs later in the week, can they do this every week instead of just here and there? And program it accordingly without just shoving it in at the last moment, where nobody knows about it. Without consistency they get nowhere .. which is the whole problem with TV in this country. They just flail around.

  7. Nine and Seven should be made accountable for their agressive programming practices. The running overtime, the over abundance of adds. I’d also like to ask, do other countries blow their reality shows out the way they do here? When we see shows from the US and UK they seem to be in neat hourly packages. This is the main reason I despise Aussie reality shows. I only watch the music based ones, and even then, very unhappy about the way they are blown out. At the moment I’m recording my drama shows and watching them the next night. That way I can start watching them at 8.30, and skip the many ads. If everyone started doing that, it would fix those programming executives or accountants.

    1. They aren’t running overtime when the EPG is correct. They are entitled to run 90 minute episodes and change their EPG accordingly. The days of 8:30 junctions being inflexible are gone. I concur that incorrect EPGs are misleading where it occurs.

  8. It is interesting how things go in cycles though. We have been starved of good quality drama for years. Yes we get one or two but never so many at the same time. Haven’t watched Secrets And Lies yet but did anybody else think that the plot line was a bit suggestive of ITV’s Broadchurch.

  9. Secrets & Lies. Great show. Lousy ratings. Why? it’s on TEN. TEN’s horse has bolted even further (to 2 hours a week in place of Meet the Press. “How to Further Damage Your Brand 101”

  10. At David, Thanks for the article. I am selecting mostly existing dramas. Due to a lack of time. However Secret and lies and Janet King both appealed and are currently sitting in the PVR hold. Due to a limited run and potential spoiler alerts, this is dangerous…
    Oh the agony of too much drama 🙂

  11. Whoever controls the ratings periods, please make them continuous all throughout the year, to make the programmers spread out all these great programs even over the holidays. I still watched from my christmas holiday unit and they couldn’t have given us worse repeated drivel !! now its full on — a pity

  12. I guess Seven will premiere Killing Field later this year, or after W&L finishes.

    I absolutely despise these practices by Seven and Nine with the later starts. It makes it difficult to switch to another program (which is the point) but I just end up recording it and turning off the TV instead. Plus FF through all the ads.

    I also don’t understand how pre-recorded shows can run overtime.

  13. “… these dramas are almost universally top-notch stuff.” Are you serious? I’ve tried watching all of those shows, and at best they are average. Most are mediocre.

    Half of them are pseudo-soaps, not proper dramas. The production quality is often very good, but they are let down by boring, cliched storytelling. It’s like the writers watched a bunch of US drama from the 1990s and decided to “Aussiefie” it. The rise of international high-end TV in the last ten years has shown that you need to be original and daring, not cliched and predictable.

    And where are the “big” comedies, like Kath & Kim and Summer Heights High? Is The Moodys the best we can do?

  14. A wise step for TEN to schedule a repeat of Secrets and Lies Thursday 9.30 – up against a repeat of Bones, 9’s footy stuff and ABC’s The School.

    I agree with other comments here that TEN should rebuild their brand by scheduling major shows on Thurs, Fri and Sat against lesser opposition.

    The ABC has done it well with Janet King (Thurs), Dr Blake (Fri) and Doc Martin plus Midsomer Murders on Sat.

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