Nine’s programming masterminds talk 2017 schedule

Michael Healy and Hamish Turner on supercharding Nine’s schedule

Love Child

Nine’s improved 2017 performance has been the subject of several features in Mediaweek over the past couple of months. This week director of television Michael Healy and director of acquisitions Hamish Turner gave Mediaweek some insights into the success of Married At First Sight and discussed some of the other highlights to come.

Michael Healy [L] and Hamish Turner [R]

Marriage made in heaven

Hamish Tuner: You are never really certain of how an audience will react, but there were some really healthy signs with Married At First Sight early on. This year we took it from eight episodes to 28 episodes and Michael was instrumental in making that happen. Because of that it was virtually a new show and you are always pressure testing it to make sure you are getting the tone right. Even when the early numbers were healthy and the trend was good, we were still checking very carefully, getting feedback from the audience and making sure we were delivering what they wanted to see.

Michael Healy: When we started seeing the first cuts last year we started to feel it was something special. The Endemol Shine team with Peter Newman and Tara McWilliams did an extraordinary job of doing what they called creating “series architecture” for 28 episodes.

Hamish Turner: We had to be sure we didn’t lose the original DNA of the show which had been very well received in the past by our audiences. We were putting people together who were trying to fall in love, build a relationship and find a life partner. What was successful this year was that Married At First Sight became a very “noisy” show which became much talked about. On every single metric we measured it lit up – across social and on every single platform. It came down to the audience following the characters who were trying to find love and they engaged with the authenticity of the show which created a lot of noise and it had a number of soap elements to it as well.

We made sure that every single platform we had at Nine was talking to the audience about the show in a very unique way. While it is always still about driving the linear TV audience, it is also about engaging and finding unique audiences on other platforms. 9Honey provided lots of extra editorial content while 9Now provided extra experiential content.

Michael Healy: Hamish and the team worked really hard under his guidance to set up the template to take Married At First Sight across all platforms. We started working on that really early on. All the stakeholders were engaged and they all contributed significantly.

Learnings from MAFS for 2018

Hamish Turner: Any time you have a show you sit back and review the season and examine what worked and what you could improve on. We also look to the audience for feedback and break down all the ratings data. This year we have a lot of ticks in the what-worked category. We probably won’t add many more episodes. It is now about working with what we’ve got and ensuring we again get the right couples and characters in the next season. We have had a huge response from people wanting to be on the next season. We will be starting a road trip very soon to start finding those people.

Michael Healy: In essence we had the first series of something new. We are very excited about applying what we have learnt this year into the next series.

Managing audience viewing habits

Hamish Turner: We look at how and where people are watching, how they are consuming and in the digital world we are able to get rich data from that audience. We want to make the content available to as big an audience as possible on as many platforms as possible. We also want to be able to engage them on all those platforms.

What TV continues to do best is deliver big audiences in one timeslot which creates a real social conversation. We have a lot of content producers and distribution companies coming to us wanting to be on the FTA platform because it is the only place you can get such a big, broad audience.

Programming strategies

Hamish Turner: We remain the only country in the world that strips reality shows with all three main network stripping shows up against each other. We are fundamentally a younger platform as a primary channel when compared to our peers overseas. We might see a change perhaps to just stripping series two or three times a week, but it will be very hard to move away from a stripped environment in terms of the cost efficiencies, but also in terms of being able to engage audiences across multiple nights. In 2017 Nine has programs stripped every week across the entire year.

Michael Healy: We are constantly checking and resetting and adapt to what the audience wants. Nothing is set in concrete, we are always ready to react accordingly.

Future drama investment

Michael Healy: We are enormously proud of our drama slate and its diversity. We will maintain our investment and commitment to drama. Love Child returns this week and it is possibly its best series yet.

Hamish Turner: It is very important for Nine to tell Australian stories and we are the only medium – subscription TV and FTA – who tell those stories. It is hard to see somebody like Netflix deciding to tell an important Australian story…unless there is an American lead cast.

Highlights still to come

Michael Healy: We are very excited about Hamish and Andy’s True Story. The production values and the performances are extraordinary. The Radio Karate team’s commitment to what they do and the passion they bring to their projects is unrivalled. An enormous amount of work has gone into this project. They have been in the edit suite and scripting around the clock since the middle of last year to deliver this series. After the initial pilot and to now see it come to light is amazing.

We are also looking forward to broadcasting Ninja Warrior Australia and we are about to start shooting The Block again.

We are also excited about our new format Family Food Fight with Endemol Shine which will screen at the end of the year.

We have some of the team who worked on Married At First Sight producing it.

Hamish Turner: The Last Resort is about to launch and it was unique for us because it was developed internally and it was commissioned before we knew how well Married At First Sight was going to perform.

[Michael Healy added there is a lot of interested in The Last Resort format globally.]

Output content deals

Hamish Turner: It is very hard to build a business now around an output deal. We think local and we want to build our own content and have ownership over that content and then distribute it as broadly as possible.

We will go to the LA screenings to know what is out there and do due diligence on it. The landscape has now fundamentally changed.

Multichannels GO!, Gem and 9Life

Hamish Turner: It is now about crafting a brand and delivering on that brand. When we do get US and UK content the multichannels are where most of it heads now. We make sure we are delivering that content to a very targeted audience.

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