Programmer’s Wrap 2024: ABC

Maggie, Miriam & Micallef plus more Newsreader, Fisk, a big push to iview and why ABC will get to Drama in early evening slots in 2024.


In 2024 ABC has a vast slate of Australian Drama, Comedy, News, Documentary and Kids, as it flags changes in multichannels, new Drama timeslots and more inroads into its ‘iview first’ content strategy.

The year has kicked off early for the national broadcaster with new episodes of Muster Dogs, Total Control, Grand Designs Transformations and a local acquisition in Darby & Joan. They were joined recently by Back Roads, Nemesis, Planet America.

Chris Oliver-Taylor, who joined as Chief Content Officer in mid 2023, is encouraged by early results.

“We’re pretty happy. We launched significantly stronger this year than last,” he tells TV Tonight.

Muster Dogs had an amazing launch for Season Two… we’re about 1.5 million for ep 1 with over a quarter of a million coming to iview, which is really big for us and growing every week. So we’re really delighted with that.

“We’re quite surprised, but really happy”

“We’re quite surprised, but really happy with an acquisition, Darby & Joan, which is going really well. That’s got over 1.1 million views so far for ep 1, which is amazing. And we’re really delighted with Grand Designs Transformations, which is well over a million, just taking a slightly different spin on the Designs format. That’s a new format created by the Fremantle Australia team.

Total Control hasn’t fired yet but it’s growing steadily. We’re seeing a little bit of different behaviour on things like Total Control, which we saw on The Newsreader as well. We’re not getting massive Overnights or even immediate iview numbers. But over, say, 10 to 15 days both numbers are rebuilding. It’s just slower coming in. We’re not bingeing Total Control, it’s episodic. We’re expecting as soon as we can binge the show for a much bigger audience to come back in.”

Three part documentary Nemesis debuted on Monday reaching 1.43m viewers with a look at the Tony Abbott years as Prime Minister. Both Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison will feature in upcoming episodes, with the latter having only just signalled his departure from politics. Does the series drop a bombshell that triggered his exit?

“I just think that’s purely coincidence. I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve seen the documentary that should (lead to him) moving on in any way, shape, or form. I think that’s benign…. You’ll get a great insight into what has gone on the last seven or so years of Liberal politics and how it played out. It’s really good,” he suggests.

Wednesday hits, Hard Quiz and The Weekly, both from Thinkative Television, return next week with triplej’s Concetta Caristo joining Charlie Pickering’s team. Planet America is also scheduled to screen for nearly the entire year in the run up to a US Election in November.

‘We’re trying to be ABC iview first wherever we can”

Season 2 of relationship series Better Date Than Never launches February 20 with all episodes available to binge on iview.

“This year we’re trying to be ABC iview first wherever we can. Episodes often go up at 7 in the morning before they go to air that night. But I think over the course this year, you’ll see us launching shows, days or even a week ahead of the linear broadcast,” Oliver-Taylor explains.

New drama series House of Gods will follow from Total Control from February 25. The series by co-creator, writer and co-executive producer Osamah Sami, who himself grew up as the son of a Head Cleric, is described a tale of faith, family, secrets and lies and ventures into a world which is rare for ABC Drama.

“I think for the first time we’ve got Arabic subtitles on ABC iview, which is amazing.”

The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras will again be live on March 2 with Courtney Act as first host confirmed.

ABC also has the Free to Air final season of Happy Valley in Q1. There’s more from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and this year ABC also plans to stage another Classic 100 in Concert.

“We did one last year where we had an amazing event linked into ABC Radio Classics Top 100 and then we count that down and get the MSO and others to an amazing concert.”

Q+A  which falls under the News division, will screen in conjunction with Parliamentary sitting weeks across the year.

“There are runs of 6-8 episodes and then a break for a few weeks. I think the plan at this stage is to link into Parliament, but it’s in the schedule for all year.”

Acquisitions and interview shows such as Louis Theroux will screen in the interim.

In Q2 Miriam Margolyes: Impossibly Australian sees the candid presenter post-heart procedure, hitting the road once more.

