In 2009, the Seven Network stole Ten’s Thank God You’re Here after a year hiatus. Rightly so, we wanted to see it, and Ten weren’t using it. But the almighty Nine, no, they’re going one step further and have decided to steal an entire timeslot of TEN!
Well, technically, every network ‘owns’ it and does what they want with it, but if we have a look at the utilisation of the timeslot; Nine are very well taking away and rebooting Ten’s former game plan.
From 2001 to 2009, Network Ten strategically placed its reality drawcards Big Brother, The Biggest Loser and MasterChef Australia in the 7PM timeslot and while these shows at the very longest took up about half a year’s worth of viewing, it did wonders for their failing evening schedule thereafter.
Sure, between the very first 7PM edition of Big Brother to the very last 7PM edition of MasterChef Australia, there certainly wasn’t much change; Ten were still coming third and Ten still had massive holes left right and centre. I can argue that this comes down to many things; extra multichannels, change in viewing habits, growth in online and alternative media; and all would be correct; that and the fact the shows began to fail later on (well not MasterChef, but certainly the others) also contributed to this.
But we only have to look as far as shows like Friends, Bondi Rescue repeats and Taken Out to realise what sort of mess the network would have been in if they didn’t do this. Back in 2001, the 7PM timeslot is like it is now, ripe with potential competition, but not much flaring. A perfect opportunity to score some extra wins and boost that schedule.
Now, I’m too young to remember what was on pre Big Brother but someone told me it was the sitcom, Becker (feel free to correct me) for the most part at least. Well what do you know? Ten years later (almost exactly) and what are the Nine Network playing at 7 O’clock? Sitcoms! Repeat sitcoms at that. What this means is that Nine is basically throwing away this timeslot on a tried and just recently failing strategy.
And like Ten did ten years ago, Nine are going to attempt on Monday. Bring reality television BACK to 7PM.
But remember what I said about changing viewer habits? Yes, well let us remember that while the timeslot did all sorts of wonders for MasterChef, for the past year and a half it has been void of reality with viewing audiences clearly finding new homes with Home & Away and The 7PM Project with both shows seeing rises, even if this is due to the winter effect.
Now if you were to ask me, I’d say the fourth season of The Block is about to begin on a successful note; if I were to predict the future. As it happens, I can’t and therefore this blog now just goes into all sorts of predictions.
The Block was able to manage close to 3 million viewers for its finale and 2 million viewers on average per week in 2003 and 2004. Surely this could be put down to the peak of reality television, when Australian Idol was taking over the headlines and Big Brother was screaming along nicely and all sorts of niche reality shows were bobbing up all over the place.
As it goes, The Block season three that returned from a long hiatus last year didn’t do so well. So what does this all mean for season four?
Well firstly, lets just remember that a show doesn’t always perform swimmingly after a 6 year hiatus, so this may have contributed to the lower numbers; but let’s also remember that if a show in its first season can build from nothing; surely a returning season of that show can pull similar numbers. Season three was well down on its predecessors.
But if familiarity was lost on viewers over the past 6 years, could a second season shown five nights a week wake up the brain cells of former viewers and entice them to return? Possibly, not out of the question no doubt.
But also remember, for the past three seasons, this show was aired in a 7.30pm timeslot once a week! What is familiarity when it’s schedule is so vastly different. Can The Block actually regain Nine’s share of viewers and put them back in the channel?
The production of the show certainly looks promising; four houses and extra hosts will surely make the show more energetic however at the risk of making it look too busy.
But the 7PM timeslot in general would have to be the most divisive timeslots of them all. On one hand, it is praised for its treatment of Home & Away; allowing it to probe into more interesting and dark storylines than regular rival Neighbours. Many even want the latter to move to 7PM. On the other hand, it was pointed out as one of the biggest problems for Big Brother; many citing the timeslot wasn’t appropriate for such a show.
Now The Block may not need as much leeway as Big Brother, but it wasn’t just the content that was the problem, it was the length. Regular viewers of The Block will certainly notice the fact that although they can watch their show five nights a week, it has been chopped in half for the most part.
This means, less content for each episode and probably more cliffhanger moments. Maybe not the latter, but this could be deemed a problem for the show when it attempts to claim new viewers.
Either way, I’m sure we are all in for a treat come Monday; we all love a good television risk and experiment.
But lastly I want to discuss the long term effects The Block may have on the timeslot. If it is a failure, does this mean the end of The Block, or The Block at 7PM or the end of reality in the timeslot as we know it?
On the flip side, if it a huge success, what will this mean for other reality formats in the future. Especially those that are currently only an hour in length, can this mean that they too can be spit into five half hour episode per week?
Who knows, but we can rest assured that answers to these questions will begin to be answered as soon as tomorrow!