Programmer’s Wrap 2019: Seven
Angus Ross talks Reality hits, bold specials and big plans for Drama.
“Being a programmer you always want more,” admits Seven’s Director of Programming, Angus Ross.
“My Kitchen Rules and House Rules made by Seven Studios are incredibly important to our schedule and they are big numbers of episodes so it’s critical that they work.”
2019 survey may be less than two weeks away but Seven is coming out all guns blazing with hit reality shows, US Dramas, true crime investigations and bold Live TV specials.
My Kitchen Rules is back for its 10th season with Pete Evans, Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge. There are 2 groups of instant restaurants this year with format twists including a brand new HQ, Open Houses with public diners and a team of complete strangers. Ross is confident of another bumper season but teases, “Keep an eye out for Josh & Austin, they are what I would call ‘quite unique.'”
This year the show has kicked off with a 7pm timeslot, but Home and Away will return in February.
“When there are major shifts in sporting codes rights, that leads to changes in schedules,” he explains.
“Launching Home & Away with a haphazard schedule around cricket I don’t think is ideal for that show, in terms of rolling out storylines. So giving it several more weeks of promotion in our primetime schedule I think gives it the best chance to launch when it returns in its 7pm slot on the main channel Monday – Thursday. The promos on air are cracking and I’m happy for them to get a lot more exposure over the next few weeks.”
“It’s a rollicking whodunnit.”
Tomorrow night sees the launch of 6 part true crime series Undercurrent by CJZ, which for legal reasons can’t be screened in Tasmania (Seven does not broadcast into Tas.). Previous synopses notes it surrounds a 2009 yachting incident in Sandy Bay.
“It’s a rollicking whodunnit. It’s like you’re part of a current murder investigation that is happening now,” Ross suggests.
It’s not the only crime tale that has hit a legal snag. Miniseries Australian Gangster has also been pushed back.
“We were planning to run Australian Gangster in February but there is an ongoing investigation which means we can’t. So we’re hoping it will be Q2 or the middle of the year,” he reveals.
“The problem with great crime yarns is they have a lot of elements to them and it could just be part of the story where a case comes up years later, and you get snookered.”
There are no such delays for favourite US dramas The Good Doctor and The Resident, both screening two episodes this week.
“The Good Doctor is still the #1 drama on Australian television, so we expect that to return strongly given that it finished on a cliffhanger at the end of last year.”
“We love Live. We’re always trying to find more of it”
Real-time TV special Operation Live will air in February, an Australian made TV first with cameras filming open heart surgery and a birth. Ross assures it won’t shy away from extreme vision.
“With medical shows there is a tradition of them being graphic. If you look back at RPA that was always quite graphic. I think it will give people an insight into the workings of something you don’t always get the privilege to see. It’s quite amazing what these surgeons do.
“We love Live. We’re always trying to find more of it, or things that feel Live.”
Instant Hotel will also screen soon with new presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen joining Juliet Ashworth. Why no Luke Jacobz?
“We just wanted to change the show up and give it a different feel. We still really like Luke and would consider him for a lot of things. He’s a great talent.
“We wanted to give Instant Hotel an MKR lead-in and see how it would go in Q1.”
Llewelyn-Bowen will be prominent this year, also returning to House Rules in its 7th season.
“It’s still possible to pull big numbers to Drama”
Two original dramas are in development, Sydney-based Between Two Worlds by Bevan Lee, and Melbourne-based Secret’s Bridesmaids Business based on Elizabeth Coleman’s hit play. Both are expected around Q3 or Q4.
“We have two big drama swings this year so we’re hoping they can break through the clutter. That’s the biggest challenge for us: getting new shows to cut-through when there is so much choice around. Particularly in Drama. But I take heart from The Bodyguard on free to air in the UK. It’s still possible to pull big numbers to Drama,” says Ross.
But soon viewers will be taken back to the swinging 60s for the new mystery from the makers of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
“Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries is great fun. There’s great chemistry between Geraldine Hakewill, Joel Jackson & Catherine McClements. We’re very happy with that, so it’s coming in February.”
