Seven Head of Scheduling Brook Hall admits to being “excited and nervous” about the start of the entertainment battle for eyeballs in 2024.
This year Seven is pitting its second season of Australian Idol head to head with successful Reality rivals.
The first Quarter is traditionally Seven’s toughest, but it is hoping to build on its 2023 results with audience favourite Marcia Hines on the judging panel.
“Marcia was great on the panel last year in a nostalgia week. Viewers commented about how much they enjoyed that week. Traditionally around the world there’s only three judges, but we had four last year, and we found it was harder to get them all interacting. We thought three was the right thing…I think the panel works significantly better this year ,” he tells TV Tonight.
“We’ve had a lot more people apply this year. So I think the talent is better.”
This year at auditions, singers will return to the judges to discover who lands one of 30 ‘Golden Tickets’ so that viewers see favourite acts again. Audition episodes span two weeks, before a Top 21 week and into Performance shows, with an increased Live element.
“The public will have more say than ever”
“We raced through the Live part of the show last year. It was only really the back month. It will be longer this year because I think that that’s where you get the growth,” he suggests.
“The public will have more say than ever, this will back to more traditional. We get to that segment quicker, and keep the performance and the quality higher.”
Also screening in February is breakout UK drama hit, Mr. Bates vs the Post Office, starring Toby Jones (pictured top). The series has made news headlines and even triggered a backlash against the government.
“Mr Bates v the Post Office will air on Wednesdays in February, and we will be dropping the entire series on 7plus with the premiere. It is a fascinating true story of the British Post office scandal in which hundreds of innocent employees were wrongfully convicted of fraud and has been watched by over 10 million viewers in the UK.”
“The 1% Club was the biggest new show last year”
Q1 sees the return of 2023 hit The 1% Club with host Jim Jefferies.
“The 1% Club was the biggest new show last year. On Free to Airs in general, it’s been hard launching new shows across the board,” says Hall.
“Most of the successful new launches were that dreaded ‘reboot’ word, but The 1% Club was a completely new franchise. People often describe it as a quiz show, but it’s a fun comedic show as well. ….it’s one of our best demo shows.”
The Front Bar is returning with an All Sport version in a national time slot ahead of AFL season (which kicks off March 7th) -this September 7plus also gets AFL digital rights.
Also screening are the Grammys, Academy Awards, US drama Gone, UK crime drama Midnight Man, comedy Mrs. Brown’s Boys, S8 of Kitchen Nightmares USA, music special An Audience with Kylie (tonight) and a 30th season for Seven’s quiet achiever, Better Homes & Gardens.
New Seven recuit Chris Brown will host Dream Home in Q2 as the network returns to the renovation genre.
“Seven had a long run with House Rules but Channel Nine have really owned that space for a long time with The Block,” he acknowledges.
“House Rules was very ‘everyday.’ It was red brick homes, changing wallpaper and giving it to really needy families in heartland suburbs.
“But we loved the heart that House Rules had. It was people in real homes that were really struggling.”
Expect a bit more luxe this time around as families are given total home makeovers.
“We were saying ‘Could we give people their dream home as opposed to topping up, or slightly fixing up, their home?’ So these are going to be very high-end lavish, huge reconstructions of people’s own home,” explains Hall.
“There’s lots of happy tears in this show”
“Chris Brown’s been fantastic from the rushes we’ve seen. There’s lots of happy tears in this show.”
What about the format? Are there judges? How much conflict amongst contestants?
“There will be some judges but it’s a secondary part of the show… everyone gets their full house redone: furniture, double storeys, every room of the house,” he explains.
“This is a positive show as well, there are no losers. If you come last in this Reality show, you’ve got a house worth double its value.”
The best homes judged will get “something extra as well.”
Brook Hall, Seven Head of Scheduling.
Chris Brown will also co-host Dancing with the Stars alongside Sonia Kruger in Q2, which Hall unexpectdly tips to be Seven’s biggest show this year.
“I always roll my eyes when people say ‘best cast ever.’ Genuinely it’s getting really hard with celebrity-based shows to surprise people about who’s going to do something. There are so many of them and they all roll through. I think this cast will surprise people. Last year’s success has allowed us to tap into a new calibre of talent. Lots of people have said ‘I’ll never do that’ and now they want to give it a give it a roll,” he observes.
“We think it will be our highest rating show on Seven this year.”
“There’s going to be a promotion for every single dancer celebrity dancer … we think it will be our highest rating show on Seven this year.”
Are there concerns about two Chris Brown vehicles airing so close together?
“If you put the two shows that he’s on and combine them, he’s on air less than our Idol judges and less than Scott Cam. One is under 10 episodes and the other one is not a significant run. He’s a broad-ranging, likeable talent, and the roles are very different.”
