2018 is a very big year in Sport & Entertainment for Seven -and the network has its eye on another gold medal performance.
With the Australian Open just ended, the Winter Olympics begin on Friday, then the AFL and the Commonwealth Games. With My Kitchen Rules already dominant (you can read more on that here), Seven is famously using big ticket events to springboard 2018 highlights.
One of its big success stories of 2017, The Good Doctor, will have 3 new episodes run before ratings even begin.
“It was our #1 show for 2017 and I think it is encouraging for all broadcasters in the Drama space,” Head of Programming, Angus Ross, says.
“It’s all about momentum and we come flying out of the Australian Open, which is when we launch our shows. We didn’t see any point in sitting on the episodes. Our sales guy sell every single day of the year.”
UK drama Hard Sun, starring stars Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn, begins on Wednesday, with viewers able to binge the entire series on 7plus following the premiere. New US medical drama The Resident, with stars Emily VanCamp & Matt Czuchry, kicks off after the Olympics.
The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, will see Gold Medals being won in primetime. At just 2 hours behind Sydney & Melbourne, the 16 day event will screen across Seven & 7mate, plus 8 Live streams on an OlympicsOn7 app (the HD version sets you back around $15).
As part of the Winter Olympics frenzy, Mick Molloy & co. will present special Front Bar editions, which will be mounted again during the Commonwealth Games.
“The Front Bar was a massive success story last year,” says Ross. “The little footy show that could. The speed with which that show became the dominant footy show is quite something.”
Sunday Night returns for Q1 along with Manu’s American Road Trip and 2 part UK series Gordon on Cocaine, in which the outspoken chef looks at the cocaine trade, where it originates from and its effect on society. Dating series First Wives Club, originally set for Q1, will now screen later in the year.
This year there are just 6 weeks of ratings before Easter non-ratings hit on March 25. During the second week of Easter the Commonwealth Games launch with a bang on the Gold Coast.
Screening across 3 channels, it will be Seven’s biggest coverage of any event since the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 -an event of such proportions it leaves rival networks to counter-programme or lay as dead rubber.
“Australians love seeing Australians win and hopefully we can do as well if history is any guide,” he continues.
“It is also about putting on what is not on”
Following the Commonwealth Games, are several new shows including, Interview with Andrew Denton.
“We are very excited. Andrew is obviously a television icon in Australia, but it is also about putting on what is not on: a primetime interview show.
“It’s (a strategy of) looking at where the gaps might be, which is what we did with The Good Doctor last year. It doesn’t always work but we are very confident it will work with Andrew Denton.”
New promos for Australian Spartan suggest Australian Ninja Warrior has competition this year, where each will screen on Seven & Nine respectively, is one of the biggest questions of the year.
“It would obviously for them to be silly to go up against one another. But the Commonwealth Games would certainly be a pretty smart launch pad for a show like that. You’re looking at whether teams of 3 can conquer the most intense obstacle course on the planet. The only way is to (do it) is as a team. As the promos say ‘No-one triumphs alone!'”
Filmed in Brisbane, the gruelling series switches from the daylight, forest-setting of the US format, to an evening, stadium event.
“You always have to adapt formats for the country they are playing in. There are many in Australia that are adapted for what audience expect in this market,” Ross contends.
“With a lot of ideas you look at them and think ‘You know what? We could make that better.'”
“We will be doing something quite special with how the show opens this year.”
House Rules returns in Q2 with Johanna Griggs and series judges Wendy Moore, Drew Heath & brash UK designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.
“The new trio of judges worked really well, Laurence has become a real star in the Australian marketplace. He certainly stands out!
“We will be doing something quite special with how the show opens this year. It will be quite surprising and give it more ‘oomph’ than last year -which was well up on the previous season.”
Original reality titles, Back with the Ex and The Mentor with Mark Bouris will also launch after the Commonwealth Games.
“Mark Bouris is going to try and turn around small businesses on the brink of collapse. I’ve seen the casting and it’s a great range of stories,” he explains.
“Mark and his team came in with a sizzle reel that was absolutely outstanding. He’s fantastic in that role and I think it will make for entertaining and, at times, confronting television.”
