Jennifer Collins on how the ABC has put a twist on its content in 2022


“The challenge for us is how we can keep supporting new shows”

The 2022 ABC Upfront was held on Thursday, November 25th, and saw a huge slate of new and returning content announced for next year.

Mediaweek caught up with the ABC’s head of factual & culture Jennifer Collins about what viewers could expect from the factual and culture slate next year.

See also: “The four corners of this great nation”: Michael Carrington on ABC’s 2022 content slate

Collins described the lineup for next year as very large and said that it’s about getting the right mix of programming for the ABC’s audiences and commissioned a whole range of content to reflect that.

“For me, it’s really exciting that the ABC can commission such high-quality content in those specialist areas and it’s a point of difference for us. It’s really great for me that I can commission shows that are highly entertaining, but with innovative formats that talk to those specialist genres.”

When asked about the balancing act of commissioning new content and renewing established programs, Collins said that it is always a challenge when working with a limited budget.

“We’ve had some really successful shows in the last couple of years, and the challenge for us is how we can keep supporting new shows in that mix as well. What we’ve done is put a twist or a take on the latest series. For example, Old People’s Home (For Teenagers) is the first time this format has been shown. It is something new, it’s something risky, but it’s an interesting returnable for us. It’s not just more of the same, it’s taking a loved format and something that’s really connected with audiences and put a new twist on it.”

New Content in 2021

In regards to new content, Collins commented on some of the interesting additions to the ABC’s content slate:

Tiny Oz

Comedian Jimmy Rees and tiny artist JoAnne Bouzianis-Sellick reveal tiny Australia, through the craftspeople who obsess over teensy details, as they re-create remarkable moments in Australian history.

“It’s delightful and it’s so great that it’s a mix of history and arts. It punches above its weight in terms of those two specialist areas and then being able to tell stories through the tiny craft movement is such a great innovative format. That’s from Karina Holden at Northern Pictures who’s absolutely brilliant to work with and has made a lot of shows for us including Love on the Spectrum.

Southern Ocean Live 

ABC’s next live adventure Southern Ocean Live will be broadcast live and hosted by Hamish Macdonald and Dr Ann Jones, and will be located at Penguin Parade, on Phillip Island in Victoria.

“The thing that I’m really proud of is having natural history in primetime as a live event. I loved our ability to put out Reef Live last year with that co-viewing experience that the whole family can sit around and watch. To have Hamsih (Macdonald) and Dr Ann Jones present Southern Ocean Live for us from Philippip Island next year is going to be a real highlight for us.”

Space 22

Recording artist Natalie Bassingthwaighte will bring together seven strangers, each with their own mental health struggles, in an experiment to test if the simple act of participating in art can help heal invisible wounds.

“Every year, we do something around mental health, a lot of our programming talks to mental health as being an ongoing issue in Australia, and an increasingly important thing that we’ve all got to tackle. It is an original format from BBC studios and we are looking forward to seeing how that comes together.”


The future of ABC Factual & Culture content

When asked if anything that was left of the 2022 slate might return in the future, Collins said that they are still in talks about one notable brand.

Love on the Spectrum isn’t in the schedule for next year. But we’re continuing to talk to Northern Pictures about more of Love on the Spectrum.”

Collins also said that moving forward one of the things that will be a big focus for the ABC will be its art content.

“We want to use the strengths of the ABC in all its various arms to amplify arts content. We’ve obviously got classic FM and Triple J and Radio National with all our art shows. Then we’ve got our documentary series, and we’ve got our single documentaries feature documentaries. We had a really strong arts offering initially with shows like Books That Made Us with Claudia Karvan, Going Country with Justine Clarke, and then features like Firestarter: The Story Of Bangarra and My Name Is Gulpilil and Step in Paradise.

“Our ambition is to put out as much arts content as we can and connect Australian audiences with as much art content as we can. We’ve got Art Works Recommissioned, which is our 37 episode series next year, and we’ve got The Exhibitionists another one-off art show. So we’ve got a lot of art content coming up.”

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