“She’s going to Perth, Byron Bay and Broken Hill. The theory on this one is that these will be full of people who can teach her what it means embrace change and face the future of her own mortality, I guess, to some degree. And also what’s happening around Australia.,” he explains.

“Virginia will take us on a journey of key artists across all fields of the arts”

New Arts show Creative Types with Virginia Trioli will screen on Tuesdays, which should please incoming ABC Chair and arts devotee Kim Williams?

“I think so. Hopefully it pleases our audience as well. Virginia will take us on a journey of key artists across all fields of the arts…. we’re trying to give it as big a premium slot as we can,” Oliver-Taylor assures.

The Art Of will also return this year.

“We asked the team to rework the show in a particular way and Namila Benson still hosts the show. That will launch in Q2 and run all the way through to Q3.  ”

Season 6 of Restoration Australia is due on Thursday nights.

Gruen will return to Wednesdays in Q2 along with new comedy series White Fever, with Ra Chapman as a Korean-Australian adoptee with a love of hairy white guys.

More Spicks & Specks is coming in 2024 along with new comedy Austin featuring Ben Miller, Sally Phillips, and Love on the Spectrum‘s very own Michael Theo playing a version of himself, as a neurodivergent son.

Bunya-produced period drama series Ladies in Black sees the women from Goodes Department Store fling open their shop doors to the fabulous 60’s.

“It’s a lovely drama,” he observes. “Obviously it’s coming off the original IP of the film and the cast is amazing with Debi Mazar, Miranda Otto, Jess de Gouw. I just think it’s gonna be a fantastic, really luscious drama that I think will play right to the heart of ABC audiences.”

“Once we get 8:30 it is getting late”

Oliver-Taylor also flags earlier timeslots for some ABC Sunday night dramas this year.

“I’m trying to get to our Dramas as quick as we can. I feel that once we get 8:30 it is getting late. On Sundays we’re up against all the juggernauts. We have a great 7pm news on Sundays but by the time it gets to 8:30, we have lost maybe a third of that audience who have flowed out and found other things,” he notes.

“Not all Drama suits 7:30 and obviously MA has got to play at 8:30 but where possible, if we can bring our Dramas in a bit earlier, I’m keen to do that.

“We’re also not as fixated on duration. So you will find sometimes this year that some dramas are 44 minutes and some might be 56, and that’s okay. We’re trying to be very aware of what an episode needs in terms of duration. But getting to it in a linear schedule early is something we’re focused on.”

More factuals are coming in Q2.

“We have second series of Stuff the British Stole, which looks epic, even bigger with Marc Fennell doing that again. Then we’ve got Tony Armstrong’s Extraordinary Things. This is him on a mission to build his own exhibition for the National Museum of Australia, which tells about little-known histories of our country. I think everyone loves Tony, he’s so accessible, he’s fun… he also gets emotional about things, which is great. He’s really open with his feelings,” he says.

“We must also make sure there’s alternatives out there as well”

How does ABC program with an Olympic Games on a rival network in July?

“A couple of our series like Austin will run their last eps into the Olympics, but we’re not going to launch a new series… because the country will be quite freely watching something else,” he admits. “We’re not going to pull shows off, they’ll run their natural run. We’re trying to be careful and just navigate and be realistic about people wanting to watch the Olympic Games and we should respect that. But we must also make sure there’s alternatives out there as well.”

One of ABC’s big plays for 2024 is Maggie Beer’s Big Mission in which food icon Maggie Beer, and a team of experts, will upgrade the menu, dining room, gardens and culture at an aged care home in Perth over 4 months.

“This came out of a Royal Commission that was called for by ABC News and journalists about how we treat our older people and just the quality of care that’s given. This is one part of that and potentially could make change. We can at least showcase the lack of quality that is maybe given to our old Australians. Maggie, who is an older Australian herself, can go into these places and actually make things better without it costing millions and millions of dollars,” he explains.

“If anybody can do it, Maggie can”

“The ABC has led that in the last few years and out of it you get this amazing factual show that hopefully does make a difference. If anybody can do it, Maggie can.”

