60 Years of QLD TV

Days elapsed since Local Edition's end.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kuttsy's Pitch: Reviving 5:30 localism for 7.

Hard to believe, that Kuttsy's Pitch, has come back for a second post. Well, after the first post in October 2009, written in the middle of a rough patch for Deal in Brisbane, (which was eclipsed, earlier this year with a 68 day losing streak to start 2010 for Deal or No Deal in Brisbane, as well as losing 2010, with Hot Seat/GC News conquering 5:30, without a week lost to Deal so far this year) got some eyes, why not do another? I also have considered revisiting Local Edition once again (this time placing it in a 2010 marketplace, and not making mistakes that led to the original program's demise). And suddenly, it fused. Why not pitch the idea of a weekday 5:30 program (a theoretical one for 7, might I add) and focus on one idea from start to end: The idea being simply, Brisbane Afternoons.

The genesis: A brief history of BTQ-7's 5:30 problems
The idea of developing a 5:30 weekday program for 7 Brisbane dates back just over a decade. First was a trial run of stripping out the Great South East summer series on weekdays (while new episodes aired in primetime) in 1999, followed by a short series 7 ran in mid 2000 (and aired statewide), which followed the Olympic flame throughout QLD on it's journey to Sydney, and finally, in October 2000, after the Sydney Olympics, a hour long program, Local Edition hosted by Peter Ford and (now QTQ-9 lead female anchor) Melissa Downes. But the 5:30 program concept, was put on ice in 2001, when new management stepped in at 7 in Brisbane, and drastic changes were made, which gradually saw the station slip away from it's "heartland QLD" position (where often, interstate viewers could tell that QLD flavour on national productions produced out of the station) towards a "chook, Holden and Hills Hoist" demographic, and more importantly, the pushing of a southern image, on the Brisbane audience, including conflicts with people's memories of "heartland QLD" (mostly from a generation that grew up with national and local production, and remember how Seven Brisbane often outperformed other stations with the 7 callsign) and the idea of "heartland Australia" that the network in Sydney was targeting generally. It all came to a head, in mid 2009, with a competing channel dropping their long running local news lead-in program, and Seven were predicted to take a major gain, purely due to viewer resentment of the axing, and won the first six weeks head to head against the national gameshow the competing channel moved from 5pm, then around the middle of August 2009, the pendulum turned dramatically, not due to multichannelling, but a swing that would hurt Seven for well over twelve months. Simply, Deal suddenly couldn't compete, with the competitors new gameshow, and their Gold Coast news service, which leads us to today.

You mentioned a "new" term, "Heartland QLD": so what actually is Heartland QLD?
Heartland Queensland, is a partly a definition of our lifestyle, and partly a demographic group, the 20-54 demographic. It is often what sets QLD apart from other states, and is very parochial. The first signs of "heartland Queensland" that people saw nationally, were the childrens gameshow Now You See It, and the longrunning childrens program (which originally was a Brisbane-only show) Wombat, in the mid eighties, when Seven in Brisbane was experiencing a second golden era (The successes of the 1960's, with Theatre Royal and George Wallace Jr, being the first golden era for the station) where the station led the ratings, led the news ratings, and supported QLD talent, which flowed on to help fuel a sense of pride, in their state, and in the case of Brisbane, a sense of pride in their city, which was showing the world, who we were, as a example of the nation, on two separate occasions during the 1980's. However, the Heartland QLD group, has seen challenges become numerous in recent years, due to changes, where people who were from interstate or overseas, made the move to the South East corner of Queensland for better opportunities, and a better lifestyle. Quite simply, Queensland's "Great South East" turned from a "hidden" secret to a mantra, as people simply arrived, to start a new life, in a new city. But, as our region's population increased, in the last few years: local content appealing to this "Heartland QLD" generation, that worked hard to polish their city's image, from a big country town, to a city, that can take on the world, in the eighties, dissipate, as the same small screen that delivered QLD a new industry in the 1960's, strengthened in the 1980's and 1990's, suddenly became increasingly controlled from interstate (where the population growth has been coming from) in the 2000's.

And that's where the concept of "Brisbane Afternoons" comes screeching in.

Brisbane Afternoons: The 5:30 solution.
What Seven needs at this stage of time, is for 5:30 on weekdays to deliver equal to, or above weekend 5:30 results, not with networked content, but with what works on weekends successfully, local content. It needs to deliver returns, that allow Seven to sell as a weekly package, ads at 5:30, as opposed to the current split between weekday gameshow (that performs poorly) and weekend local content (that rates well), and would fund any future local extensions Seven needs, such as Gold Coast news, and possibly, local current affairs, and deliver a solution to advertisers who are either likely to only advertise on weekends, or have never dealt with Seven on a regular basis. However, there needs to be a opportunity for Brisbane viewers to get their input into the pre-launch formation of a reporting staff (otherwise the program may look like a cobbled together team made up of people not used at 6pm), where the viewers actually would be asked to audition.

