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    Jennifer Collins harnesses ABC TV star power to maintain 2024 momentum

    The ABC has reported growing audiences so far in 2024 and Jennifer Collins is never far from the action.

    As ABC head of screen, she looks after the teams running scripted dramas, scripted comedies, factual and documentary, children’s and family, and entertainment. Quite a remit.

    “It’s just so great to see ABC TV doing so well at the moment,” Collins told Mediaweek backstage after the recent ABC TV mid-year programming event. “Viewers come, have a look at a documentary, then have a look at a scripted project and then move to an entertainment show.

    “That’s the strength of the ABC – we’ve got that breadth of slate.”

    Who’s who at ABC H2 2024

    The mid-year Upfront showcased an impressive line-up of programming. As we reported previously, programs from some of the major production houses are coming. Including The Assembly (Helium), Ladies in Black (Bunya Entertainment, Plum (Roadshow Rough Diamond), Headliners (Endemol Shine), Monday’s Experts (CJZ), Hard Quiz Kids (Thinkative), Bluey Minisodes (Ludo), and Bay of Fires S2 (Marta Dusseldorp). The first of these shows and more start rolling out in the next few days.

    Talent spruiking products included Wil Anderson, Tom Gleeson, Sammy J, Guy Montgomery, Namila Benson, Michael Theo, Megan Burslem, Gracie Otto, Anthony Burke, Adam Hills, Zane Rowe, Patricia Karvelas, Marc Fennell, Virginia Trioli, and Jan Fran.

    Jennifer Collins harnesses ABC TV star power to maintain 2024 momentum

    ABC execs and talent at Mid-Year Upfront event

     

    Can the hits keep coming?

    The ratings boast so far this year included ABC iview platform growth that sees it sitting as the #2 free-to-air BVOD network to date in Australia. Year-on-year weekly active user growth is up on iview, with 24% year-on-year growth on minutes viewed (*non-kids) and 10% year-on-year growth on minutes viewed (*kids).

    Original commissions and acquisitions like NYE, Muster Dogs, Nemesis, Total Control, Darby and Joan, Vera and secured over 1 million total TV average audiences so far in 2024.

    The broadcaster branded its TV offering #1 2024 network in reach. Helped along by the biggest show on Australian television to date for 2024 – Bluey.

    Scripted dramas are one place where the ABC shines. It’s a space largely vacated by the FTS commercial channels with a few notable exceptions. It’s an era where the main competition is SBS and the streaming platforms.

    ABC

    Brendan Cowell at work on Plum

    Among the local dramas still to come this year is Plum. The Brendan Cowell and Asher Keddie series from Roadshow Rough Diamond and Modern Convict Films was originally scheduled for 2025.

    “It’s ready now,” explained Collins. “We thought it was a really good time for Plum to be on air during the football season as well.” Although the date is yet to be revealed, expect the six episodes to screen before the end of September.

    One show definitely coming in 2025 will be season two of Bay of Fires. The Marta Dusseldorp project which she produces and stars in has recently started filming in Tasmania.

    When it comes to commissioning, Collins said the factual shows need the longest lead times. That means her wall planner includes factual shows that will be ready to screen in 2026 and 2027.

    Financing challenges

    Collins explained lots of judgements are made before a project gets the green light. Not least of those is financing.

    “Some shows come into us partially financed, or partially developed,” she said. “A lot of our shows are coming to us just as an idea. That’s where we love it actually, to be able to work with the producers on the idea, developing it for the audience, knowing when it’s going to drop. Some of those developments do take a long time.”

    Financing can come in different ways, including finding a co-pro partner. “Australian television is having a moment right now. The Newsreader has done extremely well for BBC. Bluey has obviously taken on the world stage.

    “We are finding there’s a lot of partners that are looking to Australia to come in early on co-productions. That’s something we’re really looking at.”

    The dream schedule for the broadcaster is to have a key drama and a narrative comedy on air for many weeks of the year. They would like more than they can currently afford. “We would love to be in a position to have one drama dropping every month. Across our acquisitions and commissioned slate, we’re pretty close to that. Now we commission probably five dramas a year and five narrative comedies.

    One of the recent hits was the New Zealand drama After the Party. It almost felt like a local commission. “We came in a little bit earlier than we normally might in the process. We have a really fantastic relationship with producer Lingo Pictures. We’ve made a lot of shows with Lingo, the latest one being The Messenger.

    “Lingo producers Helen Bowden and Jason Stephens were able to give us an early heads up on After the Party. We were really excited about that show, its script and having Robyn Malcolm in the lead. It’s done so well for us.”

    See also: ABC reveals major new investment in TV series commissions for 2024 plus more Bay of Fires

    ABC’s head programming, acquisitions and streaming Roberta Allan and chief content officer Chris Oliver-Taylor with Jennifer Collins

    The broadcaster receives lots of pitches

    “We say no to a lot of projects. There are many more projects we pass on. Some which are probably quite good that we’d like to do. But it is all about budget.

    “That’s why we’re always looking for innovative ways of financing our shows and stretching the dollar further.”

    One thing the ABC doesn’t do is partner with a streaming platform.

    The reason? “Our focus at the moment is building ABC iview so it is really important for us to have a period of exclusivity on our scripted dramas in particular. Those shows are on ABC exclusively for free because they’ve been taxpayer-funded shows and they should be available to all Australians for free.”

    As to the ideal window for a locally commissioned series, Collins said, “Usually around five years exclusively. And if we’re re-commissioning shows, we need to know audiences expect that previous series are available on ABC iview. When we’re commissioning a drama we need to know that when we go to second series that we can also have series one available for audiences. They can then binge through series one and series two.”

    Ladies in Black

    Ladies in Black

    While Plum is scheduled for a little later in the year, coming in June is the TV series of Ladies in Black.

    “It’s wonderful,” said Collins. “It’s lush, the fashion, the time in the 60s, beautifully layered storytelling, and an incredible cast. Including Debi Mazar, Miranda Otto and Jessica De Gouw. Directed by Gracie Otto. We’re just in such good hands with Bunya Entertainment. We’ve been working with SAFC down in South Australia on that one as part of the ABC SAFC screen partnership.”

    The prolific Anthony Burke

    One January hit was a season of Grand Designs Transformations. Anthony Burke is no stranger to audiences for his work hosting Restoration Australia. But this was his first time with the Grand Designs franchise and his co-host Yasmine Ghoniem.

    “We’ve always had Grand Designs on the network. We feel very blessed that we can now produce that franchise. Audiences just have lapped up Grand Designs Restorations,” said Collins. “It was really successful for us, over a million total TV audience. We looking forward to Anthony coming back with Grand Designs Australia later in 2024.”

    Collins has a link to the format via her time at Grand Designs format home Fremantle where she worked as director of content.

    See also: ABC introduces two new channels – ABC Family and ABC Entertains

    The post Jennifer Collins harnesses ABC TV star power to maintain 2024 momentum appeared first on Mediaweek.

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