• “We just try to program hit shows”
When asked just minutes after the ratings results came in for the grand final episode of My Kitchen Rules this week, Seven’s network director of programming Angus Ross reflected on the glory of having what will be the year’s biggest TV show in his schedule.
“It’s not a bad effort given we have just had our best start to a ratings year in history,” he told Mediaweek.
“But you are only ever good as last night’s ratings. Our next challenge is to try to get House Rules performing well. We are well aware that MasterChef and The Voice will be in our competitors’ schedules. You’d be a fool not to think that doesn’t change the market.”
When asked about the 48 nights where My Kitchen Rules dominated the ratings, Ross explained how good the demos were. “It doesn’t just set records all people, it wins in every demographic. Our audience has the best composition it has ever had and we also now have the biggest lead over our nearest competitor ever.
“To be doing numbers like this for a reality show in its seventh series is unprecedented. In the current environment when people speak about audience fragmentation, to have this consistency year after year is a magnificent achievement.”
Ross noted that during Q1, Seven managed to launch three new programs he now labels hit shows – Wanted, First Dates and Seven Year Switch. “When you have My Kitchen Rules performing so well it means other programs get bigger audiences. Downton Abbey and Criminal Minds have done better this year than last year which goes against the perception some have that audiences for shows only get smaller – they don’t.”
As to managing the MKR franchise, Ross noted they need to keep the program special, making sure it only runs once a year. “We haven’t diluted the formula. The hosts Pete Evans and Manu Feildel are very big stars and the casting for the show delivers exceptional characters that people can’t stop watching.”
One of the minor changes this year was Rachel Khoo joining the program as a guest judge alongside Colin Fassnidge when Pete and Manu had some time off.
My Kitchen Rules also helps Seven to what is usually a win in Q2, thanks in part to the format running well into April.
Ross promised last year Seven would have plenty of new and exciting content for 2016. Viewers have seen some of that and Ross is about to deliver some of the rest.
“We launched House Rules this week and other programs to come before the Olympics include Kiss Bang Love, Cannonball and Billy Connolly’s Tracks Across America. We also have returning seasons of ob docs like Highway Patrol and Border Security.”
In addition to the Rio Olympics, now less than 100 days away, Seven also has the rights to Wimbledon.
Post-Olympics, Seven will screen Zumbo’s Just Desserts which Ross has big hopes for. “It is a format created by Seven and we think it has a lot of potential. It also gets us into the food space in the back part of the year. It is also very different from anything else that is on.
“800 Words will also be returning after being the #1 drama on television in 2015. Also coming soon is The Big Music Quiz and we are very happy with how that is looking with Darren McMullen and the various guests he has had. We think that will be really good fun.
“Another drama we have post-Olympics is Secret Daughter with Jessica Mauboy and there is also a lot of expectation about that. Also for the final part of the year we have another season of The X Factor.
“We have a very solid schedule for the full year. It is not every year you get two launch pads for your programs. We always say the Australian Open tennis is the best launch pad every year and it has proven that time and time again, but to get the Olympics, the biggest event in the world, and to have a second bite to launch more new shows should help make it a special year.”
People shouldn’t be surprised about the network’s performance this year. “I said at the new fronts we would be a more dominant #1 and we would launch more new local content than ever before. So far we have three new hit shows and we’re very pleased with how things have gone so far.
“The challenge is to keep that momentum going to the Olympics and beyond.”
Ross is very aware with no My Kitchen Rules, however, Seven is playing in a different competitive environment.
“It would be crazy to think we will continue with these MKR levels of dominance, but we intend to continue to be #1.”
Image: My Kitchen Rules winners Tasia and Gracia