Back in 2004 Network TEN took a bold move in dumping the traditional Sunday Night Movie.
It was the first to proudly break away from years of scheduling movie favourites, which it did with NCIS (yes, back then it was a Sunday night show) and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
The move paid off and Seven and Nine later followed suit. CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, City Homicide, Underbelly, Terra Nova… just some of the titles that would eventually dot the schedules.
In recent years movies have been low priorities in primetime schedules with viewers turning to DVDs and Pay TV premieres. Many have been relegated to Friday and Saturday nights.
Last year an abundance of films hit our screens through streaming services, Netflix, Stan and Presto. But they are also making a comeback on Free to Air if not necessarily as premium offerings. Whereas once they were were blockbuster drawcards, now it has to be asked…. are they being used as schedule fillers?
As TV is fragmenting, networks are focussing their dollar spend on 6 – 9:30pm. Nine and TEN, in particular, are seemingly commissioning very little for a post 9pm watershed. Seven still has a reasonable amount of new titles, especially given MKR isn’t wrapping until 9pm anyway. While TEN still has US titles from its output deals, Nine has screened docos (tackling sugar, diets, the KKK and teen prisons) and movies.
A movie can get you late night share if it works. Last week Nine drew some 500,000 for a 9:30 screening of The Castle (1997) – a very good result on its comedy Tuesday. That was not repeated with Crocodile Dundee this week (1986) on 345,000. It had planned Crocodile Dundee II next Tuesday but that’s already been pulled in favour of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). Last night it screened Titanic (1997) from 8:30 …it gets more contemporary with Gravity next Wednesday night in ‘non-NRL’ states.
Nine isn’t alone in retro movies on weeknights. Tonight Seven is screening 1990’s Pretty Woman at 8:30pm in the same week as launching a movie favourites channel 7flix. Isn’t it on the wrong channel?
It’s rather surprising that in only the fourth week of the ratings year networks are programming 20 and 30 year old movies as primetime offerings when we have Streaming and Catch-Up services. SBS On Demand has 600 movies on offer for free, save for the occasional ad.
Where did the “golden age of drama” go? Where did the push for local content go? Yes Seven has invested in Wanted and Nine is to be congratulated for a bold bet in Here Come the Habibs (TEN will have no new scripted titles until Offspring returns mid year) -but may just take a programming move as bold as dumping the Sunday Night Movie if we’re to avoid seeing them all over again mid-week.