Ten in 2013: Less risk, more consistency

ten logoIt’s a tricky one launching a new TV season. You’ve got to look confident even if you’re in strife. But you shouldn’t sing too loudly if you’re winning.

Last week, what little commentary around Seven’s upfronts that didn’t focus on Celebrity Splash was on their somewhat triumphalist approach.

Fair to say, that wasn’t a criticism that could be levelled at Ten this morning.

The first word I had back from one media buyer who was at the Sydney presentation was “humble”.

As well they might be after the year they’ve just had.

But in terms of 2013, I suspect that the 500 or so people in the room will have left more confident in the network then they were at the start of the day.

Stability is the strategy. Gone are the risks of I will Survive, Everybody Dance Now and being Lara Bingle.

Instead come the safer bets of Masterchef: The Professionals, Puberty Blues and The Simpsons back on the main channel. Chef Marco Pierre White should be telly gold for Masterchef. Puberty Blues has every chance of growing outside of the book. And The Simpsons may be 23 years old, but it still rates.

Ship mutiny Batavia – a great Australian(ish) story – also looks a good bet with Screentime (the people who brought us Underbelly and Bikie Wars) as the production house.

Shock of the Now – described by programmer Beverley McGarvey as the love child of The Gruen Transfer and Can Of Worms, and from these shows’ production house Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder – is intriguing, although it’s hard to tell whether it’s got legs based on the description alone: “Think of it as a state-of-the-art tonight show that allows viewers to interact directly with what is happening on their television screens”.

Bringing American Idol to the schedule is also interesting. The argument in favour is that with Keith Urban as a judge, it might bring in a slice of The Voice’s audience. And it would offer an indication of whether the audience is ready for the (more expensive) return of Australian Idol. The argument against is to look at how the US edition of The Voice tanked on Nine this year. I’m predicting it won’t work.

Introducing three overseas shows, McGarvey alluded to the fact that local networks need luck when it comes to their studio deals. Famously, Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy helped turn around Seven in a season. Sadly, Elementary (Sherlock Holmes in modern New York); Ripper Street (Jack the Ripper terrorising London) and The Americans (Homelandesque cold war drama) don’t feel from the sizzle reels like they’ll be similarly big. The fact that they are not being fast tracked – Elementary went to air in the US last month, while Ripper Street airs in the UK shortly – may not help considering Ten has the most download-savvy audience of the three major networks.

Sport looked thin without AFL. In the main, Formula One and a bit of international rugby.

And Woolworths will be hoping that its deep integration into FremantleMedia’s new cooking show Recipe To Riches will work half as well as Coles investment in Masterchef. The mechanism wasn’t entirely clear in the promo, but it appears that the winning dish on the show will be based on whichever dish sell best through Woolworth’s tills the next day.

It also looks like Ten is keeping faith with Breakfast, despite its struggling ratings. Not much was said, but it appeared in the sizzle reel.

Overall, this feels like a recovery schedule. it lacks the bombast of the last couple of Ten upfronts when, riding high from Masterchef, they gave the impression they dreamed of overtaking their rivals.

The strategy now feels like it’s back to being a strong third place, delivering against the 18-49 demo.

That may not seem particularly ambitious. But from where the network is now, it’s probably enough.

Tim Burrowes



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