Why Ten believes it can achieve its highest ever Australian Survivor finale

Today marks the end of Ten's 2018 Australian Survivor season, and it's been the biggest season for Ten yet. Zoe Samios chats to head of entertainment and factual programming, Stephen Tate, about casting, strategy and audiences for the grand finale.

Two years ago, on the eve of Ten’s first Australian Survivor finale, Mumbrella founder and content director Tim Burrowes professed his love for the show.

“I got hooked on Australian Survivor,” he wrote. “What makes this such an interesting format though, is that it’s the opposite of so much commercial television.

“Alliances form slowly, plots emerge gradually, and many of the key moments feature no action at all, just people wandering up the beach, talking to each other.

This year Ten trialled a new champions vs contenders format

“When series two of Survivor comes along, Ten deserves a bigger reward in the ratings.”

More than two years on from when Ten went against all odds and took a gamble on one of the US’ most successful franchises, the network will have succeeded in producing not one, but three seasons of Australian Survivor, a difficult feat for the broadcaster.

When Ten picked up the franchise, it had been tainted by the hands of Nine and Seven, who had previously attempted and failed to build Australian audiences for the local version of the US hit. But Ten, Endemol Shine and Ten’s head of entertainment and factual programming, Stephen Tate, are tonight celebrating the end to a third season, the biggest season in Ten’s history.

This year the series averaged 659,000 metro viewers per episode in the overnight figures, compared to the 2016 average metro audience of 678,000 viewers and 2017’s average 606,000. Including seven day playback and seven day broadcast video on demand, those numbers climb to 815,000 in 2018, 731,000 in 207 and 787,000 in 2016.

Ten’s Australian Survivor has also achieved its highest commercial share and largest broadcast video on demand audience, up 24% year on year.

Now in his 18th year with the network, Tate is on set of the finale episode when he answers his phone. He’s enthused by what’s to come from this week’s finale, particularly since he’s decided he doesn’t want to know the result of the show.

This year, he and Ten are hoping to out-do previous finale efforts: 1.082m metro viewers for season one’s finale, and 787,000 for season two. Can they do it? Perhaps. Particularly since Ten took a different approach and strategy to this year’s season, with the launch of an Australian Champions vs Contenders format.

“Champions vs Contenders has clearly struck a chord with a broader audience than the previous seasons and it probably helps that the champions brought in a fan base to the franchise that perhaps hadn’t watched the Australia version previously, so that strategy has worked really well,” Tate tells Mumbrella.

“You only have one go when you bring them in, you actually have to hold them and the show’s been so well made and so compelling that it’s kind of snowballed. It’s the most successful season that we’ve done because it’s such a high quality product.”

Tate said this year’s change in strategy has worked

The show is produced by Endemol Shine, the same production house behind shows like Nine’s Married at First Sight, Ten’s Masterchef and Seven’s All Together Now. Tate, who suggests the growth in audience has come from the “commitment to format”, also points to the work of executive producer, Amelia Fisk, and her knack for attracting talent.

From the point of application, potential contestants are working for a slot on a remote island and the chance to win $500,000. Getting to the audition alone is part of the game.

It’s for this reason Tate dubs Australian Survivor “the hardest show on Australian television to cast”, which is a big statement, given he has also worked on shows like Big Brother, Masterchef and X Factor.

“The casting process is an incredibly intricate recipe. On the one hand, you want people who are prepared to share their game with the production so that they take us along for a ride with them, but you also want them to be likeable,” he explains.

The Australian Survivor cast for season three

“You want the audience to get behind them and be supporting their moods and you want the audience to care about them so there’s so many aspects to every single member of cast that we are looking for.

“We’ve been looking for risk takers, people that are prepared to make big moves because that’s what the audience are looking for. The last thing that we want in the cast are people who want to fly under the radar and sneak their way to the finish line without making any moves. It doesn’t make a great series.”

Ten’s Australian Survivor has been running on Monday and Tuesday nights over the last month or so, competing against successful formats on rival networks like Nine’s The Block. It has also come up against Seven’s Take Me Out.

Where, then, is the audience coming from? Tate doesn’t believe it’s from shows like The Block, but adds there’s a lot of new people sampling the format.

“Survivor has a locked on core audience,” he says.

“It didn’t seem to matter what the competition was, it had a really strong base audience that were incredibly loyal and are incredibly loyal. What’s been really pleasing is we’ve seen a large jump in the unique users in the people that are sampling it on Tenplay.”

Regardless, the audience growth has also been of benefit to advertisers like Holden, BCF, Kellogg’s and Parmalat.

“It’s probably one of the more malleable formats as far as integration is concerned. Over the years we’ve done great work for automotive sponsors, QSRs, insurance, anything that is reward-based, you are getting the most amazing reactions to from people.

“People are really genuine in their reactions to the rewards that are provided. It’s not often in life that people go without so when they chose to do a show like this, the reactions are so much stronger when you provide them with an award.”

What can viewers expect tonight? Tate laughs.

“The series has reached 6.7m people or 39% of the population so far. I don’t want to put a number on the finale but we will comfortably deliver our highest rating finale,” he says.



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