Seven is looking to 2020 with stripped 7:30 programming after a challenging year, and one it is about to lose to Nine (it will win News & Breakfast TV).
Head of Programming Angus Ross says the change in CEO to James Warburton has focussed investment on content and removed previous distractions.
“There was a focus on cost-cutting and delivering a schedule to a budget that was inadequate for the entertainment schedule at 7:30,” he tells TV Tonight.
“You would have seen weeks this year that look like a patchwork quilt where we didn’t have stripped programming. Certainly not by choice. I’d like to make as many shows as possible.
“James has said we’ll concentrate on stripped programming year round, and that’s where we will focus our investment.
“I don’t shy away from the calls that we’ve made but a number of those shows departed because of cost necessity. There’s some fatigue, but there are some shows I look back on and think ‘We really should have stuck with that.’ The growth in some shows on other networks is a nod to sticking with things. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.”
Ross is also frank about having let go of some titles too soon.
“When we had the biggest show on television with MKR we could afford to be a bit more choosy with things.
“There were some errors made in the past and things were thrown away too quickly.
“Now we have a renewed energy under James and a particular focus on 7:30 stripped programming year round.”
Seven’s 2020 year will pivot around the Tokyo Olympics, with new shows announced including Plate of Origin, RFDS, Farmer Wants a Wife, Wife Swap and Pooch Perfect.
He also teases big budget drama Between Two Worlds from Bevan Lee (Packed to the Rafters, Winners and Losers, All Saints, Always Greener).
“Between Two Worlds is pretty epic. We’ve let Bevan off the leash with that one. It’s something we’ve wanted to make for a long, long time. It’s a big 10 part show and we will give it a big launch pad next year,” he says.
“Drama is hard in Australia. To get a big roll-up you need the best lead-in in the world.
“Particularly with dramas you have to reach as many people as possible with promo campaigns. There are certain events that give you more eyeballs than others.
“There’s so much drama in the world that to cut through all the drama noise you have to try and reach people in a different kind of fashion.”
Both My Kitchen Rules and House Rules are getting a refresh, with MKR contestants divided into 2 houses mentored by judges, and House Rules renovating a penthouse on the Gold Coast. Have both shows jumped the shark?
“Let’s be clear, we’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water with those brands.,” Ross insists. “They are both shows that deliver big numbers. They are very important Seven Studios brands and very successful shows.
“All brands need refreshes from time to time. James outlaid exactly what he perceived the issues were in his opening remarks, and I think he’s right. We’ve made a decision to refresh and invest more in those key shows.”
Mega Mini Golf (working title) sees mini-golfers competing head-to-head on supersized holes. Footage of Holey Moley, on which it is modelled, drew plenty of laughs at Seven’s Upfront.
“It was an interesting reaction to Mega Mini Golf in the room. It’s big, fun and silly. We’re taking our contestants to the US to make that and the course you’ve seen will be 18 holes. It will be even bigger.
“And in terms of really different things I think SAS: Who Dares Wins is a dark horse. I love the UK version and we have the UK instructors coming to work on it. It’s a lot more ‘real’ than a lot of other shows you see on television.
New Aussie sitcom Fam Time stars Michala Banas, Benson Jack Anthony, Duncan Fellows and features Rhonda Burchmore. It marks a bold return to local comedy production.
“It was filmed this year so I’d say it will probably be coming in Q1. We’re very happy with it, it’s very funny,” he continues.
“You’ve got to have a crack at comedy. There hasn’t been much of it in the past few years, Meet the Habibs on Nine, 10 have had a go with mixed results. It’s a hard space, but not something we feel we should give up on.”
Under James Warburton Seven is now also chasing the 25-54 demo, which is a shift away from pursuing Total People.
“We’ve always talked up Total People but as everyone likes to very quickly forget, last year we won Total People and every single demographic -and that was excluding the Commonwealth Games,” he recalls.
“So that’s always been our aim every year. I wouldn’t describe this year as one of our better performances, and James rightfully called that out.
“But in terms of ‘bricks in the wall’ we have a very, very good baseline. My view of the world is things like news or an under-performing sport are very hard to turn around. But changing the outcome at 7:30 is a relatively easier thing to do than changing an under-performing news or sport.
“I think we have a good base of 7:30 shows that can be refreshed and reinvigorated, but our spread of new things to attack various parts of the year, I think, is going to surprise people.”