Nine is not a niche channel.
It is broad, skewing 25-54 and female, according to its Head of Content, Production and Development, Adrian Swift.
Speaking at the Screen Forever conference last week, he was joined by Nine’s two Co-Heads of Drama, Andy Ryan and Jo Rooney.
“There’s nothing we commission that doesn’t have an expectation of an audience somewhere between 800,000 – 1,000,000 people. We don’t commission things that we think are niche,” Swift told producers.
In 2017 Nine will have more reliance on dramas, network “stars” and ‘big stories’ in its content.
But Swift pragmatically noted that for all the Upfronts showreel hubris, at least two announced titles would likely fall over and would need to be replaced. That leaves Nine in the hunt for at least two stripped titles.
“We’re looking for those 8:30, 9:00 shows that are big and that are noisy and that address issues and that talk about who we are. 8:30, 9:00 was typically the preserve of the American drama,” he continued. “It’s now almost exclusively across the commercials -certainly Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday- playing Australian content and that content is in the area of relationships, in the area of Obs Doc… and we’re still interested in Obs Doc. RBT is doing very well for us. We commissioned at least four Obs Docs for next year and we’re also doing a show called This Time Next Year.”
In the area of Drama, Jo Rooney said, “We’re just looking for returning series 25-54. Event TV like Bond or Underbelly, but generally they are true stories, so that they can self-promote. And we have shows in development for 2018. It all depends on how this slate of five returning series goes.”
Andy Ryan acknowledged that the genre of bio-dramas has been “mined excessively.”
“Fashions change and it’s up to the producers as much as anything else, the creative community, to strong-arm us into what the next (trend is),” he said.
Addressing the question of Comedy, Ryan explained how they are more difficult to make work.
“They’re short-run generally, you don’t get great volume. They’re expensive to make and you spend the same amount of effort promoting them as you do on a series like House Husbands which is going to give you five series. So there’s there’s a whole lot of economic factors weighing against them.
“And there’s programming considerations that is weighted against a half hour show that’s only got six episodes. If you can overcome those hurdles with a concept that is big enough and noisy enough to swamp those considerations -then yes!
“The Habibs was one such concept came with the great team but it had a killer concept.”
Jo Rooney underlined the importance of marketing with any new pitch.
“For us it’s always ‘What’s on the side of the bus?’ That’s what we always say to anyone who comes in and pitches,” she said.
“It’s a strong clean idea,” Andy Ryan agreed. “We only get one chance to communicate the premise of the show to the audience, so that has to be pretty succinct. You know, it is a 15 second grab or a side of a bus. So a pitch that comes with that sort of clarity will go to the top of the pile. We get a lot of pitches where the people pitching it don’t really know what the show is. We get a lot of pitches where the show is is not for the Channel Nine audience, which is a waste of everybody’s time. But then we get shows which just hit the nail on the head -and sometimes they’re not the first show (pitched).”
To the question of best approach, Andy Ryan advised, “Drama pitches come to us although if they go through Adrian there’s no problem. But people contact us direct and in first instance a couple of pages is plenty. If we can’t get it in a couple of pages then no one will ever get it. And and we can take it from there.”
Adrian Swift added, “For Non-Scripted come through my office and there are several of us that that filter, but in the first instance come through my office and we try and let you know upfront (our thoughts). So what I what I don’t really want is ‘Can I come and see you?’ What I’d really like is a sense of what you’ve got and then we can either have a conversation or not, because I can usually filter fairly early on and that’s not a ruthless process.
“I think we all at Nine acknowledge that your first pitch might not be the right one, but we’re getting our eye on you and you’re getting your eye in on us. So it’s not ‘We haven’t heard of you, you can’t come in.’ It doesn’t work like that. But certainly in non-scripted because of the sheer volume of it like a sense of what it is you’re pitching and what the area is and why you think it’s right for Nine, upfront.
“And then come on down.”
Tomorrow: How to Pitch to TEN.