A huge 11m HD LED video screen was the centre piece of tonight’s Foxtel-MCN 2014 Upfront presentation held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Led in by the obligatory red carpet, hundreds of guests arrived into the main dance floor area of the Entertainment Centre greeted by plenty of food and drinks.
Scheduled to start at 6.30, the show didn’t kick off until soon after 7pm. Jennifer Hawkins was easy to spot in the heavy crowd, towering over everyone there. The cast of Wentworth and the new Australian Housewives franchise – The Real Housewives of Melbourne – were surrounded by reporters and photographers at the media screen area.
Jennifer Hawkins introduced the night, saying she had a wonderful experience hosting Australia’s Next Top Model in 2013. She went on to announce she will be back as host for 2014, and later in the night, we learnt she was signed up for 2015 as well.
Foxel CEO Richard Freudenstein said that Foxtel grew by 3.4% year on year, the biggest growth the subscriber television broadcaster had experienced in the past four years, now with over 2.5 million subscribers. Investment in Australian content on shows like Wentworth and Grand Designs Australia was up 6% year on year, to over $707 million.
Richard discussed Foxtel’s second screen platforms including Foxtel GO, Foxtel Play and soon to be released Presto – which will be Foxtel’s on demand movie service.
He went on to say that first airing viewer numbers were absolutely irrelevant and the true picture for the success of a TV show on subscription TV is its reach over all broadcasts – +2 channels, encores, catch up TV and second screens. Unlike free to air – which focus on first broadcast only and react accordingly.
In 2005, the first episode of Australia’s Next Top Model reached 217,000 viewers over the first week – a combination of viewers on the night and those that watched encores and +2 broadcasts. In 2013, the first episode of Australia’s Next Top Model reached 608,000 – spread and fragmented over multiple platforms.
The up and coming IQ3 was officially announced. One feature of the new box is a new and improved EPG that will allow viewers to watch shows they have missed via the internet up to 26 hours after they aired.
By far the most important feature of the IQ3 – one not even mentioned tonight – both at the event and on the press release – is the ability to record up to FOUR channels at once. The IQ3 will feature enough tuners to not only record 4 channels at once but also will allow the viewer to watch a 5th channel live which can be paused and rewound as well.
The release date of the IQ3 is mid-2014, its full features will be announced in coming months (I WANT ONE NOW!).
Wentworth’s Bea and Frankie introduced Brian Walsh – Executive Director of TV for Foxtel.
Wednesday (Oct 23) is Foxtel’s 18th b irthday (so now they can have a drink?!). He recalled the days of only having four channels to choose from on TV – something I to remember growing up. Now there are well over 200 when you include all the live channels, +2′s, HD’s and the rest of them!
As is consistent with free to air time shift ratings figures, Brian explains that drama and comedy programs are most watched as “binge viewing” when the viewer chooses as opposed to when they air live.
Brian explains that the viewer wants new release TV year round – not just when there is a ratings survey. Even the US networks are waking up to this fact – with CBS’s Under The Dome being a breakout hit for the US network airing during the US’s summer non-ratings period (and did well for TEN here in Australia).
Foxtel offers new programming year round – 52 weeks a year - and they have to as this is what subscribers expect.
Since 2010, there has been an increase of 33% of the amount of scripted drama produced for television. More and more series are now being produced for short seasons of 6-12 weeks. In the US, script writers no longer head to the four big US networks first to offer their work – more and more are commissioned by cable channels. Many of these shows air on Foxtel.
Drama series attract more discussion and social media attention than big budget movies do – let’s face it most movies are two hours long, you see them once, and that is it. Scripted drama can run story lines over weeks, months, even years and captivate audiences over that time.
Foxtel has a great year ahead for 2014 – with acclaimed television programs produced by the BBC, HBO and US’s Showtime.
Spear heading Foxtels’s 2014 offering will be the new BBC channel (also will be in HD) which will premiere BBC content exclusively first in most cases. It is part of the BBC’s international roll-out with Foxtel stitching the Australian end of the deal. Most shows will air hours after they do in the UK - ”No Delay from the UK”
Foxtel will continue to provide the hottest US television ”Express from the US”. Returning shows such as Chicago Fire, Revolution and Grimm to name a few are amongst the titles. Not to mention Game Of Thrones, Ray Donovan and many more acclaimed series to be aired within hours of the US.
New series to air on Foxtel in 2014 include the US adaptation of Australia’s ABC1 legal drama Rake, Those Who Kill and Orange is the New Black (read more about specific shows in the press release!).
The stand out of new shows in 2014 will be Robin William’s The Crazy Ones in his first regular TV series role since Mork and Mindy in 1978.
Foxtel’s Lifestyle channels will continue to deliver shows like Grand Designs, Location Location Location, Masterchef (UK) and The Great British Bake Off.
Other new shows on Foxtel in 2014 will include Coastlines, Embarrassing Bodies Australia, Outback Coroner, Crimes that Shook Australia (with Stan Grant) and Kerry-Anne Kennerley hosting Behind the Mansion Walls.
On Arena, the Real Housewives of Melbourne will premiere in 2014, Australia’s Next Top Model will be back for at least the next two years while Naomi Campbell will host The Face Australia – produced by Shine Australia. Meanwhile, the ever popular Come Dine With me Australia is back for a new series next year.
From January 1, 2014, TV Hits will replace TV1 with much the same content TV currently airs (surely this was an obvious move!) while (already reported) SyFy (can’t stand the way it is called SyFy) will replace Sci Fi. TV1 and SciFi channels’ agreement with Foxtel concludes at the end of this year. The Universal channel will re-launch with a new look and feel - 100% characters. Shows will include the Michael J Fox Show, Rake, Covert Affairs and Suits.
Apart from series two of Wentworth (CAN’T WAIT!) there will be a new Australian drama series called The Devil’s Playground which is a confronting and compelling drama about the abuse of children by the Catholic Clergy featuring big name actors like Toni Collette (currently can be seen in Hostages on Nine), Jack Thompson, John Noble and Simon Burke. The show is made by the makers of ABC1′s hit Australian series The Slap.
Sport will continue to be a major part of Foxtel with numerous events live and in HD including Super Rugby, AFL, tennis, Cricket (although games Australia play at home still reside exclusively on Nine), Netball and Soccer – with both the A League and Australia’s Road to Brazil being shown live.
Patrick Delaney, CEO of Fox Sports says the network have successfully engaged sports fans outside of weekends – a ratings problem for sports networks world-wide – with shows like AFL 360 and Matty Johns live to name a few.
The night concludes with MSN talking about how they will increase their audience measurement from a sample of 10,000 to 100,000 thereby giving advertisers a much more accurate picture of what people are watching. To put this into perspective, free-to-air’s Oztam has an audience sample of just 3,600.
After the formalities, its party time – once the guests of honour are introduced again – the cast of Wentworth, the Real Housewives of Melbourne, various Fox Sports and Fox News personalities and a collection of hosts from Channel V, the night becomes both a dance party and an opportunity to mingle.
Bring On 2014!