ABC Upfront: Jennifer Collins on why 2023 has “something for everybody”


Plus: What makes an ABC commission, and bringing audio descriptions to the network

Rounding out Upfront season for the year, the ABC has announced its upcoming slate for 2023, with major shows like Hard Quiz and Gruen set to return amongst new programs like a re-imagining of Mother and Son.

See Also: ABC Upfront 2023: Everything you need to know

Mediaweek spoke to ABC acting director of entertainment and specialist Jennifer Collins about what 2023 looks like for the national broadcaster.


What are your highlights of the 2023 ABC Upfront?

“We’ve got a huge slate for 2023 – I’m really proud of the range of programming, but what I’m most excited about is the diversity of the slate. We’ve got exciting new shows across every genre, and we’ve got an enormous volume of shows that we’re putting out to audiences. 

“We’ve got fantastic ABC favourites returning. It’s always great when the audience has already demonstrated that they love the show, and that we’ve been able to develop the next installation and turn it around so quickly. 

“We’ve got big heavy hitters like The Newsreader coming back. That was a huge title for us, and a great drama. It is world-class, it’s done so well overseas as well as in Australia. To have The Newsreader back in 2023 is really exciting for us. 

“We’ve also got some big formats like Back in Time for the Corner Shop. Annabel Crabb hosts the Back in Time factual program for us, and we’ve got the Ferrone family back. It’s a great way of telling history, through such an entertaining format. 

“One of my personal favourites is from the team that made the Emmy Award winning Love on the Spectrum. The brand new series is called Better Date than Never, and it follows an even more diverse group of single love seekers this time around. It’s beautiful, it’s authentic, it’s diverse, it’s real. It’s the antithesis of all those commercial dating shows.”

What does the ABC look for when commissioning new shows?

“The great thing about the ABC is that we’re looking at ideas that reveal the world in surprising ways, and have something to say about Australia right now. It’s the place where we can showcase the best of creative talent. We can bring in new revelations, we can take on bold ideas.

“I love shows that kick off the national conversation because of our screen and audio opportunities across the broader ABC. Shows like War On Waste do that. 

“We’re working with world class talent, the best writers, the best creatives, but we look for opportunities to nurture new talent as well. We’re really about surprising new ways, and new fresh ideas.”

One of the big announcements to come out of this Upfront is that Leigh Sales will be joining Australian Story as host. 

“It’s really exciting, we love Leigh. She’s got such a great intelligence, creativity, and a great heart. I think she’s a perfect fit for Australian Story – it’s such a great series that is able to tell those personal stories in such illuminating ways. Year on year, Australian Story continues to deliver, and I think having Leigh at the helm of that is only going to strengthen that for us.”

Comedy seems to be a common thread across a lot of the announced shows – even shows covering more serious tops like Queerstralia, which is hosted by comedian Zoe Coombs Marr. 

“We’re always looking for those fresh voices and interesting talent that can present ideas. Particularly on Queerstralia, someone like Zoe has such great knowledge about the history of Australia and is able to use her network to tell a story that really hasn’t been told before. 

“Across all of our entertainment and comedy shows, entertainment has always been the place where we’ve been able to nurture and showcase talent. It’s really great to have vehicles to do that. 

“Shows like Spicks and Specks and Question Everything are fantastic for that service alone. Last season on Spicks and Specks, we had around 15 young comedians on that show under 30. There were similar numbers with Question Everything. The team there at CJZ have worked really hard to give opportunities to up and coming writers and creators – it not only benefits the show, it’s benefiting the whole industry.”

Next year, the ABC will introduce audio descriptions to the network. What goes into a project of that size?

“We’re really excited that we had that funding to be able to put those described hours together. We had three years of funding, and we were able to put together 755 hours of drama, 361 hours of childrens, 222 hours of factual, 183 hours of documentary, and 120 hours of current affairs. So it was a huge undertaking, but it’s really important for us to provide free and accessible content to Australians in this way. 

“It’s really great as a public service broadcaster to have that on offer, and really important that we do. We’re going to continue that with new funding across the next three years.”

What can viewers expect from the ABC in 2023?

“They can expect intelligent storytelling, they can expect high quality programming across audio and screen, they can expect a breadth of deep content – beautiful natural history, epic cinematography, great storytelling, new formats. 

“Whether you’re a lover of art, whether you’re a lover of natural history, whether you want to hear a really great quality interview, or whether you love your dramas – there’s something for everybody.”

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