By Michelle Pearson
Since the very first television segment’s broadcast to air in 1956, television has revolutionised from a singular, black and white channel viewed on an oversized antique wooden box to a digital, multi-network, multi-platform, 3D, flat screen phenomenon.
Bruce Gyngell’s famous line ‘Good evening, and welcome to television,’ was a monumental introduction to today’s seemingly endless possibilities of TV consumer entertainment.
Leading executives spoke at the recent SPAA Fringe Conference at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, addressing promising TV producers and writers with their visions for the cable channels and the innovative material which they are actively searching for.
Ross Crowley, director of Foxtel Programming and the man responsible for bringing Jerry Springer to Australian Television told producers that Foxtel has just turned 15 years old "and we are still here despite the moving of all the other broadcasters within the industry… It’s fair to say that if you were to throw a commercially interesting, fresh, original idea into the mix here in Australia, there would be a feeding frenzy."
Throughout the conference, the channel executives continuously urged producers to immerse themselves within the cable channels before approaching the networks with a pitch. "It’s not really great to pitch home decorating to the Fuel Network," Crowley said.
"You must understand the DNA of our channels, do your research and watch the subscription TV so you may understand the universe in which we operate. You need to think about why a project is good for us and understand the people and the place," said BBC Worldwide Australia general manager Tony Iffland.
Speaking about the necessity for pitches to incorporate professionals rather than just TV personalities, Lifestyle Channels general manager Nicole Sheffield states that specific industry expertise is where their ultimate success lies.
"We can teach people how to be presenters on television, but we can’t teach them to be experts. Expertise is one of the first windows which we look at."
With digital television currently booming and over 100 brands throughout the cable sector, the executives re-iterated the prominent opportunities available to potential producers who are thoughtful, thorough and innovative in their approaches.
Numerous gaps are currently available to be filled by commissioned prime-time shows. For instance The Lifestyle Channel is looking to invest in a life-changing Australian TV show in a similar genre to Secret Millionaire while the new Bio channel (targeted at women 35+ and the fastest growing subscription channel) is seeking a unique new reality show.
"Bio’s heart is in the emotional stories. Or you could just produce an emotional story about dogs and the audience will be sold," said Channel manager of Bio, Wayne Haderley.
Other current content initiatives within the channel groups include the possibility of a Lonely Planet Series and the launch of Lifestyle Home early next year, which will be opening windows for another property format.
With cable channels considering individual interests within all seasons of life, a wider viewership has been obtained.
Targeting the demographic of an older audience for example is the Crime Investigation Network (CIN). Crime, military history, and investigating the paranormal are etchings within the scope of content infused with cultural and social heritage on the network.
Programs such as Crime Investigation Australia, Toughnuts and Gangland epitomise the brand.
"Men are interested in how things work, and how they came to be, for instance war, bushrangers, and iconic Australians. Women surprisingly are more interested in crime and the reasoning behind it," CIN group channel manager, Jim Buchan, said.
With CIN’s exploration of the impulses behind crime appearing to entice a curious female audience, the genre is evidently well-balanced by the programming of military history which is of direct interest to males, rating as one of the best performing cable genres.
As television continues to intrigue, challenge, inspire, motivate and most importantly entertain a broader spectrum of audiences, the appetite for fresh, innovative ideas is swiftly escalating, with networks craving for a rippling effect of one-hit wonders. The question is – will it be you?