Ten have always gone out of their way to do things differently. Until recently, Ten have avoided taking part in the 6pm news and current affairs wars that consume Seven and Nine. They avoid the morning breakfast battle between their two commercial rivals. They even have their own definition of prime time when reporting ratings shares.
Ten have always aimed at the younger demographics, with younger skewing programming being at the core of what Ten does. But with the advent of digital channels over the last two years, younger skewing digital channels such as GO! and 7mate from rival networks Seven and Nine have eaten away at Ten’s core viewer base.
Ten were well aware of this problem going into 2011 as they launched the extra news service at 6.30pm and 6pm George Negus in an attempt to lure some viewers away from Seven and Nine. Meanwhile, Ten’s younger audience were directed to ELEVEN – their own digital channel aimed predominantly at 13-29 year olds. ELEVEN became the home of The Simpsons and Neighbours, which, until the end of 2010, aired on Ten from 6pm-7pm.
With Ten aiming for more older viewers and moving away from 16-39 year olds, and ELEVEN an almost instant hit with its target demographic, only their other digital channel – the sports channel ONE HD – was left bringing the network down, with nightly shares of around 1%. Solution was to add some general entertainment, and then on May 8, take away most sports from prime time.
Now that the digital channels combined are drawing nightly shares not too different to their commercial competitors, the attention then shifts back to the main channel Ten. Masterchef this year did not perform anywhere near previous years, and their big end of year hope The Renovators is close to being one of the most expensive television flops in history.
Not only should Ten consider action on The Renovators along the lines covered in the previous part, but they should start looking at the rest of their programming and finding solutions to keep more eyeballs on their main channel for longer.
Ten’s 2012 line up of shows will be announced tonight. Expected to feature is a revival of Young Talent Time and the announcement of an early morning breakfast show to go up against Seven and Nine – which will mean preschool programming moves into the afternoons, if it can’t be aired in the mornings.
While the new shows for 2012 may bring some reprieve for Ten, the network need to look at their overall approach to programming to get themselves back into the battle with Seven and Nine.
Ten should straight away stop only programming for their own primetime definition of 6pm – 10.30pm weeknights. Both Seven and Nine, as well as the industry as a whole, define prime time and the time that nightly ratings count towards the ratings battle as 6pm – midnight every night. Only Ten use 6pm – 10.30pm which skews ratings figures in favour of their own network.
Seven, on many weeknights, airs new content as late as 11.30pm. Nine air shows like CSI: Miami, Football Classified, and the Footy Show Late in late night timeslots. Ten has the Late News, Sports Tonight (for now) and Letterman from 10.30 Monday to Thursday.
Ten’s shortened prime time philosophy extends to its digital channels. ELEVEN plays the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 10.30pm weeknights. While it is good to see some late night US talk shows on free to air TV, this one is NEVER in the top 100 digital shows of any night, and sometimes, shows that air after Craig Ferguson make it into the top 100. This is a massive dip in the ratings for ELEVEN, which would easily be rectified by moving The Late Late show past midnight – like what GEM have done for Conan – which also has very low ratings.
Looking at programming on Seven and Nine’s digital channels, they also program for ratings until midnight. One of the main reasons why most movies on GO! start at 9.30 is so they finish between 11.30 and midnight keeping viewers on the channel until then and thereby lifting that channel’s shares.
It does not matter how much ratings figures are skewed or which demographic is winning in that time, what most people care about is total people, 6pm – midnight. Certainly the advertisers care about the demographic breakdowns, but the media and the public are more concerned about total people, 6pm – midnight. With Ten not focussing on prime time ratings over the same time that Seven and Nine are, they will always be left behind and will always be reported as such in the media.
Ten will continue to be seen as the network coming third in commercial ratings behind Seven and Nine, a fact that does play on people’s minds when deciding what to watch on TV. It has often been said, that Seven, because they are number one, can put anything to air and still win the ratings. People do tend to stick to the network that is number one, and place more faith in that network. This was the case for Nine in the old days as well.
So Ten should immediately drop this idea of programming for 6pm -10.30pm only. On the main channel, the news should move back to 11.30pm, allowing for an extra hour of nightly prime time programming Monday – Thursdays. If the network had been able to make use of the 10.30pm timeslot on these nights, shows that had not worked too well at 9.30pm could have moved back to 10.30pm rather than out of the schedule or to a digital channel. This is what happens on Seven and Nine. Seven even move shows back to 11.30pm like is the case currently for Teen Wolf and Off The Map.
Same goes for ELEVEN and ONE. Notably, ONE is starting to add regular shows to the 10.30pm timeslot, but ELEVEN will continue to be held back while ever Craig Fergusson remains at 10.30pm weeknights. Sure – the channel is close to the most watched digital channel each night, and doing well in its target demographics, but it could do even better if The Late Late show was moved back to midnight and other programming was played 10.30 – midnight. One just needs to llok at 7mate, 7TWO and GO! programming for good examples of programming until midnight, and not giving up at 10.30pm.
If Ten and ELEVEN both made these sorts of changes, the nightly rating shares for the network as a whole would increase, allowing Ten to compete more effectively with Seven and Nine. Just that extra hour and a half, if programmed well, could start to make the difference between Ten being third every night (and sometimes fourth behind the ABC), to Ten being a serious contender in what should be a three horse ratings race, not just two.
Another area of Ten that should change or improve, is its on air presentation. Time to give the “seriously Ten” idents a rest and go for a more professional or at least new and fresh look. The “seriously Ten” motto has been around for years, and after years of being third in the ratings, for many, it will be associated with Ten’s performance.
Perhaps in 2012, Ten could relaunch with a new look, a new philosophy, and a new strategy that will help put the network back fully into the game? That is, of course, if their latest wave of cost cutting does not get in the way. Then again, if the network was performing better in ratings, they’d have more advertising revenue and therefore would not need to apply cost cutting measures to the degree that they have had to.
Next part: Media support – embargos and preview disks.