True-blue Truckers

Blue collar local content is proving to be a quiet achiever, according to 7mate programmer Billy Betts.

Every Tuesday night a show about blokes and their trucks chalks up another 200,000 viewers or more for 7mate.

Outback Truckers, now in its 6th season, is the channel’s longest running local production.

Filmed in Western Australia by Prospero Productions (Railroad Australia, Martin Clunes Islands of Australia) the tales of monster rig drivers is more popular than ever.

“It started as a bit of a gamble on a multichannel to see how a local production would do,” says 7mate programmer Billy Betts.

“But when you see audience declines in some areas, for this to go up on last year was quite special, really.”

The observational series captures the the men & women behind the wheel as they face inhospitable conditions, isolation and the elements to get the job done.

“I guess people relate to the truckers. It also does really well in Regional (areas) where the average is around 150,000 which is quite high.

“So we’re over 400,000 nationally on broadcast.

“It’s very colloquial so it’s relatable for our audience. It fits 7mate so well.

“A few weeks ago one that rated well was a guy transporting a horse. But it’s the personalities that drive the stories.”

Steve Grahame (pictured top) has become the show’s most recognisable face, as one of the select returning characters, along with Glenn “Yogi” Kendall. Both were invited to appear at the UK’s Truckfest, evidence of the show’s appeal through Quest TV. It has also screened in other European, NZ and US markets.

For Betts, Outback Truckers represents a pragmatic approach to local content on multichannels. This year 7mate has 4 locally produced titles with Whitsundays observational Aussie Salvage Squad on the way, the Free to Air screening of Outback Opal Hunters (also from Prospero Productions) and a yet to be announced title.

“The Truckers goes to show how important it is to have those brands and support the Australian industry. While we might not be commissioning at a million dollars an episode like the main channels might, we can still see what we can do. The factual space is more cost-effective for us, whereas comedy might be a bit more risky,” says Betts.

“It’s about finding what works for your channel that is cost-effective.”

8:30pm Tuesdays on 7mate.

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