Network Ten’s annual 2014 programming upfronts were presented to a packed crowd at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, on Tuesday night. With the harbour and opera house as its backdrop, Hamish McClennan and his team presented a resounding although not entirely invigorating set of upcoming shows. Notably, the evening saw continual reference to the People 25-54 demographic in a stark contrast from Ten’s historically ‘young demo’ stance. Their final sound bite was to ‘Turn On Ten In 2014’ and whilst they do have 5 new local and 5 new overseas series it is the selection of sport that is the standout addition to a challenging 2013.
Digitally Ten have shown true innovation with the recent launch of Tenplay, the market leading digital platform. Whilst largely a catch up portal it provides real-time viewing of live news and sport with personalised playlists, a complete TV guide, video alerts and reminders across multiple screens. 2014 will see its first investment in original, online-only content exclusive to Tenplay. Lost With The Boys is an online collection of short stories by ‘real girls – the highs, the lows and the bits nobody knows’. Audiences will be limited but this move to OTT content is a brave step into the new world of programming.
Securing the Sochi Winter Olympics together with the T20 Big Bash & Glasgow Commonwealth Games (in addition to F1, Moto GP & Rugby Union) now provides a summer springboard to promote alternate programming. Through accessing a diverse set of audiences it assists Ten marketing and programmers to entice a wider array of viewers to sample their award winning shows and bowl them over.
The T20 Big Bash League comes to free-to-air television for the first time with all 35 games live. Just a few hours after the final, the spectacle of the OlympicWinter Games will be broadcast exclusively by Ten. In addition to the 550 hours of live content across Ten and One, Tenplay will feature eight live streaming channels during the Games. Whilst this will boost Ten it will be tough to make the same impact that Summer of Cricket and Australian Open deliver as a platform for survey launch.
In many regards 2014 will be business as usual with a number of returning shows and a focus on event TV. Driven by established long running series that will deliver solid, guaranteed audiences even though some may have seen better days:-
- Masterchef returns for series 6 with Kylie Kwong joining as a regular guest mentor in ‘a more authentic, less scripted, less predictable and more focused on the food’ format.
- The Biggest Loser: Challenge will see Michelle, Shannan & Commando return and taking on their biggest challenge by helping an entire town of 11,000 people lose weight.
- So You Think You Can Dance Australia returns with a new, re-energised version hosted by The Project’s Carrie Bickmore and features Paula Abdul as one of its judges.
Gold Logie Winner and arguably Ten’s greatest talent, Asher Keddie, returns for another heart wrenching series of Offspring. She will also star with Rodger Corser in the new show Party Tricks. Asher plays a committed politician whose campaign to become the next state premier is threatened when a popular television and radio personality is selected as the new opposition leader.
Next year will also see a returning series of PubertyBlues and Wonderland, both of which have strong followings in core demographics and deliver consistently in their midweek timeslots. Similarly, the switch from Sunday to Wednesday, has helped the ‘television and online sensation’ TheBachelor, which will also see another lucky person have a shot at love.
One of the most enticing shows is the new series Secrets & Lies which promises to be a gripping, un-missable six-part series starring Martin Henderson. A house painter who finds the body of a young boy and then watches as his life unravels in a psychological thriller on television. A crime procedural drama with a major extension online (via Tenplay) to engage viewers further.
Rather oddly a new family entertainment show for Ten’s 6pm weekdays timeslot was announced however no plans were able to be released at the time, although rumours suggest a quiz show format.
Overseas content has always been a strong point for Ten however at times some shows have struggled to resonant with the Australian audience. Nevertheless this high calibre continues with the most-watched television series in the US – NCIS and the multi-award-winning Homeland and ModernFamily. Steven Spielberg’s Under The Dome will return just hours after it goes to air in the US and is a policy to be applauded. Execution is key and Ten’s timings will be critical in the success of fast tracked shows as they battle against competitive scheduling and viewers sourcing it elsewhere.
New overseas content includes the return of 24 – Live Another Day; picking up four years after the original series ended, Kiefer Sutherland returns as Jack Bauer who is now living in London but soon to be hunted by the CIA. Expect a dedicated following but will be small with potential to decrease each episode.
The Millers is a comedy starring Will Arnett (Arrested Development) as a recently divorced local news reporter whose life is turned upside down when his parents separate and his mother moves in. It felt very Two and a Half Men, which could deliver the audience, if not the accolades.
The jury is out on Crisis, which stars Australian Rachael Taylor & X-Files Gillian Anderson in a drama about the hijacking of a school bus that contains the children of Washington DC’s elite, including the President’s son.
Very little is known about Extant except that it is a sci-fi thriller set on Earth and stars Halle Berry (in her first major television role) as an astronaut who returns home after a 12-month solo mission in space – and finds home is not how she left it. Both these US dramas are yet to launch in the US.
Eleven has been a quiet achiever for Ten and Australia’s longest-running drama series Neighbours, will continue on the channel as it enters its 29th season. Its standing as the favourite multi-channel for Australians aged 13-29 will be enhanced by top rating International shows; American Idol, Dexter, The Simpsons, American Horror Story and So You Think You Can Dance US.
One will finally see the magnitude of sport that it was once launched upon with extensive coverage of the Olympic Winter Games and the Commonwealth Games together with the Super Bowl & F1. They will continue to introduce first run US male programming on top.
In this disruptive marketplace Ten have arguably suffered greater than most and the question of who is their greatest competitor is unclear; Free-To-Air networks, Foxtel or Youtube? Then the battle will continue with the vast array of video and content providers waiting to launch in Australia. The inconclusive answer is all of them. What is certain is that a competitive 3rd network can only be good news for all, to enrich the quality of broadcasting across Australia.
Overall Ten have presented a portfolio of shows consistent with this year along with the addition of exclusive sport which will assist in some growth. This programming with an established foundation of news & information programming will maintain a consistent platform for the year. The migration to a 25-54 focus instead of 16-39 is a sign of the times, driven by audience fragmentation. The road for Ten ahead will not be smooth or straight however their enhanced digital offerings will provide the opportunity to harness audiences as media consumption evolves in a digitalised world.