TV struggling to get studio audiences, says John Deeks.

He’s been in the TV studio for more game shows and variety than he cares to remember, but John Deeks says studio recordings have a big problem these days: they struggle to get studio audiences.

There was once a time when going to a Television studio was a thrill -when places like HSV7 and GTV9 were like Hollywood coming to town. Enthralled families would line-up around the corner to see big-name stars up close and personal and marvel at the way the magic was brought to life in front of the cameras.

Now it’s a struggle says the man regarded as the Voice of the Seven network.

“You can’t get an audience anymore. Eddie McGuire is doing promos in the News offering $1000 for audiences to come along,” he tells TV Tonight.

“People are too busy.”

Deeks says it’s a bit easier for ‘event’ specials or variety shows, but smaller operations such as game shows or panels are doing it tough.

“And you’re not even talking about a big audience. Especially if it’s five days a week, forget about it.

“We were finding it very hard at the end of Wheel of Fortune to get an audience. Deal or No Deal you wouldn’t have a problem because a block would always become part of the show.

“But if they’re in the dark and they’re only there to clap, forget it!

“Now we say ‘Thank you for coming’ as opposed to ‘Aren’t you lucky to be here?’”

John Deeks has been with Seven for 41 years, and his voice is synonymous with the network. In addition to voicing thousands of network promos, he has been announcer and / or warm-up man for a parade of game shows, including The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud.

“I’ve read the News, I’ve been the weekend weather boy. I worked with Ernie Sigley on Saturday Night Live. I did the helicopter reports for the football -it’s been a kaleidoscope of things!” he laughs,

“I’ve had 34 years of doing game shows, going back to Wheel of Fortune with John (Burgess) and Adriana (Xenides), in Adelaide, and in Sydney with Rob Elliott.

“I hosted Family Feud in Queensland. Rob Brough went on to read the news so I replaced him. But the Olympics happened in Spain and they dropped it!

“But the consistent has been working on Tonight Live, Dancing with the Stars, Deal or No Deal, all the game shows, warm-ups for Acropolis Now, all of them.”

He notes working on Deal or No Deal as a recent highlight.

“It was 11 years that we did that show. Andrew O’Keefe is such a consistent, professional performer. It was sensational,” he recalls.

“I loved doing Tonight Live when it was Live in the early days because it was dangerous. They were so loose with the format, trying new things. Getting the audience involved was very important and making sure they were ‘there’ every single time.”

Digital technology has since allowed him to provide voice-overs at short notice from anywhere, whether home, car, or even baby-changing rooms in airports.

Yet in a fickle business ‘Deesky’ is also an industry survivor and team player.

“I think that’s how you stay employed: by being versatile. You have to be able to sniff the breeze a lot. I’m doing a lot of work for the (Seven-owned) West Australian Newspapers,” he explains.

“I do stuff for WA, South Australia, NSW, Queensland, and here in Victoria. It’s the whole network. I’m the ‘go-to’ guy thank God. But I’ve made it that way. I’ve really made sure they know I am available.

“They can call me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If someone passes away at 3:00 in the morning and they need to recut the Sunrise promo, you can call me, I will fix it.”

It also helps not to be in the centre of the spotlight, where hosts are hired and fired as quickly as shows are axed. His cheerful demeanour and positive energy makes him a favourite of execs and producers. Saying ‘Yes’ rather than ‘No’ has served him well.

“Don’t be a problem for them. ‘Get Deeksy to do it’ and it will happen. ‘Call Deeksy, he’ll get the voice-over done!” he says proudly.

“You have to be disciplined and say ‘Yes I can fix that for you.’ If you (complain) they say ‘He’s a problem.’ I’ve seen talent go into meetings with executives and say ‘I don’t know if I want to do that anymore,’ they say ‘Ok fine, thanks for coming.’

“I’m 67 and loving every minute of it. I hope I will continue to do it for many years to come.”

When was the last time you attended a TV studio audience?