“Olivia will be fun and feel-good.”
Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You is also due around Q2 with promising footage of Delta Goodrem in the titles role. But where others are worried about a recent mood against bio-pics, Ross is optimistic.
“I think it is dependent on the story. I’m not ruling out more miniseries or bio-pics. It just depends on whether it’s a good idea.
“Olivia will be fun and feel-good. It’s a broad story and I think it will do bigger numbers than Hoges did. It did a million and was the biggest bio-pic last year. Others disappeared without a trace.
“The music really drives it and Delta looks amazing and delivers a great performance.”
Returning dramas for 2018 include 800 Words, Wanted in central Australia, and the 30th year for Home & Away.
“Sunday Night have worked on a network special on Home & Away and I know Sunrise will get in on the act with a celebration.
“It’s a key brick in the wall, 4 nights a week part, and we do have a couple of things coming to mark the milestone. It does well in Overnight and it’s very big on the consolidated numbers and is massive for us on 7plus.”
“We will be going big-shiny-floor entertainment experiences”
Little Big Shots is back in Q after proving to be one of Seven’s biggest hits of 2017.
“I copped a lot of grief for pulling it out of the schedule when Ninja came along, but it gave us a longer promotional window and the proof is in the pudding. It came out very strong,” Ross observes.
“There are some tweaks we will make for S2 but it was a massive launch for us. Shane Jacobson is just magnificent on it.”
Another original format, Dance Boss, is also due later in the year as part of a broader strategy to counter-act rival reality shows.
“It’s about people in the workplace who might have a dance crew together. It’s a chance for them to face-off. It’s a big, shiny floor studio show and we have had some amazing auditions. They are incredible and they certainly put a smile on your face,” Ross explains.
“In the back part of the year up against Reality shows like The Block, Survivor and The Bachelor we will be going big-shiny-floor entertainment experiences. There are a couple more announcements in that space coming shortly (singing show All Together Now is tipped to be one).
The Real Full Monty is based on a UK format in which celebrities train for a one-night-only strip for a good cause.
“It has a hell of a lot of heart and it’s all for a great cause to raise awareness for prostate cancer,” he continues.
“It’s a scary process to get up on stage and do the Full Monty. And it is the Full Monty. We will reveal a cast of blokes who people will be surprised by. The tone is joyful and triumphant.
“It’s the journey to the junk!” he laughs.
“We will still hit our quota comfortably”
Whilst The Wall won’t be coming back, Seven has plans for more of Instant Hotel.
“We were happy with the performance of Series 1 but there are some tweaks we want to make to the format to make it a better show. It will probably be back Q4.
“There were a lot of learnings in the series. The audience has spoken and we know what we want to reinvigorate for S2.”
CJZ is producing feature-length documentary Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy and true crime doco series, Undercurrent.
“Undercurrent is in the tradition of The Jinx and Making a Murderer. It’s an Australian true crime series based upon Sue Neill-Fraser who is imprisoned in Tasmania for the murder of her partner.”
Noisy series Yummy Mummies shifts from broadcast TV to a 7plus exclusive.
“Yummy Mummies may not have hit the numbers we would have liked on broadcast but it was massive in the streaming part of the business. So much so that we are making a 7plus exclusive second series.”
Seven has also confirmed a new series of The Simpsons “soon” for 7mate.
But there are also other titles which may not make it to air this year.
Another reality show may be shifted to 2019.
“The Rich House is still being developed. I don’t know whether that will make it this year. Probably not,” says Ross.
The Doctor Blake Mysteries is currently halted pending production resuming with star Craig McLachlan, Murder Uncovered has ceased production (but completed stories will air under Seven News banner) and previously-announced new drama Australian Gangster is also in a ‘holding pattern.’ But other projects are in development.
“We will still hit our quota comfortably with Australian product,” he assures.
Indeed Seven has no shortage of local content with more of First Dates, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunrise, The Morning Show, Border Security, The Chase, Beach Cops, Surveillance Oz, Dashcam, Manhunt, The Force, Highway Patrol, and factual newcomer Emergency Call.
“There are another couple of large announcements to come….”