Chief Content Officer, Chris Oliver-Taylor

Casting is yet to be announced for Return to Paradise due in Q3. The spin-off from Death in Paradise centres around murders in  the fictional Dolphin Cove investigated by Australian ex-pat Mackenzie Clarke, the golden girl of the London Metropolitan police force, who returns home. It is produced by BBC Studios Australia and Red Planet Pictures.

Factual series I Was Actually There will mix first-person interviews with archival footage to document pivotal moments in recent history and headline events.

“They are first person interviews about what actually happened and using that very clever skill that the team behind You Can’t Ask That has in getting great stories out of ordinary people.”

Also coming is This Is Going To Be Big which follows a group of teenagers, living with disabilities and neurodiversity, as they prepare for their first high school musical about the life of John Farnham.

An unnamed new comedy from Shaun Micallef is expected in Q3, but no details are expected for some time.

“It’s going to be Shaun at his absolute, wonderful best. It’s not a narrative comedy. It’s definitely in the entertainment space. But it’s nothing like Mad as Hell,” he teases.

A second season of Troppo is due in Q3, likely to screen on Saturday nights.

Both The Newsreader and Fisk will screen at the back of the year with Question Everything also expected in Q4.

Take 5 with Zan Rowe is likely for late 2024 or early 2025.

ABC is also looking at a shake-up of its multichannel suite.

“We are looking at our multis and how we can evolve them. There should be an announcement in Q2 …I don’t think they’re working as effectively as they can be.”

But have no fear, “There is more Bluey coming, yes.”

News titles this year include ABC News, Four Corners, Australian Story, 7:30, Insiders, News Breakfast, Foreign Correspondent while Compass, Insiders, Offsiders, Catalyst, Fresh Blood, Gardening Australia, Landline and Media Watch all return.

Axed are WTFAQ and Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe.

Out for 2024, but possible in future years are Old People’s Home for Teenagers, Utopia, Kitchen Cabinet, Gold Diggers, In Limbo, Back in Time franchise and War on Waste.

Both Mystery Road: Origin and Bay of Fires are expected in 2025.

“Our intention is to go again but it’s in development,” he says of the Marta Dusseldorp drama.

What are ABC’s plans for Mother & Son?

Mother and Son is in development. It’s still got to finance. But the intention is to go again with it.”

And lastly there is good news for nostalgic music fans.

“We are looking at number of ways to celebrate Countdown‘s 50th birthday in November.”

Do yourself a favour…

Still to Come: SBS

20 Responses

  1. Do you go to bed at 9pm in Australia? As a Brit used to flagship shows airing at 9pm never understood why anything after 8.30pm is considered “late”.

  2. Regarding Total Control’s slow pick-up, I am waiting for all episodes to drop before I continue with it. I watched the first episode but decided I’d rather do what I do with most other series now: wait until all eps are available, then watch 1 or 2 a day over successive days. I can follow the stories and characters far more easily a day apart, rather than a week apart.

    1. Same. I would argue that this is a significant (and growing) segment of the viewing audience and it seems the ABC spokesperson does recognise this. Makes the decision not to make TC available for binge viewing even more puzzling.

      1. See comment around delivery, I suppose they could have held it until later in the year to enable binge, otherwise it’s hard to offer binge when you’re still waiting on the episodes from production.

  3. I’m a happy camper..this is a good line up IMO….anyone who advocates defunding or suggesting people pay to view including the app..are doing a disservice to FTA tv and people who can’t afford or want to pay…just saw a preview of Father Brown Series 11 behind the scenes on YouTube with Sister Boniface appearing in the show…looking forward to that as well…I prefer the ABC to the commercial stations..because I’m not a fan of reality tv…I live in hope there will be less in the future and more drama, comedy and factual…instead of desperately looking for love..OMG up to pussy’s bow on that score.

  4. Good to see ABC promotional photos celebrating diversity.
    But if I were part of 50% of the population, I might feel like I have been treated as only 12.5% and pushed to the back. What’s going on here?

  5. We found Darby & Joan more entertaining that we initially thought & since all episodes went up on iView have watched the whole season. Hope that Acorn TV give the go-ahead for a 2nd season.

