Home > The Final Word > The new face of TV in 20Eleven

The new face of TV in 20Eleven

Each year, the 5 free-to-air networks shake up their line ups, pushing new shows in an effort to win the ratings, and this year is no different, but with an added twist. With the uptake of digital TV now at above 70%, the commercial networks are starting to realise the potential of this form, and give it some decent content, but I’ll leave that for Adrian to outline.

Out of the three commercial networks, Ten are probably taking this biggest punt in 2011. A mid-year investment from James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, which saw both join the board of the network, saw some changes in programming, but more importantly, saw some vision and attainable goals put into the planning. The biggest change came with the launch of their 3rd digital channel, Eleven, which clears the way for their new 2.5 hour news block by moving staple programs The Simpsons and Neighbours to the new channel. They now have Ten News at 5, 6pm with George Negus and a 6:30 News Bulletin with Sandra Sully, leading into The 7pm Project. In my opinion, the key to this line-up is The 7pm Project. This remains their only link to their key demographic, and the removal of this could see them lose their right grip on that demographic. The introduction of Negus to the block gives their coverage some much needed credibility, and his appearances on The 7pm Project could help make the link to the younger Ten demographic, whilst also interesting some older, more conservative news viewers from rival networks.  Whilst this line-up is a significant punt from Ten, I believe if they maintain the same patience they have with The 7pm Project, which grew from a modest start to reach the 1 million viewer mark last year, they could be quite successful with this line-up. Of course there is the return of Ten’s blue-chip Masterchef, and its spin-off Junior Masterchef, as well as 2010 successes Glee, Modern Family and Offspring. They are also taking a bit of a punt on a re-hash of the cult 70s Cop Drama Hawaii Five-O, which now includes Aussie breakout star Alex O’Laughlin.

Nine is probably taking the least risks this year, deciding that if it worked before, then its going to work again in 2011. The surprisingly successful return of The Block in 2010 sees it return again, as do other staples Underbelly (in two different formats this year), The Mentalist, Rescue Special Ops, Top Gear, The Farmer Wants a Wife, and the final series of the popular Navy drama Sea Patrol. In my opinion, the return of Underbelly could be fatal to any future the series had, as the success of two of the three previous series (The first and third), have been mainly as a result of the relative currency of the timeline. Although this year’s focus on the early 19oos may be an interesting history lesson, it probably won’t draw the masses to watch. Of course Two and a Half Men will continue to anchor their ratings, but this year Nine has a lot riding on success from Australia’s sporting teams, with both the Rugby World Cup and Cricket World Cup being snapped up by the country’s leading free-to-air sports broadcasters. Also, in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics in London on Nine, they have commissioned a remake of The Games, with Gina Riley and John Clarke, which will most likely be either spectacular, or a spectacular failure. They have based this year as being TV’s comedy home, with the aforementioned Two and a Half Men, as well as The Big Bang Theory and Hot in Cleavland, and new American comedies Mike and Molly, and $#*! My Dad Says, along with Matt Le Blanc’s new show Episodes. Of interest to me is the debut of Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth, which could grab the light-entertainment audience which Nine had previously had a stranglehold of with Hey Hey It’s Saturday. In all though, not a massive year of change for Nine.

Much like Nine, but probably to an even lesser degree, Seven have decided that what they have at the moment will suffice to a certain degree. In all, Seven are looking to local shows again to bring them ratings, in the same vein as Packed to the Rafters did in 2010. They will have to rely on Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor again, along with local staples Home and Away and City Homicide. In an attempt to run off Rafters they have brought in a new Aussie show from the same makers, Winners and Losers, which at the moment, stands as their big announcement for 2011. They do have some new overseas shows in the form of comedy-drama No Ordinary Family, but the remainder of their main line-up retains an unusually local flavour for Australian free-to-air, with Seven deciding to push a lot of their overseas content to their digital channels 7Two and 7Mate. Whilst this may seem risky, I like it, and the risk is definitely lowered by the success of Rafters in 2010. With no other commercial network willing to throw this much at genuine local content, Seven probably deserve some rewards.

Finally the two Public Broadcasters, who are both probably being the most inventive with digital TV, don’t have as much in the way of big announcements for 2011, but do have some interesting new shows on offer.  ABC have definitely got two of the most eagerly anticipated Australian comedies of the year, with Chris Lilley’s new show Angry Boys, and Adam Hills new talk show Adam Hills: In Gordon St Tonight. Lilley in particular has been a big commodity for ABC, and his decision to stay away from commercial networks in favour of producing cutting edge social satire will certainly be for the benefit of the audience. ABC are also quite excited about new dramas Crownies and Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, but as ABC drama has shown in the past, they are probably for the more refined and snooty. SBS has brought back their main staples in Mythbusters, Man vs Wild and South Park, and a revamped East West 101, with crime drama regualr Aaron Jeffries joining the cast. Whilst they won’t match the commercial networks, they could give them a shake again in 2011.

In all, the 2011 has some interesting television ahead, as Australians are pushed towards Digital TV, will the commercial networks follow ABC and Ten’s lead and push regulars aside to grab an audience, or will Two and a Half Men once again enthrall Aussie audiences. Either way it will be interesting viewing, and as always for TV, I’m certainly excited!

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