The value of getting a program “in the can early” can not be understated for broadcasters in the aftermath of 2021, according to Nine and 10 ViacomCBS.
As they head into the third year of the pandemic, Australia’s free-to-air commercial networks say they are becoming better at navigating disruptions resulting from COVID.
For 10, this has included shooting the last two seasons of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and Survivor in Australia after several years in Africa and Fiji respectively.
Speaking to IF, 10 ViacomCBS senior vice president, content and programming Daniel Monaghan said the network had benefitted from being “leaner” than its counterparts.
“The pandemic certainly put us through our paces in the last couple of years but I think we were built to be agile,” he said.
“What we’ve learnt is to get things in the can quickly and there’s no point in running it down to the wire, because something we had in the last two years that we never had before was the fear that you actually might not be able to make it and therefore not have anything to put to air.
“We shot I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and Amazing Race in advance so things were in the can ready to go.”
I’m A Celebrity is produced by ITV Studios, the same company behind Nine reality series Love Island.
Both programs were embroiled in controversy last year when an ITV crew member was found to have breached COVID protocol while working on I’m A Celebrity, leading Byron Shire Council to officially revoke its support for Love Island to film in the region, although production would eventually be completed.
Nine’s head of content production and development Adrian Swift said if there were any lessons for the industry to learn from 2021, it’s the acknowledgment that “getting a show in the can is the sweetest feeling on God’s green earth”.
“When you’ve been shut down by fire, flood, and disease, it makes you whinge a lot less about the day-to-day problems that usually beset TV production,” he said.
“The show must go on.”
At the end of last year, each of the networks announced slates with varying priorities as they sought to consolidate their positions within an ever-growing content landscape.
Seven, which declined to comment for this article, placed an emphasis on light entertainment, while restricting its local drama output to Screentime’s Claremont.
Nine unveiled new dramas Underbelly: Vanishing Act and After the Verdict among a mix of ob-doc series and returning programs, while 10 ViacomCBS put its faith in international formats, investing in local adaptations of UK programs Hunted and Would I Lie To You?, as well as reality series The Bridge for Paramount+.
The latter is set to make more announcements in the months via Pilot Week, which will be held mid-year after being postponed from 2021.
Monaghan said there were “three or four more things” to reveal later in the year, two of which are completely new ideas.
“In the back of the year, we’re trying to get new ideas up and new brands because we have Masterchef in its 13th season and The Bachelor has been on for nearly 10 years,” he said.
“We’ve got to look at the lifecycle of everything on linear, and then with Paramount +, we have a big opportunity to do different things.”
“Last year, particularly on the streamers, there was a lot of scripted content going out and I think we commissioned and dropped three seasons inside the first four months of Paramount+ being launched, so we are taking on a lot of scripted pitches at the moment,” he said.
Swift said it was an uptick being felt beyond just scripted content, describing the state of Australian television as being “in rude good health”.
“There are so many Australian shows being made at the moment in both unscripted and scripted and you can’t get a producer or editor for love or money,” he said.
“Going forward, I think we will see more Australian production, more high-end local drama, the rebirth of formatted obs doc, and clever re-imaginings of classic formats.”