5:30 Potential: The open audition, of reporters.
How this new program would gain it's talent, would be the running of a open audition, (similar to what was done to recruit a new female presenter for Nine's The Shak in 2009, and the Me On 3 promo, that delivered ABC3 their foundation presenters) where prospective presenters would send in audition tapes (promoted by 7 News, and on the weekend advertorials), and the prospective candidates would be whittled down to a shortlist of 100, with a mass audition conducted at 7's Brisbane studios, with the top 10 candidates, would go on and train for ten weeks, at a specially conducted course, entitled 5:30 Potential, where they would learn the ins and out of reporting, some video journalism, as well as story editing, where they would be assisting a reporter from the BTQ newsroom, finalize stories for 6pm, etc. There would also be some people spotted from the 5:30 Potential top 100 (similar to the ABC hiring a extra person from the Me On 3 promo, to run the preschool lineup on ABC2), who missed out on the top 10 who would be offered opportunities on the weekend advertorials, giving them a talent refresh, and to move into a position where they can possibly bring up new people. By this time, people would be asking, who's the person who can keep this all together?

The right host, for a 5:30 solution.
The audition process will not deliver a host, it is a known fact. The host will be working alongside the top 10 during the 5:30 Potential course, and be able to answer any queries, that the future reporters may have. Who else, but Jillian Whiting (who currently works for 7 News on call, and for Queensland Weekender on a part-time basis), to take the host's chair, and return to a full time role with the station that got her start in the industry, while working around a family, and back in the slot that she was dumped from by the competing channel, who went on to hire someone else, that only lasted six months, when the program was axed. Jillian is a experienced journalist, and can sometimes take her opinions public,  which is sometimes controversial. Why Jillian is needed, is because viewers will return to her and 5:30, after the way she was treated after leaving the competitor on bad terms. But once all this is said and done, all the reporters have been trained, it is now time to promote it as what it is: Seven's Brisbane 5:30 solution.

Promoting the 5:30 solution: a three channel campaign.
Local Edition was borne into a environment, where Seven was expecting a post Olympic boost in Brisbane, but never materialized. Brisbane Afternoons, would be born into a environment, where Seven can promote, a multi-faceted ad solution, for the expansive digital sphere. There wouldn't just be ads for the program on the main Seven channel, but on 7Two, and newcomer 7Mate, as well as a heavy emphasis on online advertising, with a hyped launch of a QLD specific catchup TV website, initally offering downloads of GSE, Queensland Weekender and Creek To Coast, (both new and archival) as well as the Brownie's Coastwatch archive, with Brisbane Afternoons daily episodes being downloadable, from premiere, alongside a online-only Gold Coast news bulletin (which would make the move to television, if Brisbane Afternoons were to succeed). Viewers wouldn't just see the stock standard promo with Jillian Whiting, but some crazy ones thrown into the mix, (e.g. Andrew O Keefe promoting that Deal's getting new QLD recruits, then having a Dealette whispering "we're moving to 5pm", followed by a shot of Jillian Whiting saying, Brisbane's 5:30 solution is nearly here...) Around this time, the weekend advertorial websites would be modernised, to match the Brisbane Afternoons website, (designed to look similar to the former website for the competing channel's local news lead-in), as well as a wide ranging social media push, to encourage viewers to comment on stories as they appear, and to help shape the content that airs. Quite simply, it would not just mean dragging 7 in Brisbane from 1992 in to 2011, but drag the advertorials into the 21st century, by encouraging viewers to review content just as much as regular programs. Social media isn't the foe, but a friend for local content.

And finally: Key contributors, to any success...
When the local news lead-in was axed by the competition in 2009, a lot of that program's regular contributors have no longer a local outlet for them to promote on. Seven would need to contact some of these people who built their name with the former 5:30 king, and convince them that their 5:30 solution will deliver exposure, for their products and brands. Advertising products on a potential success, would not be hampered. National advertisers would likely get a free ad block with the new 5:30 package, as a makeup for lost revenue during the decline in Deal's ratings in the last 14 months. Most importantly, Seven will be able to negotiate a great deal, where ads could run for weeks at a time, in that critical 5:30 slot, with some rotation.

The other key issue, is staying power, Seven stuck with Local Edition for two months, rested the program, then axed it after a pilot for a half hour version was ditched. Brisbane Afternoons would need to be stuck with for at least a year, to really embed into 5:30, and make inroads into the competition. The wait would be worth it, as it would then guarantee that Seven Brisbane can come alive once again, as a viable production centre, thanks to some stimulus, and 5:30 can bring in the viewers, and a new loyal audience, with Seven rediscovering, what many have said in the last decade, that it was losing: that they are Brisbane, and the station's love for Brisbane, would be renewed.

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