Around the world and back again: Why News Corp’s Escape To… put the audience in the driver’s seat

escape to... health network

Kerrie McCallum: “It’s a game-changer for us”

News Corp’s Escape is set to launch a new eight-part travel show. Escape To… will roll out every Sunday on beginning February 12, and will run for eight weeks.

Taking audiences around the world and back again, Escape To… is a new type of travel show that puts viewers in control of where, how and when they watch.

Mediaweek spoke to News Corp Australia’s editorial director of premium food, health and travel Kerrie McCallum about how Escape To… came to life, and what makes the series unique.

With people shaking off the shadows left by Covid lockdowns, travel is back in a big way – and Escape’s audience is looking for ideas and inspiration.

“We thought a lot about what we really wanted to do throughout the pandemic when we weren’t travelling much – we had a bit more time to really think out about what we wanted to do better as a travel brand,” says McCallum. “Creating a different type of show format was something that was at the top of our list. So while it is coming out now and it seems like perfect timing, it’s been something that’s been in the works for some time.”

Taking viewers around the world will be host Merrick Watts, as well as reporters Lizzy Hoo and Tyson Mayr. McCallum says the lineup made sense for Escape To… because “they’re excellent as a trio and excellent to travel with.”

“They each are experienced travellers, they’re curious, they’re adventurous. They take on whatever is thrown at them – which included sea bobbing around the perimeter of a super yacht in the ocean of Monaco!

They’re also quite competitive, so they really lend themselves to the different types of segments. There are challenges where the winner of a challenge gets to choose how they see a destination, so there was a bit of natural competition.

“The three of them brought a broad range of interests to the show, which is also how people travel – people have different reasons that compel them to travel to different destinations, so having people that approached it through different lenses was important. They’re entertaining but interesting.”

Escape To...

Kerrie McCallum, Tyson Mayr, Lizzy Hoo, and Merrick Watts

Escape To… takes its travellers to a lineup of places including Fiji, Uluru, Singapore, and the French Riviera. With an entire world of destinations to choose from, McCallum says that there was method to the madness when it came to picking the locations.

We knew we needed a mix of strong domestic and international content. We also knew what destinations were trending with our audience – WA and the Top End are still trending and really resonating with us digitally. So are Fiji and Singapore, and we knew that people wanted to hit Europe again.

“It was also about a mix of travel, they were curious about rail and they were curious about cruising or new types of cruising. That helped inform what we wanted to do.”

Cruising is a big pillar for Escape, and part of the navigation on the brand’s website. It only made sense then that the primary partner for Escape To… is Emerald Cruises, getting the team where they needed to go.

“Our primary partner is Emerald Cruises, and then our supporting partners such as The Ghan, Journey Beyond, and Singapore Airlines were able to then help us actually get there. The destinations were a mix of what we could do with our partners, but also what we knew our audience was showing interest in.”

escape to

Digitally, the Escape To… series enables audiences to book and buy the same travel experience while they’re watching, and each episode can be watched in its entirety or broken down into segments. For McCallum, giving consumers this power came down to meeting the audience where they were. 

“If we were going to do a show we wanted to do something that was different and hadn’t been done before, but also something that was indicative of where our audience was at. We know that Escape has had phenomenal digital growth and video audience growth, and we know that video is critical. We know that our audience wants to be in control and to be able to watch it when and where they wanted. They want to interact with it, to click on it and book from it if they so choose. They want to be in the driver’s seat.

“From our point of view, we knew our audience’s habits and trends and we wanted to do something that wasn’t necessarily in a traditional linear format – but you can watch it in a traditional linear format if you want to.”

For brands and advertisers, McCallum says that the launch of Escape To… brings the Escape brand to life, and “gives us a whole new dimension.”

“We spent the pandemic really growing our digital audience – we’ve doubled our unique audience in fact, it’s something like 1.2 million now. A lot of work was done on that. But we also did a lot of work on growing our video audience too, because we knew that it wasn’t just our audience that was interested in travel content in that format, but we knew our clients were interested in growing in that area too. 

“I think it’s a game-changer for us. In so many ways, it shows the breadth of our travel content and how engaging we are as a brand and how multifaceted we are. 

“It offers clients another platform to reach different people at different times. That’s important to them, particularly the clients signed on with us – that’s something that they were looking to do.”

See Also: Escape takes viewers on a world tour in new eight-part travel show, Escape To…

Top Image: Kerrie McCallum

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