Ten promises ‘Masterchef-style makeover’ for Biggest Loser as buyers call for franchise innovation

Biggest LoserMany of Australia’s top media buyers are pushing the major free-to-air television networks to be innovative in their 2015 tent-pole programming, ahead of the first round of upfronts this week.

The call comes after Mumbrella reported last week on the lacklustre ratings performance for many of the big event television programs this year, with franchises such as The Biggest Loser, The Voice, X Factor and My Kitchen Rules posting double digit declines in audiences.

In the wake of last week’s report, a Network Ten spokesman told Mumbrella that one of this year’s worst performers the Biggest Loser, which was down 42.30 per cent among people 16-54 in consolidated figures, would undergo a “Masterchef-style makeover” in 2015.

“The Biggest Loser Australia remains part of our portfolio,” said the Ten spokesman. “It will be given a Masterchef-style makeover and will return to Ten at some stage. MasterChef Australia’s audience was up 31 per cent this year vs 2013.”While all of the media buyers Mumbrella spoke to welcomed ‘the return to basics’ format that had seen Ten’s Masterchef perform strongly this year, many of them questioned if key franchises, in particular talent shows The Voice and X Factor, could be revived.

“I think a lot of the shows are getting to a point where the formats are getting tired,” said Nick Keenan managing director of Maxus Melbourne. “But I wouldn’t include Masterchef in that. In the peaks and troughs that shows go through, their trough was last season, and by getting back to the fact it’s a cooking competition and going back to the original format they improved.

“The real question will be does The Voice go back to original format, does X Factor go back to original format, does The Biggest Loser etc?”

Keenan’s comments come ahead of tomorrow’s first 2015 upfront presentation from Network Seven, followed by Foxtel/MCN’s showcase on Thursday.

Starcom managing director Annick Perrin said she was a bit concerned about the performance of talent shows X Factor and The Voice this year, with the latter already promising a revamp in the wake of a disappointing finale result.

“The talent shows are definitely tired and in need of a revamp whether its going back to basics or what have you,” said Perrin. “It’s funny they had some good talent this year but I think it is just a tired, tired format. It needs a refresh or people could just be a bit over it.

“The music guys need a refresh and I think we just need some new reality to be honest. There is not (enough innovation) it’s a huge investment and a big risk to come out with a new format, and there are new formats coming out,” she said citing Ten’s Shark Tank and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here as examples.

The challenges facing ‘shiny floor shows’, such as The X Factor and The Voice, was a view shared by Keenan: “We have got to the point where there is only so much singing talent. It is a finite resource and I think they got a bit too funky with the format, it went on too long, people got sick of it.”

DentsuAegis’ media investment director Alex Pekish said one of the challenges faced by all the networks was growing competition coming from a variety of sources including new online players, IPTV and a more fragmented media environment.

“All audiences want to see new programming,” said Pekish. “We are moving into a highly competition TV environment which television hasn’t had to deal with, in terms of the external pressures, but it is going to have to address this over the next couple of years.

“They need to reinvigorate their programs and come up with new concepts to keep people entertained.”

However, Pekish said despite decreases in some of these major franchises’ audiences they were still extremely important to the networks and to advertisers which would make it unlikely that they would be rested in the immediate future.

“The question becomes does the cost associated with producing such a franchise becomes warranted by the network, as to whether they will decide to rest them,” he said. “These programs take up a lot of airtime and are aired on the prominent nights of the week eg. Sunday through Tuesday.

“Despite the fact that the audiences have dropped off clients tend to take our exclusivity on these programs. It means that their competitors can’t buy into the number one rating program on those nights.”

Last year Nine Network dumped Australia’s Got Talent after one series, with the cost of the production cited as a key factor, coupled with weak ratings.

UM’s national investment director Sev Griffths said new franchises were a major risk for both networks and clients but argued marketers need to be looking at the integrated package, not just TV ratings.

“Trialling new franchises are risky propositions (eg. Ten’s 2011 franchise The Renovators) but when they are successful they change the TV landscape,” said Griffiths.

“There are always concerns about audience drop off, it is important for agencies to predict and protect investment into these shows. Given viewers are engaging with these programs from many different touch-points it makes sense to have a more holistic viewpoint and campaign that is truly integrated.”

Maxus executive Keenan said he believed there was a huge opportunity for a network to trial something new to see if they could achieve the “water cooler effect” and get consumers talking about the program.

“I think there is just too much of this event based TV,” he said. “For me I think there is a very volatile audience across all the free-to-air television networks looking for a home and right now. The key networks who have consistently performed well are still holding the attention of the viewer.

“But we are seeing with the loss of audience for an X Factor or the fluctuations for something like Big Brother etc. they are saying we have had all these event shows and I think that the collective has not locked onto a fresh bit of new content that everyone talks about every day.”

Nic Christensen


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