To Renovate or Not To Renovate. There is No Question

david_mott_head_shotIn this guest post, Ten’s chief programming officer David Mott responds to criticism about that controversial decision to schedule The Renovators during Sunday’s MasterChef finale.

Those of us in the programming business know that this isn’t a job for the thin skinned. There will always be someone willing to express their displeasure over your scheduling choices.  

adam_liaw_tweetAnd so it came as no surprise to see the Twittersphere abuzz with chat about Ten’s decision to play an episode of The Renovators at 7.30pm on Sunday evening.

Twitter can be a useful tool to garner viewer feedback, but it can also be a forum for heated opinions that aren’t necessarily reflective of the broader viewpoint.

Let’s start with the commentary around the late timing of The Winner Announced. The suggestion that somehow this year younger viewers were disenfranchised from the broadcast is simply untrue.

The announcements crowning both Adam Liaw (2010) and Kate Bracks (2011) occurred just shy of 10pm. That’s just five minutes separating the 2010 and 2011 timeslots.

So why the audience variation between 2010 and 2011? It’s simple. There’s a pattern with shows of this nature.

The audience for big event TV tends to build gradually during the first season, before taking off swiftly during the second season and then levelling off during year three. That was our experience with Big Brother, Australian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. In this regard, MasterChef Australia is nothing out of the ordinary.

MasterChef differs because of the dizzying heights it reached during its second phenomenal season. This is after all the show that broke OzTAM records. But a realistic scrutiny of the numbers will tell you that an audience of more than 4 million viewers is a once in a life-time result that just can’t be repeated year after year.

Readers of Mumbrella will recall that this is what we’ve been saying all along. In this multi-channel environment, audiences in excess of 2 million viewers are the exception and not the rule.

What seems to have been lost in all the debate around finale numbers is the consistency of this show over three seasons. For programmers and advertisers the real value lies in a format that performs solidly day-in and day-out across 14 weeks of prime-time. In this regard, MasterChef really is the stand out show of the last three years.

In fact, this year, the regular daily shows have outperformed season one, delivering an average audience of 1.64 million viewers, up from 1.53 million viewers in the highly successful premiere season of 2009.

But if it’s finales you’re interested in, then even the most cynical observer must acknowledge, that Sunday’s finale was a standout success. Within the context of 2011, there is only one other show which has so far outperformed MasterChef Australia.

Without a doubt, Australia’s Got Talent had a strong season and it quite rightly delivered finale numbers to match.

Beyond AGT and MasterChef there are only a handful of television events or one-off finales with the capacity to deliver the kind of audiences that dominate headlines.

My Kitchen Rules, Dancing with the Stars, The Biggest Loser and arguably the most important rugby league match of the past decade – the deciding game of this year’s Origin clash – all had outstanding results. And they were all outperformed by Sunday’s MasterChef finale. Within this context, it’s hard to deny that the MasterChef finale was a show that everyone would like to have in their schedule.


Source: Ten/ OzTam

But the issue of choosing to schedule The Renovators on Sunday night remains. Our aim was simply to get viewers to sample The Renovators. And that’s exactly what they did to the tune of 1.25 million viewers. That’s invaluable exposure for a format that we hope will have both success and longevity.

Of course, there’s nothing new in this approach. It’s a tried and true technique that has served us well in the past.

In fact, the last time Ten split a finale night was when we launched a brand new and unknown little format called MasterChef Australia off the back of the 2009 Biggest Loser finale.

As long as MasterChef remains Ten’s biggest show, we will continue to take advantage of that success to build the profile of new and emerging formats.

  • David Mott is Network Ten’s chief programming officer.


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