Network 10 used the momentum from a successful early start for I'm A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! to launch new series Changing Rooms, Dancing With The Stars and Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway.
But content aside, the shows have pulled focus for lower than expected ratings, especially when placed beside massive numbers for Nine Network's Married At First Sight and Channel Seven's My Kitchen Rules.
"It takes a bit of time," Network 10's Chief Content Officer Beverley McGarvey tells TV WEEK about testing new shows.
"Occasionally there's an outlier that comes out of the box and is a massive hit instantly, but these days, audiences have so much choice and so many great things to watch that it takes a bit of time for things to really find their groove and find their audiences."
Even some 10's current hits, including The Bachelor, took several seasons to build, Beverley says. "Have You Been Paying Attention famously launched with a couple hundred thousand viewers," she explains. "It's not like 20 years ago when you had three big channels and you can put on a show and guarantee a big audience on night one."
In this exclusive, candid chat, Beverley gives TV WEEK insight into the network's thinking about their first quarter programming and what audiences can expect, starting with Changing Rooms.
On Tuesday, Network 10 decided to hold remaining episodes of Changing Rooms, the rebooted lifestyle series with host Natalie Bassingthwaighte, until later in the year.
"The truth about Changing Rooms is that it's a really good version of what it is," Beverley says. "In the heavy, heavy traffic of MKR and MAFS, it's really lovely, and they did a great job, but it's gentle compared with those other shows and I think it just really got lost."
Unlike Dancing With The Stars and Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway, "it isn't shiny and new," Beverley explains.
"It's mainly sweet and uplifting and I think it got caught in and amongst all that other stuff, so we will hold that show until we find an appropriate slot where it has a chance of cutting through and getting some clean air."
With a splashy set, catty judges and some winning routines by celebrities such as drag star Courtney Act and actor Samuel Johnson, Dancing With The Stars made its Network 10 debut on February 18 with glitter—and high expectations.
When the overnight ratings came in, though, DWTS reached 621,000 viewers while MKR had 709,000 viewers and MAFS a massive 1.2 million.
"Truthfully, we were very happy with the numbers for Dancing on the first night," Beverley says. "We were very aware we were going in to two very established franchises that are kind of a quarter of the way through their run and have established base audiences. What we really wanted out of Dancing was a base audience we could really build from, and a really good show, and I think we got that."
Although she concedes that MKR and MAFS are "juggernauts," Beverly stresses that 621,000 means that there is an audience out there looking for an alternative to "constructed reality."
Beverley adds, "The overnight ratings tell you one story, but they tell you one story only. Episode one of DWTS has now been seen by one million people because of the catch-up numbers, the encores and clips online. The impact and volume of the people who engage with the show is actually significant."
As DWTS holds steady, Beverley admits that variety show Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway "is a much scarier proposition as it's harder for us to launch a show on Sunday night. We didn't expect it to be easy, and it isn't, but we're happy with the show."
In the UK, the variety show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, hosted by comedians Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, has been a ratings smash across 15 seasons. The series combines pre-recorded segments with live games and musical performances, plus comedy sketches.
"Takeaway is a really big swing for us," Beverley says." We really think potentially there is a gap in the market for a live, variety entertainment show. There hasn't been one on air in this market for a very long time. We knew it was going to be a challenge and we knew we would get some things right and some things wrong. I think the hosts and production team did a really good job."
Beverley reveals that "every network in this country had tried to option that show at least once, and everybody looks at it and goes, 'Imagine if you could get it to work!' It's such a great format, so we are really happy to have tried. Of course I would have wanted it to rate better, but I think we were really happy with a lot of the show."
From the feedback the network has received, audiences enjoy seeing real Australians on TV, winning prizes, and a family atmosphere. "I don't think we got everything right in episode one and we didn't expect to, really," Beverley says, "but the show will be tighter this week and the week after, I think."
Something that is working—the bond between co-hosts Dr Chris Brown and Julia Morris. "In the UK, the show is largely about Ant and Dec's similarities," Beverley explains. "I think what our version of the show emphasises is Chris and Julia's differences and their various strengths. They make it look easy but it is a really hard, technical show."
"You don't want to get it to the point where there's only one thing on TV and we really want to be differentiated," Beverley stresses of 10's strategy. "As kind of the third broadcaster, we need to be different and we need to be bold and we need to do things at the beginning of the cycle. Our experience is, if you're proud of the show the next day, the audience will come."