Seven’s director of network programming Angus Ross uses a sporting analogy to explain the network’s 2020 ratings performance – a tale of two halves.
“When our new strategy of just commissioning proven tentpole programming kicked in, with Big Brother, we started performing much better. We are three from three with that strategy – Big Brother, Farmer Wants a Wife and SAS Australia – and all those shows are coming back in 2021,” Ross told Mediaweek.
“Since that time we have been the #1 network. At the start of the year when we were trying to reboot MKR and House Rules, which our new CEO James Warburton, had described as ‘tired franchises’, those reboots didn’t resonate with an audience.
“We were also impacted by Covid in that we couldn’t deliver Holey Moley this year, nor could we deliver Australia’s Got Talent and there were delays around Home and Away and RFDS.
“The fact that we have finished within 0.5 of Nine for the year is not something many people would have expected after the way we started 2020.”
Can Seven be #1 in 2021?
“That is definitely the aim,” said Ross. “With what we have coming next year – the proven format Holey Moley, Ultimate Tag and The Voice plus AGT. All our programming leading up to the Olympics will have finished shooting by mid-December. The Voice shoots early in the new year which gives us quite a Covid-proof schedule, avoiding any possible disruptions like we suffered during 2020.
“We will launch a raft of programming after the Olympics in August,” said Ross. Earlier this year the IOC confirmed the new Tokyo Olympic dates as 23 July 2021 through until August 8.
One of Seven’s successful 2020 launches was SAS Australia which will be back after the Games in 2021. “We had a great series debrief with [producer] Screentime recently and we are going to make a few minor changes, but nothing that will take away from the freshness and authenticity the format offers. It will be just as tough and just as hard a ride for the recruits. We have been inundated with people wanting to be on it. There seems to be no lack of people wanting to sign on even after seeing how tough it was this year. We might have some very unexpected names in 2021 – people you would not perhaps expect to do a reality show.”
Both of Seven’s dramas for 2021 have been shot and for various reasons didn’t make it to air in 2020. Australian Gangster has had to wait for a criminal trial to finish, while RFDS had Covid-impacted filming delays.
Seven also has a season of Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, it has FTA premiere rights after the episodes have been seen on Acorn.
Ross: “A big change this year is that 7plus is the #1 commercial BVOD service. Driving that is Home and Away and our huge library of programming. Also doing well were our new external commissions Big Brother, Farmer Wants a Wife and SAS Australia which all kicked very big goals for us and are the biggest reality shows we have ever had on 7plus and SAS has been the biggest show we have ever had on that service.
“The first episode of SAS Australia added over 400,000 extra viewers. With year-to-date we have MAFS as the biggest show, with SAS #2.”
Ross added: “When you add up overnight viewing, regional overnight, the Consolidated 7 number and then the streaming, SAS Australia has a bigger audience than The Block.”
Ross disputes any claims Nine makes to be #1 BVOD platform. “We are in front in terms of share, based on minutes. And we don’t have any sport we are counting!”
Seven had to unexpectedly run several franchises in early primetime this year like Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent. “We will make sure that doesn’t happen next year.”
Ross’s other ratings highlights include the two-part AACTA-winning Murder in the Outback special from CJZ. “A strong factual performer for a Sunday night with each episode averaging close to 1m viewers. That is something we will be doing more of next year and we have announced the Ivan Milat special and we have a few more Sunday night events up our sleeve.”
Regarding the Fennessy brothers and their much-anticipated John Ibrahim series, Ross didn’t reveal too much: “I have spoken to Mark about that in the past. We have a number of interesting drama projects in development, but we are really focusing on consistency in our 7.30pm strip programming – that is where we are going to move the [ratings measurement] needle.”