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29 Comments:

  1. I was actually in the audience for the very last episode of Wheel of Fortune aired in Australia (some more episodes were recorded but never aired) My brother in law was on the show and won, so he’s technically still the carryover champion.
    If I didn’t know any of the contestants on the show, it would have been pretty boring. We weren’t given anything to eat or drink at all and the studio was quite stuffy.

  2. Armchair Analyst

    I agree with John Deeks about the demands of Tv network executives and producers. I presume they want you to become a jack or all trades and a master at the same time. i agree technology has made it easier to do that job, i just wonder of the quality of audio if your doing a voice over in your car. as for difficulty of atracting audiences in this day and age i think the alot of these process have been sussed out by the public they are not enamored/mesmerized any more plus they don’t get treated well from the comments that i have read. Like the rest of TV industry if you mistreat audiences/public they will not be back or it will be harder to get them back. Burning bridges also applies outside of the industry i.e audiences not just inside the industry.

  3. 1. Most shows are during business hours when people have to work
    2. Most shows taping sessions are extremely long and by the end you wish you were elsewhere (that 4th and 5th episode of Hot Seat is excruciating
    3. Producers demand audience members arrive several hours before the taping even starts and then you just wait around for hours.
    4. There are only so many TV shows made in Australia so you run out of options and are unlikely to go to the same taping multiple times unless you love the show.

    That all being said, I did really enjoy the taping of DWTS (as it was live so huge energy) and HYBPA as its an excellent show.

  4. I said “never’ but realised that I have; I did go to the opening and closing of Telethon last year, if that counts. Otherwise, being in WA the only other shows I can imagine being in the audience for are Q&A when they decide to travel interstate, and a state election debate every 4 years. There aren’t many other opportunities these days!

  5. I’ve been to Marngrook Footy Show, AFL Game Day, Bounce on Fox Footy and the Good Friday Appeal Concert. Enjoyed them all, would go more often if I lived in VIC/NSW.

  6. Mr game show fan

    I’m from Adelaide so I am shocked that Eddie McGuire is doing promos on (presumably Melbourne) the news

    Despite offering a chance of $1,000 for audience members to come along, Millionaire Hot Seat regularly fails to fill up all the seats visible when watching on TV.
    Combine that with almost getting beaten everyday by The Chase Australia, and the future plans for WWTBAM in this country don’t look too good unfortunately.

    Hey Channel Nine. Maybe you need to do a last ditch effort, go back to primetime and revert to the classic format like the old days? Should be cheaper because it could be as little as Monday nights only.

  7. I’ve been to a few studio tapings, Nunawading, Dorcas St, Bendigo St. Even a warehouse out at Coburg for an SBS Eurovision show. Tried desperately each week to get tickets for The Late Show at ABC but was never able to score any.

    Generally they are good nights but sometimes they forget to be respectful of their audience. I remember answering the Channel 7 ad for a taping of a “hilarious new comedy show”. Only once you enter the studio and are seated that the “new show” is revealed… a copycat of Australia’s Funniest Home Videos. It was awful and was something like 3-4 hours to tape a couple of eps. Didn’t fall for any un-named “hilarious new show” ads ever again! And didn’t even bother to find out if the show made it to air.

  8. I went to deal or no deal back in 2010 it was awesome and the project as well when I lived in Melbourne but now I’m in Brisbane so Maybe they should move the shows to a different state every year so gives them a new pool of audiences

  9. Went to X Factor once but my memory of that was waiting in a holding area on a hot afternoon for an hour and a half or so – longer than the actual show (at the time). Other shows I’ve been in the audience for are those either myself or my wife has been a contestant on like Letters and Numbers and Temptation (back in 2005!).

    Letters and Numbers used to use school groups to fill audiences. While they’d do 5 shows in a day, the audience wasn’t the same for all 5 with different schools coming in for different episodes. Rest of audience were contestants, families of contestants or people off the street (and not too many either).

  10. I often wonder how much of the show the audience on The Project can see. Every time they cut to the audience it looks to me like cameras are right in front of them??

