Ten in 2016: Go big or go home

Ten turns to the “godfather of reality TV”, Survivor, to join its returning hit formats

By James Manning

Network Ten has reached up to the top shelf in the format shop to improve its third-quarter performance in 2016. The broadcaster has commissioned Endemol Shine to produce the world’s most successful reality format – the Fennessy brothers will be working on Survivor!

“We have I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here in the first quarter and we have MasterChef, The Bachelor and Spelling Bee in the middle of the year and we really wanted something significant in the run home at the end of the year,” Network Ten chief programming officer Beverley McGarvey told Mediaweek.

Beverly McGarvey and Ten logo

Beverly McGarvey

“We scoured the globe for the format we needed. It hasn’t been made here for 14 years and we feel the time is right. We feel editorially the tone is right and it offers enough differentiation to everything else on our slate and on all the other channels.

“It’s been tried and tested and it’s been a hit on CBS for 31 seasons and when you stack up all the statistics it is something you have to give due consideration to.”

Sometimes the most famous people
aren’t necessarily the most interesting.

McGarvey said TEN doesn’t have to screen as it appears on CBS as one hour a week. “It is a very flexible format and it can run one or two nights a week and in some markets it is actually stripped. Our intention is that it will be multi-night but not every night. Production-wise we would intend it to look most like the US series. It will be a big, shiny, sexy series. Australian audiences have an appetite for high production values.”

Whenever Mediaweek asks people in the television business their favourite formats, Survivor is nearly always at the top of the list. McGarvey confirmed both the production house and the team internally at TEN love the format. “It is the godfather of reality TV and the opportunity to do it and do it well is really exciting. The format creator Castaway is very particular about placing the rights and we had to work with them for a long time to make sure they believed we would give the show the attention it deserved. They want it to be a success in Australia because it is absolutely a show that should work in Australia.”

There had been some speculation that TEN would go with a MasterChef spinoff again in 2016. That hasn’t happened, but TEN is promoting heavily the return of Nigella Lawson next year for a guest appearance. As to how long she might be on the program, “a week at the minimum,” said McGarvey.

The network is well advanced in the casting for I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here, with McGarvey noting they are further ahead than they were this time last year. There will be no cast announcements though…viewers will have to wait until opening night again to find out who is going into the jungle. “It is an interesting process. You do want to cast for celebrity, but you also need to cast for content. Sometimes the most famous people aren’t necessarily the most interesting.

>> How will TEN succeed where Nine failed with Survivor?

“You know what, that’s a fair question,” McGarvey told Mediaweek. “It was on here 14 years ago and things change – timing, execution and the appetite for that type of show. Something that is on air consistently for so long all over the world should not be discounted.”

TEN has had good success tweaking formats to make them work for an Australian audience – MasterChef, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. “We have learnt a lot in the past few years doing that sort of thing and we are confident we can take Survivor and make it culturally relevant to our audience. It is the sort of show that should work for Australian viewers – it is about using your wits and your strength and your brains to be last man standing. We think the essence of the show is incredibly Australian. Even when it was on here last time it still did 1m viewers and the network decided not to proceed for various reasons.

“There are a lot of things you have to get right for the show including the location. A format like The Bachelor had been around for 10 years before we did it and it worked because it was the right time, we had the right production values, the right host and the right casting.”

As the location, TEN notes it will be overseas somewhere. McGarvey’s only further hint was “it will be a white sandy beach somewhere”.

>> 2016 Ambitions
Shark Tank 2015 1200x600

Shark Tank’s Dr Glen Richards, Naomi Simson, Andrew Banks, Janine Allis, and Steve Baxter

McGarvey: “We absolutely intend to grow our audience next year. We have some momentum, but there is plenty of room for growth. In the past some of our series have popped in the second or third seasons, and given we have shows like Celebrity, Shark Tank and Spelling Bee moving into their second year we will improve the quality of those shows and we are confident of recording growth.” McGarvey was certain the channel won’t be moving shows like Gogglebox or Have You Been Paying Attention? which often outperform their lead-ins. “One of the things we want is consistency. Once an audience finds a show people expect it to continue there.

>> Multi channels

McGarvey: “There will be more of a focus on ONE and ELEVEN next year. We think they can both grow. There will be more first-run content on ELEVEN like younger-skewing US content. There won’t be a change of strategy, but a renewed focus to make sure the audience understands the great content that is available on them.”

>> US dramas

TEN arguably has the strongest lineup of US dramas and McGarvey said as the audience moves to watching more catch-up and on different platforms those series could find more viewers. “We have high-quality programs and the total viewership for those programs is growing. For shows on at 9.30pm or later the catch-up numbers can be above 50% of the overnight audience.”

>> Streaming initiatives

tenplay has been a successful platform for pulling audiences watching on other devices, but has TEN slipped behind with Seven and Nine diving into live streaming? “The important thing for us is to make the right decision strategically. We have been streaming a lot of content since 2012 and we will continue to enhance that offering. We are not going to rush out and start streaming our three channels 24 hours a day.”

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