    Looking fwd to the return of usual suspects, such as, HQ, TW, PA, etc. etc. There’s a lot of shows that we will be watching. Disappointed in the cut-back to number Q+A episodes but I’m not surprised given all of the bullying the show & the presenters have received in recent times. Missing The Drum already.

    Don’t care for dating shows, so will have to watch something else when “Better Date Than Never” is on.

    Grand Designs Transformations … this is No Grand Designs!!! The ABC should never have given the go-ahead for this rubbish.

    No mention of GDA returning in 2024 … Any inside info David? Or is GDT the ABC’s replacement of GDA?

    As for Bluey, the ABC keep saying there’s more Bluey coming but it hasn’t yet & TBH I’m getting sick of the “it’s coming” hype.

      1. David, Restorations Australia is listed above, so all good there. I did think that a new season of GDA was due later this year.

        As for Bluey, *all* of the current S3 episodes that have been broadcast have a copyright date by both The ABC & Ludo Studios of 2021. Me thinks that 3+ years is more than long enough to produce a new 21 min triple episode to conclude S3 & Ludo Studios have been busy doing other stuff that makes ’em more money such as, video games & the like.

        However, if Ludo want the fascination of Bluey to continue then they will have start producing more Bluey episodes.

  6. Overall this is the more interesting programmer wrap so far. The iview first approach is incredibly smart in a world of streaming and with the new way ratings will be reported as well (I see dramas shooting up the list and possibly outrating reality again).

    One comment does rub me the wrong way a little: “I’m trying to get to our Dramas as quick as we can. I feel that once we get 8:30 it is getting late.” The commercial networks gave up on Saturday’s (except sport), then gave up Friday’s, and recently have started dropping Thursday’s. With the exceptions of HYBPA, Cheap Seats, and The Hundred, they’ve also given up on trying anything after the 7.30 reality show.

    The ABC has always provided some quality entertainment later in the evening, and this makes it sound like they’re starting to drop away from this as well. 8.30 is a great timeslot for drama, and I enjoy not having to switch to a streamer because Australian FTA TV stops working two hours before I go to bed.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I also found that comment rather annoying. 8:30pm is not late.

      I would add that it’s about time the ABC increased the video quality on iView. Almost all 720p, with only the occasional 1080p doesn’t cut it anymore. And certainly don’t cut the current bitrate as SBS has done on their catch-up service. Better still increase the bitrate. Of course this requires extra resources & both public FTA networks have been strained of cash over the last decade.

      1. While iview definitely has parts it could improve, for me it ties as the best FTA streamer with SBS OnDemand, and is still miles better than 7+, 9Now, and 10Play.

  7. Sounds like a much more invigorating approach compared to the commercial networks. I suppose they don’t have to worry about ratings as much, although in the end who would want shows that audiences don’t watch in sufficient numbers. The quotes about Total Control are interesting. Season 3 is shit in terms of quality so that’d be a factor, seems to lack the purpose and bite that was there in earlier seasons. Very slow paced and definitely ready to be retired. Deborah Mailman is the only reason I keep tuning in and I don’t understand at all why the ABC can’t put all the episodes on iview in one hit? A consistent approach – either drop all dramas in one hit or don’t- would be preferable to me. All of Newsreader s2 eps got dropped but with TC you have to wait a week and I think given the quality issues people just give up where as if all the eps were there, that leakage of audience might not be as great.

    1. “I don’t understand at all why the ABC can’t put all the episodes on iView in one hit? A consistent approach – either drop all dramas in one hit or don’t – would be preferable to me.”

      Neither do I & agreed, however, each episode is uploaded to iView at approx. 6:30am Sunday morning. So we watch the next episode just before the 7pm news to free up our Sunday night for other stuff (already binge watched “Muster Dogs”).

      1. Yes, consistency is all viewers are asking for. Either make everything available all of the time or not at all. This case by case approach is no longer acceptable. The same applies to SBS.

    2. The Newsreader Series 2 only dropped the remaining episodes after the second or third episode had aired on linear television, and did so in the middle of the week with no warning. It’s an amazing show, but they should have either dropped all of the episodes on the night the first aired, or gone with putting them up weekly. It was confusing and fans online were left all over the place.

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