Mediaweek meets The Programmers – Network Ten’s Beverley McGarvey

CBS input, scheduling, tenplay, multis, ten daily, MasterChef, Bachelor & more

In our series of interviews with the controllers of what Australians get to watch on television, Mediaweek’s James Manning speaks to Network Ten’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey. 

More: Seven’s director of network programming Angus Ross

When Mediaweek suggested recently to Network Ten chief content officer Beverley McGarvey we were days away from the start of survey, she replied it is always game on at Network Ten.

More domestic content in Q1 at TEN

Although we have started the year again with I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, we have tried to strengthen the schedule with even more domestic content – Hughesy, We Have A Problem, for example. We will enhance the 8.30pm slot with more local content.

We have two parts to Q1 – Celebrity and then something else before MasterChef. Instead of The Biggest Loser this year in that gap, we have Bachelor In Paradise, which is the big difference for the early part of the year.

We have continued with Big Bash into Celebrity this year because it has been a successful strategy for us.

Will TEN program around Winter and Commonwealth Games?

We obviously look at the effect as we want the best opportunities for our shows to do well. Sometimes it works well for us when there is a big event on and we offer something different.

We tend to launch our entertainment schedule, as we did this year, when the tennis and cricket are on. Those events are very important and do great audiences, but if a viewer is looking for an entertainment alternative it is a good opportunity for us.

Different sorts of sporting events attract different audiences and we look at everything on a case-by-case basis. All I will say is we will be programming aggressively throughout the year.

How aggressively does TEN want to schedule under its new owner?

We will always have a demo focus, but we do have an ambition to grow our audience in under-performing timeslots. It is not our intention to give up certain timeslots.

Has your tenplay strategy changed at all with the arrival of CBS?

We do talk to CBS about tenplay. In terms of how we program for tenplay, there are certain types of genres that work best for just straight catch-up, while others have an audience craving additional content.

CBS was a partner in ELEVEN. Anything new now they own both multichannels?

You will see some additional content coming on, particularly at ONE. A lot of the content that works best are things the audience is familiar with. For example people are likely to watch something like Will & Grace if they are channel hopping. Familiar quality content is the key – what rates is older, good content, maybe five or 10 years old, but it is well-written and well-performed. We do have plans to enhance our multichannels this year and it is something we are looking closely at now. We have always had good access to the CBS library and now we have even better access to the CBS library.

Might you have to delay MasterChef if MKR goes into May?

We have never played MasterChef against the end of My Kitchen Rules and we certainly don’t intend to. That is to protect MasterChef and I also think it’s respectful for the audience – if they like both shows we don’t want to force them to make a choice.

It is sensible for the FTA industry to maximise the audiences across the platform as much as possible. We certainly don’t intend to do anything radical this year in terms of playing MasterChef earlier.

Have you seen much of Bachelor In Paradise?

The shoot is all over and it’s been in post-production. We haven’t seen any finished episodes yet, but from the bits we have seen it looks very exciting. Because there are more people in the show it is a different dynamic to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette because they each feature a principal cast member. Paradise is more balanced between the sexes and there is plenty of comedy and romance. Lots of romance because there are more participants.

The series will have a very, very exciting end and it is very well worth investing in for the audience. It has a short, sharp run with a big payoff and we are very excited about getting it on air.

Will this Bachelor move away from just Wednesdays and Thursdays?

Yes, it might. [Laughs] Paradise is constructed differently and we are about four weeks away from announcing what it will look like.

US drama – how did SEAL Team launch?

There is a time and a place for US drama and we all acknowledge how well The Good Doctor is performing, which I think is good for everybody. SEAL Team has potential to grow and the catch-up figures will see it reach a bigger audience.

We have no specific plans or date yet for the previously announced CBS drama Instinct and the sitcom 9JKL.

Does CBS have any medical dramas you could get?

Not this year – but perhaps there could be something in following years. Often these things are cyclical.

I think there could be more from other studios in this year’s screenings.

Will we really see Russell Coight in 2018?

It will definitely be on air this year. It’s unlikely to be on in the first half, to be honest. It’s well into production and it looks very good and it’s very funny. If you push me on a date I would say just after the start of the second half.

What else have you been working on?

We are scripting a lot of the narrative content at present and I have read a lot of scripts.

We are about to enter production on Secret Life Of Four-Year-Olds, and we have cast that show, which is coming up very well.

We are also some way into casting The Bachelor and Australian Survivor. Both shows are determined by the casting, which is very critical.

Is drama getting harder for FTA TV?

It would be easy to say “yes” to that, but if you look at the numbers for things like The Good Doctor, drama in Australia is always cyclical. We have commissioned a lot of narrative comedy, which covers different genres and target audiences. What doesn’t work in drama is least objectionable. If it is just an easy watch then it will probably skew pretty old and not deliver the big numbers you would want. The drama needs to be compelling. As an industry we have to think about how we program drama. People can watch things with a more limited ad load. We have to be cognisant of giving the audience a really good experience. We have to also make sure they can watch it on tenplay while we need to work out how we can monetise that properly.

Have you spent much time with your new colleagues at CBS yet?

We have had some really good engagement with them and obviously we already had a relationship with them in the past. Starting from before Christmas we have had more contact with some of their content people – they are a very big and well-resourced organisation. We have been speaking to their international drama people and the people who make their non-scripted content, both on the network side and the studio side.

We have been having some very meaningful discussions with them about potential projects.

Tell us about ten daily – any launch announcement yet?

We will probably announce the launch quite close to when it begins screening. We have a lot of very accomplished journalists and writers across a range of genres including news, entertainment, in addition to opinion. We also have talented people making video content for us. It is shaping up well and we have a planned launch period, but we are a little away from that. Serving our audience on different platforms is core to the business and the ten daily team is part of the overall Network Ten content team.

[McGarvey later indicated ten daily will launch in the first half of calendar 2018.]

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