  11. We love going to be studio audiences members but some are too demanding and not up front, for example a recent cooking show wanted audiences so we applied and got accepted, then got told it was $5 per tasting that would have been good to know before applying. Then they kept changing the time and there was a few other problems so we canceled. On the day they still email us at 4pm and said it has been delayed three hours, if we were going we would have already left for the two hour drive there so we decided never apply again for cooking show audience. The best taping we have been to is Family Feud,Grant Denyer stuck round afterwards and talk to the audiences and he was so nice he has been the only person to do that,so I would hesitate to go another taping of his.

  12. Last show I went to was Rove where I attended a few times. That was a good show to attend. Rove used to chat to the audience and signed any merchandise you bought before the show.

  13. Wish they would produce a new version of Wheel of Fortune again on Seven it would make a good change, though they should use the format the States use as in when some one asks for a T for example, and they spin up $500 and theirs 3 in the puzzle, that equates to $1500 instead of $500. Also they should use the envelope way again, though adopt a second wheel a smaller one like they do where the constant spins it and chooses a envelope. This method proves to rate well over there hence its been on for 35 seasons with same hosts.

  14. I’d like to be in the audience for a TV recording, but nothing which requires and audience is filmed in Adelaide these days (that I know of). When I was in LA in 2016, I had tickets to be in the audience for Matthew Perry’s ‘The Odd Couple’, but due to horrendous traffic, I arrived too late. I also had tickets to Fuller House, but was told that you have to line up for that at least 3hrs early, and there is still no guarantee of a seat so you could be turned away. I decided not to go, and went and did Universal Studios instead. I saw a YouTube video the other day about Judge Judy, her audience is provided by an audience agency, and most of the people are aspiring actors.

  15. The audience arrives to an empty studio. They fill in and sign a form and become temporary Actors Equity Members. They take their seats and the cameras roll – on them. The warm-up man starts his act and the cameras roam around catching every reaction. Partway through they are asked to move to a different seat in the studio and wear some items provided by the props dept. The filming continues. After 2 hours they receive their payment and go home. The director now has a “laugh track”, a “clap track” and an “audience track”. Some audience members may receive a monthly “residuals” cheque for the rest of their life.

  16. I have been to many TV shows over the years, I love them. For some reason I thought TV Tonight used to have a section where TV shows looking for an audience were displayed – including pilot shows. Can’t find it now. The only place I found was onlymelbourne.com.au. I also found that the number of shows in Melbourne needing an audience to be less than in previous years

  17. Most audience calls nowadays are weekdays daytime. Everyone is at work/school/uni. There used to be evening and weekend tapings.

    I was there for Rex Mossop’s New Club Show, This Is Your Life, and Junior Money Makers with Phil Brady

  18. I remember either reading or him saying (maybe on radio) that as the network voice artist, he’ll often get phone calls from broadcast management at any time of a day, saying “hey John, we need to to quickly voice this, I’ll send you the script” or something. What a gun, a stalwart, yet still doing what appears to be full time sponsor graphics, etc 24/7!

    Great, interesting article.

  19. I was offered a chance to go to a My Kitchen Rules restaurant recently, but there was no notice and it was happening during business hours. I don’t really want to use annual leave to attend a show taping. The last one I went to was So You Think You Can Dance. That was a lot of fun.

  20. Where are the stars anymore? Do people want to go and see a bunch of journos or footy players on a panel having a chat?. Gone are the days of variety with such names as Don Lane, Bert Newton, Mike Walsh that were worth going to see.

  21. battlestargalactica

    Part of the problem too is the length of the recording session. Millionaire can do 6 eps in a day – just pumping them out. That’s a lot of clapping.

    • Sale of the Century used to pump out five shows in an afternoon and it was great. Tony Barber and his various off-siders rarely stopped recording and these were great fun to be in the audience for. And, like John Deeks, Pete Smith was reliable, efficient and a true professional.

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