Seven ‘regrets’ passing on Ninja Warrior

Seven looked at, and passed on, the Australian Ninja Warrior franchise, a decision it now admits was ‘regrettable’ in light of the show’s success on rival Nine.

The network also conceded it needs another stripped reality format for its upcoming programming slate and said its not against more cooking or renovation shows.

Wilkes: This is what works on Seven

Sonya Wilkes, head of unscripted development at Seven, told producers at Screen Forever that it relies so heavily on proven stripped reality formats because the current broadcasting environment doesn’t allow for much risk taking.

“I think Channel Nine would have said they felt pretty terrified when Ninja Warrior first went out,” she said. “And we looked at that, and we passed on that, regrettably.

“And if you look at that, you would say that is a risky proposition. Expensive show. It doesn’t skew female when all the commercials do.

“Yet, it really paid off for them.”

Ninja paid off for Nine 

Wilkes said shows on Seven had to show promise of broad mass appeal.

“We also know that from an audience profile perspective that with us needing to be broad and needing to be number one, that’s what we always aim for, and the only way to be number one is to be broad, we need to strongly consider that 40-plus female viewer, and we put everything through the lens of that,” she said.

“I have people email me and say ‘Oh everybody’s sick of cooking. They’re sick of renovation’. But in a country the size of Australia in terms of commercial dollars, if you want broad, you have to stick in the genres that are broad and that all people would watch. You can’t go too niche – as much as it would be exciting and different and all those things.”

The audience profile of My Kitchen Rules that Seven wants to replicate with other formats (Click to enlarge)

The only thing Seven will steer clear of, she said, is anything on an island, or featuring palm trees. Otherwise, the network is happy to keep stripping reality formats.

“We would never stay away from those big genres because they appeal to the masses and that is what our audience is,” she said.

“We’re probably at least another reality stripped show short in our year, and then we’ve got to think about beyond and beyond and having things kind of ready to grow in the years beyond that.”


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