Seven is also taking great pride in its UK drama acquisitions.
Manhunt with Martin Clunes will screen in March but look out for Liar S2, Cheat, Cleaning Up, Hatton Garden, The Bay, Gold Digger and Miss Scarlet & the Duke.
“There’s a pretty fat UK Drama line-up coming this year from Seven,” Ross explains. “I really want to try and improve our performance with UK Drama. They push the boundaries with a lot of their storytelling. And before anyone says ‘You put ads in it’ a lot of UK drama has ads!”
The Real Full Monty will return, joined by Ladies Night, plus 2 part MCG special Inside the G from CJZ, Islands of America with Martin Clunes and Gordon, Gino And Fred: Road Trip
“It’s the Top Gear of food with Gordon Ramsay!”
“You just can’t deny the numbers it is doing in the US”
Seven surprised the market with the announcement of Australia’s Got Talent returning from Fremantle later this year.
“We know in the back half of the year that big shiny floor shows do work when programmed against Reality shows. In the case of AGT we wanted one that was strip-able over multi-nights, and you just can’t deny the numbers it is doing in the US and the UK. It’s massive in young demos. We feel that enough years have passed that the talent pool has refreshed since it was last on. It’s a great show and we will have some surprising announcements around judges.”
And there is no shortage of dating and romance with more of First Dates and a swag of newcomers including The Super Switch. Female-skewing programming is strategic especially when The Ashes is screening on Nine.
“The Super Switch ups the ante, probably in Q2. It’s still the Seven Year Switch with a few more couples and some changes in the format. It’s worked for us before and probably quite noisy,” Ross suggests.
“Wife Swap is a reboot of the format. It’s fish out water, culture shock. I’ve looked at the casting and I think it will be really fun later in the year.
“It’s The Bachelor on steroids”
“The Proposal is pretty bonkers. Can you find love in an hour? It’s The Bachelor on steroids from Warner Bros. It’s going into production shortly.
“Extreme Weddings is an observational show on weddings with extreme locations and budgets, produced by Seven Studios.”
A second season of the already-completed Australian Spartan will proceed (Ross wouldn’t confirm an Easter playout) and Zumbo’s Just Desserts has found global success on Netflix to justify a new season. It’s a wake-up call for those who had written it off.
“There are a few shows where you look at the overnight numbers on Seven they may not have been deemed a success. But the way we mark success changes all the time. Yet there are a number of shows once they have gone to Netflix have been really embraced around the world, to the point where we’ve gotten together to make a new series,” he explains.
“A lot of Seven Studios content is on Netflix and is doing very well.”
Interview with Andrew Denton returns but Ross plans for greater awareness of the show.
“I think we will be encoring it in other slots to get the message out that Andrew Denton is back on Seven. It’s a terrific show and I think the numbers can do bigger. It can vary wildly depending on the guest. They’ve been doing a lot of work over summer locking in guests.
“Andrew is the consummate interviewer and you are always surprised. We just have to get the message out there, better.”
“We still feel there is room for improvement.”
Hit AFL series The Front Bar has some announcements to come for the post-Footy season, a new restaurant show is in development and a 10th anniversary event series for My Kitchen Rules is coming later this year.
“We had a vastly-improved back half and that’s why we won the year and all the demographics, but we still feel there is room for improvement. We had a couple of things that under-performed and we have to perform better in 2019.”
Quizzed on several 2018 shows, Ross says there is no decision as yet on more of Wanted, Take Me Out, All Together Now, Little Big Shots and Dance Boss.
“Dance Boss like Zumbo might return on another platform….” he teases.
US titles include The Passage (pictured), Proven Innocent, 9-1-1 and God Friended Me.
Of course there are also the shows that are the backbone of Seven including Seven News, Sunrise, The Morning Show, The Chase, Sunday Night, Better Homes and Gardens and big ticket sports events including AFL, Cricket, Golf, Racing, AFLW and more.
“Our schedules are always the sum of our parts. For us being number 1 it relies on everything working. Our entertainment schedule, our multichannels, news, sport -they all add together to make Seven number 1.”