Farmer Wants a Wife returns in Q2 with more single farmers ready to find true love.
“I still think Farmer Wants a Wife sits kind of in its own lane. It is very grounded. Some people say ‘It’s genuine, sweet, and even a bit daggy.’ I take that as a big plus,” Hall insists.
“We’ve got bumbling, awkward, everyday people from the country”
“In that genre, there can be heightened drama and Farmer sits opposite to that. We’ve got bumbling, awkward, everyday people from the country that find it hard… some of them are awkward interacting. They are not your typical Reality contestants and I think that what’s consistently sets this show apart.”
Stranded on Honeymoon Island is also due in Q2 as couples are abandoned on a deserted island in nothing but wedding attire.
“The dating world has changed so much over the last decade, how do you remove some of the superficial and the distractions in life?” he asks.
“The premise of this is pairing two people together, removing all that distraction and fast-forwarding a relationship”
“These days people make a judgement on someone on how they look and they’re distracted by phones, social media and friends. The premise of this is pairing two people together, removing all that distraction and fast-forwarding a relationship. By putting them on island, there’s no phones, no TVs, no contact with anyone else, and (can they) genuinely connect with someone just by talking to them?
“This is not a survival show, this is a relationship show… there’s been quite a few island shows and the whole point is not to look Survivor.”
7News Spotlight also returns in Q2 while Seven plans to run normal programming during the Olympics in Q3.
“If you were looking just at our grid you wouldn’t know the Olympics were on. Of course they’re going to have a big impact but that’s how we’re treating it. These days you can’t just lay down.”
The Logie Awards will screen after the Olympics, Hall confirms, along with MKR and The Voice.
“We will have some changes in the coaching panel in the coming year… The Voice goes into filming soon and will be coming in the back part of the year,” he continues.
“MKR won’t be a huge run, it’s still a relatively small run compared to what it was in its heyday. But we’re encouraged bringing it back to basics last year how well it performed. So that’ll be coming back largely in the same format that it was in 2023.”
First Dates returns in Q3.
“First Dates is sweet, there’s a lot of humour. There’s no nastiness, it’s a light, enjoyable watch. Warner Bros have done a fantastic job on that. There’s a new restaurant, there’s a bit more interaction with the support cast this season, like the bartender, so you’ve got some familiarity all the time.”
SAS Australia is also due towards the end of the year, but Seven is undecided about Big Brother for 2024 or whether to return to a Live format in 2025. Hall admits to problems with 2023’s pre-recorded series.
“We originally were going to do it for 7plus and pushed it too much into the relationship space. We can put our hand up with that. Second, do we go back to Live? That’s a whole different show to what has been made here in Australia for 10 years.
“We could do it this year, but it would probably have to be pre-recorded,” he reveals.
“We’re committed to doing Big Brother”
“We’re committed to doing Big Brother, but if we’re going to do it Live, that means you obviously need to have a house and lock in a specific date. Plus, it would run longer, because we would want to do it properly.”
So is the show in contention for 2024 or 2025?
“I would say that Big Brother is very likely to come back. It’s just where….”
Also new in 2024 is Once in a Lifetime with Chris Brown, described as “a travel comedic show ” in a weekly format later this year.
Made in Bondi, a local adaptation of Made In Chelsea, will feature both UK and Australian cast, aimed at the 7plus audience.
Seven News, Sunrise, The Morning Show, The Chase return as part of Seven’s programming “spine” along with Home and Away, while RFDS S3 is due later this year.
“Home & Away is our launch pad each night. We focus heavily on that, and how we can cross-pollinate, into other shows….RFDS we’ve been extremely happy with and proud that’s coming back.”
Also set to screen are Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story, The Wave, Australia’s Most Dangerous Prisoners, The Hunters, The Rise And Fall Of Kings Cross, King Con: The Life and Crimes Of Hamish McLaren, The Australian Roast Of John Cleese, Highway Patrol, Border Security: Australia’s Front Line, and big sporting events including AFL, AFLW, Test Cricket, BBL, WBBL, Supercars, NFL Super Bowl, the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate, Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and more.
“I’m genuinely excited about the year because I think we’ve got a balance of edgy shows like SAS, and Made in Bondi, and then more middle Australia in terms of Dancing and Farmer,” adds Hall.
“But we’ve also got a really good, known, successful properties that are on the rise like The Voice MKR, Idol, The 1% Club, a new play in Dream Home, and Stranded on Honeymoon Island.
“And obviously news and sports are big anchors. So I’m really excited about this year.”
Still to come: ABC, Nine, 10, SBS.