TV execs discuss ‘What’s missing in Australian TV?’
Exclusive: TV network programmers are agreed. We need more Live Television in 2019.
EXCLUSIVE: Every year as part of the annual Programmer’s Wrap I throw a question without notice to each Programmer.
In the past they have varied from “What show would you like to revive?” to “Which show would you like to pinch from another network” to “What kind of TV / Sound set-up do you have at home?”
This year I asked “What’s missing in Australian TV in 2019?”
It was an open-ended question that could describe a show, genre, personality, or anything to do with media or audience. The follow-up was also what plans they had to address it….
This year several Programmers hit on a common them: Live, Live, Live.
Daniel Monaghan, Network 10 Head of Programming:
I’m not just saying this because we’re about to do one, but I do think variety is missing from Television at the moment. It’s always been something Australians have done very well. We have a very good heritage in Live variety shows and I think it’s high time we get back into the game of entertaining audiences and keeping people on the couch, and make them tune into a Live, entertaining show.
And I don’t think there is only room for one, but a variety of variety shows across the year! As an industry we need to give people a reason to watch us Live and not revert across to the various platforms.
The other thing that’s missing is a little bit of cohesion about the reporting of our numbers. There’s a lack of positive responses as to how many combined people all the Free to Air networks bring each night. We are quick to pull shows down, but there’s not enough chatter about how many people we bring as a group every single night.
We’re very quick to say 25 million people watched Netflix across the globe, but very shy to say 4 million people watched us last night.
Even as the landscape diversifies, it’s quite an extraordinary number on a nightly basis.
Hamish Turner Nine Programming Director:
It would be good to embrace Live Television more. It’s something I feel it needs to come back, and the art of surprise in terms of what Live delivers. Things can become too constructed and Live is the antidote to that. When you are going hard down a certain path it’s sometimes good to turn 180 and go in a completely different direction.
And not just Entertainment. In the US they did Grease Live. It’s an expensive show. And you would remember they did a Drama that was Live. So there are formats that are tried and tested but maybe delivered in a different way.
What Hey Hey was able to capture was the intrigue of what’s going to happen next? No safety net. Things could capitulate quickly but that was the excitement and the fun of it.
We’re always talking about ways to do things differently, or spike the schedule. ‘Retro-tainment’ is continually talked about in the US. Everything old is new again.
As part of every commissioning discussion, all these things are discussed at length. But it’s about finding the right vehicle, or the right talent, to do it.
Brian Walsh, Foxtel Executive Director of Television:
When I think back to other eras we had IMT 4 nights a week, we had Don Lane, Bob Rodgers… it’s the one missing primetime show on Australian television. When visiting performers come to Australia their choices are the breakfast shows and that’s pretty much it. There’s not even a performance on The Project. It’s a huge missing link in the content offering by Australian television networks.
(At Foxtel) we don’t have scale. If you’re a publicist from a film company or record label you will always go to Free to Air first because you have the eyeballs.
Paul Murray Live on SKY is introducing a different format which includes Live performance. SKY News has done a deal with Sony Music so there are a number of artists appearing when it tours regional Australia. Hopefully that’s the start of something.
Ben Nguyen, SBS Channel Manager:
What comes to mind is The Chaser. I think there is a space for people who are doing comedy with a political undercurrent. I’m not necessarily saying we should have more Chaser. But there is room for the ‘anything could happen’ moments. There’s something really exciting about Television when you can create those moments where you’re not sure where it is going to go.
A bit of provocation and snark.
It’s something we’ve been talking about. It’s something we have dipped our toe into with Nazeem Hussain, John Safran.
A priority for us is to find lighter moments in the schedule. Whether it’s that or something lighter like Child Genius. We don’t want to be typecast as the heavy issues channel. We’ve always had more breadth than that.
Angus Ross, Seven Director of Programming:
What’s missing: An outrageously funny Australian animated series in primetime.
What am I doing about it: 7Mate is on the case.
Michael Carrington, ABC Head of Specialist & Entertainment:
If I had a wish for 2019 it would be that iview is seen as a streaming service and that we had the resources to create iview as a streaming service and not just a catch-up service. We are doing more and more of that by streaming to iview. We’re launching shows first on iview or as close to a linear launch as possible. What’s missing for me is the resource to turn iview into a fully blown free VOD service that the audience understood and went to, in the same way that they go to a Netflix or Stan app.
At the moment it feels like a Catch-Up app and that’s maybe what it used to be 10 years ago. So what’s missing is the audience connection to iview. But we’ll be doing everything we can to try and turn that around this year.