When a franchise fails
Seven, Nine & TEN have all had big failures. TV Tonight hears from those who have have lived through TV flops.
Right now The Biggest Loser: Transformed is under pressure, and more specifically Network TEN, after 2 weeks of dire numbers.
Everyday someone else has a better programming solution to TEN’s woes. Everyday media headlines are targetting the show’s performance and everyday the ratings and company share is at risk of heading south, not north.
But for every Biggest Loser there is another Reno Rumble, Restaurant Revolution, Excess Baggage, The Renovators, Celebrity Splash or even Yasmin’s Getting Married.
Seven, Nine and TEN have all had their inglorious moments. A stripped Reality show is an all-or-nothing bet, consuming massive real estate in the schedule that can’t be addressed with a quick fix.
TV Tonight spoke to two industry sources, on strict anonymity, to gain an insight into what it’s like inside the bunker when a franchise fails.
“A programmer’s life is a rollercoaster”
“The impact it has on your schedule is huge,” said one source.
“A programmer’s life is a rollercoaster. You get good ratings one day and you’re celebrating, next day it’s failing. But when a stripped Reality fails there is so much pain because everything around you starts collapsing.
“It’s very hard in the 7:30 slot because you just get no flow into your other shows and everything around it fails.
“I’m A Celebrity did a good job in a very hard environment. But all that good work is gone in terms of annual share, because the share (Biggest Loser is doing) now cancels what they’ve done with their first show.”
Another source agreed: “These are big rolls of the dice and without doubt when successful it provides you terrific momentum and a platform to build further shows off the back of them.
“Nine have done well with Married At First Sight as a strip and this should give them the necessary momentum to launch their second quarter schedule with The Voice and Ninja Warrior.
“With Biggest Loser significantly underperforming for TEN after a successful season of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here the risk is how will Masterchef perform? Arguably it will need to do some heavy lifting off a very low lead in with Loser.”
So is the answer to replace the show quickly or hold your nerve and hope it builds? Sometimes there are surprising positives and sometimes the tide can turn.
“The first season of House Rules didn’t do well for the first few episodes, but Seven to their credit stuck with it and by the end it was doing really good numbers,” said one source.
“Nine has a huge hit with Married at First Sight now, and that was something that happened because of Reno Rumble not performing. So sometimes you are pushed into making a decision that works out quite well.
“What are you going to put into the slot and will it do any better?”
“When you are Nine and Seven you have a little bit on the shelf that you can put in there. But when you are TEN and you don’t have the budget for it you are stuck. You can’t just move it to a multichannel because what are you going to put into the slot and will it do any better? Then if you use something else it creates a hole somewhere else in your schedule. It’s a very hard thing to deal with.”
“It depends on the network’s nerve as to whether to hold firm in the hope a show will build,” said another. “You will generally know after the first two weeks. Each network has different budgets and at times there are no options if it doesn’t resonate with an audience and you just need to see it out if replacement options are limited and even then there are no guarantees you will do any better.”
But there are other considerations to deal with too.
“With Reality shows there is product integration, from sponsors who have put money into the show. When you take them out or move them to late night you have all these client issues you have to deal with. Then you have “make goods” with the sales team because the product isn’t being exposed to the audience it was promised. Suddenly you are eating your own inventory to make up the shortfall.”
“If you just get hammered by your CEO you lose confidence”
Spare a thought for those at the centre of the storm, charged with being creative with limited production budgets, and copping advice from everyone around them.
“Everyone is always an expert programmer when things don’t go well,” one source revealed. “The test of a CEO and the board is how to manage the situation when things don’t go to plan. It’s easy to lay blame but it’s these times support is required if they back their programmer.”
Another agreed when things go wrong is when a CEO needs to show support.
“If you just get hammered by your CEO you lose confidence, you become conservative, you don’t take any risks,” they said.
“It doesn’t achieve anything for the CEO to be freaking out in that situation. It’s not going to lift the ratings nor help your revenue.
“When you had a disaster you couldn’t find anyone more supportive (than our CEO). When he pushed you more is when you were doing well.”
Breaking from the pack by not running a stripped show is also a big risk. Nine launched its 2016 year with a varied diet of Australia’s Got Talent, The Farmer Wants a Wife and Here Come the Habibs but struggled against My Kitchen Rules and I’m A Celebrity.
“Australian audiences are still wanting their daily diet of Reality TV… something very rare in other markets particularly in early evening primetime,” one source noted.
“Nine tried to counter the strip sensibility last year with various nights of different programming and it failed.
“There is no sure bet in this business and that drive to work each morning in readiness for the 8:58am overnight ratings can at times feel like the longest stretch of road ever!”