Network Ten’s programming boss Beverley McGarvey has defended the decision to delay the broadcast of the highly anticipated new series of The X-Files, as the three main networks prepare to unleash a slew of new content ahead of the start of the official ratings season.
Ten is first cab off the rank launching I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here on Sunday, before showing the first of the new six-part series of The X-Files.
However McGarvey dismissed piracy concerns relating to the decision to delay the broadcast of the show by six days telling Mumbrella: “I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask people to wait six days. It’s free, it’s not like it is on an SVOD service it is free-to-air television.
“It launched in the US in a way that we would have had to launch it here on Monday night, the eve of Australia Day. It’s not a great night for television when people are out having a bit of a party before Australia Day, we were not going to play it on Australia Day and then the rest of the week is still holiday season.
“We think the show is fantastic and it deserves two things: a really strong slot at the top of the week and a really strong lead in – that’s why we waited six days.”
Some consumers have expressed frustration about how Ten’s decision will put them two episodes behind the US, but McGarvey said she did not believe a significant number of consumers would seek to pirate the content.
“It is a good show, it is a really good reboot and I think it will work on two levels: there are people who watched the show the first time who will come back but it also works for people who don’t remember and anyone under a certain age doesn’t actually remember it,” she said.
“A lot of series are held, a week, a month, six months and we do want to give our viewers shows in the speediest way possible but we also want to do the right thing by the show and the show deserves a good slot. It’s six days.
“We think people will wait for the show and if people have downloaded the show illegally we will never know and there’s not much we can do before Sunday night.”
Ten is counting on a strategy where any loss of audience through piracy is recovered through launching on the back of one of its big franchises of 2016 I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
“It does feel like there is more buzz this year,” said McGarvey, citing media speculation that the likes of Julie Andrews and Shane Warne may go into the jungle. “We were thrilled with the performance of last year and although we were happy with the show we certainly had things we wanted to fix with the show and we have fixed them.”
The Ten programming boss told Mumbrella that she was pleased with the casting and said they would be upping the ante in 2016 on the challenges.
“We also have a really interesting cast and the buzz around the cast has certainly kicked off to a level we didn’t expect,” she said.
“When we commissioned the series we realised we needed to up the ante on the challenges. Because of the cultural difference between the UK and Australia (we knew) that Australians are not so afraid of snakes and spiders and so we did up the ante but we think we didn’t up it high enough.
“Last year’s cast were brilliant and so willing to take it on but this year we have cast a more diverse bunch of characters in terms of personality, which is interesting because that gives the camp life material – more drama, more conflict, more light and shade.”
Asked if she was worried that a celebrity might walk out McGarvey noted that was a key component of the show.
“We are not overly concerned, approximately every other season someone walks,” she said. “Each season you set yourself up for the fact someone might not be thrilled and might walk. If it happens then we are well equipped to deal with it.”
The ratings battle will see I’m a Celebrity go first on Sunday up against the Australian Open men’s final on Seven and a Twenty/20 international match on Nine. My Kitchen Rules and Australia’s Got Talent then go live on Seven and Nine respectively, on Monday.
Nine director of programming Andrew Backwell said that with Seven and Nine going head to head with stripped reality television they were hoping to have a different offering with the latest reboot of Australia’s Got Talent (AGT).
“Our strategy is a little bit different to the other two,” said Backwell. “With Seven they will launch with MKR which is stripped reality – it is a juggernaut, it always does well and I think it is going to do well again this year and Ten is also launching with stripped reality with I’m a Celebrity and that did ok last year and I think there is potentially some growth in it.
“Strategically we decided to have a point of difference. Last year we had The Block but this year we wanted to have an alternative and so we put some entertainment into the schedule.”
Nine is returning AGT after it axed the program in 2014 and Backwell said he was happy with how the refreshed format, hosted by Dave Hughes, was coming along. He also noted they were using MKR to ensure Seven did not counter schedule by matching formats – a strategy which some say has driven viewers away from broadcast TV.
“Australia’s Got Talent is a very solid show,” he said. “We have seen the episodes as they have been coming through and I’m very happy with the panel on it and I think it is a good alternative to all the stripped reality.
“(MKR) gave us the opportunity to schedule something without Seven chasing us around the schedule with another entertainment show.
“What Seven did (last time) is they put X Factor directly against it. They didn’t want us to get AGT established and so they put up X Factor and that is two similar big studio shows up against each other and the ratings were soft.”
Seven’s Angus Ross portrays the situation differently.
“We used to have AGT ourselves but we did our dash on that,” says Ross Seven’s director of programming. “Nine brought it back and did their dash and now they have brought it back again.
“Meanwhile Celebrity obviously did the trick for Ten and their performance last year but our view is that My Kitchen Rules will win the battle. We’d be disappointed if it didn’t.”
All three programmers expect My Kitchen Rules to again dominate the first part of 2016 with Ross describing it as the key pillar in the slate along with event TV like Molly, the telemovie of the life of Molly Meldrum.
Molly stars Samuel Johnson.
“MKR is the pillar for us in the first quarter. It was the number one show last year and we have a lot of confidence in it this year again,” he said. “We think we have a great bunch of characters and we are again using the launch pad of the Australian Open to really push that home.
“We also have Molly coming into the schedule. Molly will be straight out of the tennis in the week commencing the February 7 and we feel like we are on a bit of a roll with drama at the moment.”
Asked what his expectations are for Molly Ross said: “I’m thinking it is going to be big. I don’t like calling out numbers but I think it will be event television and event television pulls audiences,” he said, citing the success of the INXS and Peter Allen telemovies.
Rival Nine on other the other hand it trying its hand with comedy with Here Come the Habibs, a sitcom which launches in mid-February.
“Everyone has stayed clear of sitcoms for a while,” he said noting that Kath & Kim was the last major comedy on commercial TV. “It is a hard area to get right. I’m glad we are taking a risk because if you get it right the rewards are big.
“To have some comedy in the schedule is another point of difference and I am confident the show will return.”
Asked about his expectations for the show he said: “It is hard to tell. I think there is some noise in it. The audience is already hearing chat about it but you have to remember it is going to go in an environment where you are up against My Kitchen Rules which averaged 1.6m last year, Ten with I’m A Celebrity which I think is going to grow.
“It is a tough environment. I’d would be happy if it was above 900,000 (viewers).”
Ten’s McGarvey has a different view on the competitive landscape.
“On Sunday we are up against sport and we are the only entertainment show on but Monday night it does kick off with Australia’s Got Talent and My Kitchen Rules but frankly our shows are always up against something that is a big competitive reality show on Seven or Nine,” she said.
“That’s how we operated all last year and there was definitely an audience that responded really well to what we were doing. There will certainly be an audience for MKR and AGT and there are people who will be devoted to those shows but we are confident our show (I’m a Celebrity) is different enough, noisy enough and appeals to a family audience – which is important.
“There is a enough of a population, enough people who watch TV for all of the shows to do a respectable job.”
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