60 Years of QLD TV

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kuttsy's Pitch VII: Unlucky7


“Ladies and gentleman, well may we say God Save the Queen: because nothing will save 7 News Brisbane in 2015. #itstimeVII #kpitchVII #1in21” Posted to Twitter upon BTQ losing 2015. 21-1, 25/7/15

Kuttsy’s Pitch VII: what many have claimed is, “Unlucky7” has finally arrived. The 438 days since Kuttsy’s Pitch VI have been remarkable. Seven comprehensively losing 2015: with numbers not seen since Bruce Paige was still dominant in the mid 00’s, ratings figures for the 6-7 hour last seen when Local Edition lead into 6pm in 2000, prior to The Chase’s arrival: only for the new gameshow to face a uphill battle, and most critically: the axing of a news director (with Ross Dagan in September 2014, yes, Kiwi readers, Seven Sharp outlasted Dagan at 7, with Neil Warren installed as a replacement) in Brisbane as well as the installation of a new national head of news/public affairs (taking advantage of Neil Mooney’s retirement) over the top of Rob Raschke (who fell on his sword in late October): former Today Tonight producer Craig McPherson on July 28, before starting officially on October 28.

But, yet, we are here again for the 7th time, in the mainline series (with the spinoff Pitch series (kicked off with the highly successful Kuttsy’s Fare Pitch): returning in early 2016, this time with one option that stood out from the rest: Kuttsy’s Radio Pitch (4BC as a 25-54 talk station). But this year we are reminded of the reason why the 11th of November is so symbolic.

“November 11, Armistice Day, a bushranger was slaughtered and Gough was betrayed”. Sample from The Whitlams 1993 track, “Gough” about the band’s namesake: Gough Whitlam.

40 years since the Dismissal, Kuttsy’s Pitch is not the GG, booting out a PM for the first time in history. This year’s topic is one that Seven should seriously look at keeping it’s eye on. It’s pretty much summed up in a tweet around the time the clock ticked towards 1000 days until 2018’s Commonwealth Games.

“Seven: "Live from the Gold Coast this week".
Nine: "Live from the Gold Coast for 18 out of twenty years."
Get the point 7. #itstimeVII” 5/7/15.

That point is as symbolic as any milestone towards GC 2018: the 22nd of January 2016: 20 years since Nine paired Rob Readings (who had been doing GC pieces for Extra, along with various news work for Nine (particularly around the time Bruce Paige was doing QTV’s news) prior to the GC news service’s launch: today Rob is retired), with a youthful Leila McKinnon (today, married to Nine’s soon to be retiring CEO David Gyngell) to launch the first new locally produced news bulletin (opposed to Brisbane Extra’s status as a current affairs program) by QTQ since the brief addition of local late night news (in a response to 0/7 launching their own products) in the early 1980s: QTQ’s Gold Coast news service.

The very first promo for Nine's GC News 22/1/1996, from GC Bulletin microfiche at SLQ.

The. Content. Survey. Mark. II.

Quite simply this means, we are looking at the Gold Coast in much greater detail than in recent years: all because of a expanded content survey this site did around the time of the QLD election. The content survey we showed last year (a week long and averaged out over six weeks) inspired a expanded look earlier this year: (meeting the requirements of the ACMA for regional stations, of a full six week survey, based on their system of points (2 points for relevant content, one point for mentions) between when the QLD election was called on the 6th of January and the 17th of Feburary. What came out of it, was something that will send shivers down Seven’s collective spine.

Week 1: 7-13 January 2015.
A major week leading into the 2015 QLD election campaign, with the first shots fired at Broadbeach, by Campbell Newman on the 7th. However, Seven completely missed the ball on a story Nine picked up on: Member for Broadwater, Verity Barton’s press release on various indiscretions: with no mention on Seven at all.
GC Election coverage week 1 BTQ: 2min:05secs.
GC coverage total Week 1 BTQ (inc. live crosses): 37min:08secs. (equivalent to 60pts towards local content rules (out of a possible 120), a slight lift from the original content survey in July 2014, but still halfway towards what is required)

Week 2: 14-20 January 2015.
The big mover that week was the warm weather, and a jellyfish swarm driven to overkill by Seven, a baby crocodile as well as the LNP’s tourism policy launch on the GC. Unfortunately: Seven spent more time that week on jellyfish and baby crocs than on actual GC election issues.
GC election coverage week 2 BTQ: 2min:25secs
GC coverage total Week 2 BTQ (inc. live crosses): 20min:28secs (equivalent to 34pts towards local content rules (out of 120pts), a dip from the previous week. Total after week 2: 94pts out of a possible 240pts)

Week 3: 21-28 January 2015.
This week is unique due to the lack of data for two nights (22/1 and 27/1, due to not watching the BTQ bulletin, due to other factors. The Australia Day week also saw a flash flooding event on the Gold Coast… including a notable oddity: a surf report, live from a flooded oval in Mudgeeraba.
GC election coverage week 3 BTQ: 2min 35secs.
GC coverage total week 3 (not including 22/1 and 27/1 and including live crosses) BTQ: 18min:10secs (equivalent to 32pts (out of 120pts) towards local content rules, would be slightly higher if all days were counted. Total after week 3: 126pts out of a possible 360pts, barely 1/3rd of requirements.)

Week 4: 28 January-3 February 2015.
The final run into the election on January 31, was smattered with more briefity for policy than the entire run up. Naturally, the lack of commitment on GC Light Rail stage two… rated very low… along with the sole debate on January 30: who’s washup drew ratings for Seven, 121k between 6-7pm… a dismal third, to Nine (216k between 6-7pm) and Ten’s news at 5 (123k).
GC Election Coverage week 4 BTQ: 4min:5secs
GC Election Coverage total BTQ 7-31 January: 11mins:10secs
GC coverage total week 4 BTQ (inc. live crosses): 28min:38secs (equivalent to 53pts (out of a possible 120 pts) towards local content rules. Total after week 4: 179pts out of a possible 480pts, a little over 2/8ths of requirements.)

Week 5: 4-10 February 2015:
The QLD election’s over, and we are heading into ratings season proper. The big highlight is the 5pm bulletin Seven ran on February 8, leading into another eight minute bulletin prior to a special 7 ran on the Martin Place siege. Both 7 News bulletins had that night, zero GC news, a similar mark also made the previous night (but weather at Southport saved it): not a good look at all if attracting new viewers.
GC coverage total week 5 BTQ (inc. live crosses): 19min:45secs (equivalent to 35pts (out of a possible 120pts) towards local content rules. 
Total after week 5: 214pts out of a possible 600pts, a tad over a third of requirements.)

Week 6: 11-17 February 2015
The final week of the survey, saw a smattering of events, including the beginning of Pirates of The Caribbean 5 filming, as well as several cyclone cross predictions for the Rockhampton area for Cyclone Marcia, done from the Gold Coast.
GC coverage total week 6 BTQ (inc. live crosses): 28min:13secs (47pts out of a possible 120pts towards local content rules.)

Final total:
Total time spent on GC coverage week 1-6: 2hrs:32mins:47secs, or average of 4mins every night: a fifth of what Nine aired M-F in the same period
Total local content points week 1-6: 261pts/720pts, just barely a third of minimum requirements mandated by ACMA for regional stations.

At the same time, Nine Gold Coast, NBN, and even Seven’s regional operation (outside Toowoomba, which finally launched it’s own 7 Local News bulletin earlier this month) produced local content numbers that easily met ACMA requirements. So it is up to this. If Seven wants to change perception: you have to stand up to Nine’s 20yr dominance of the Coast.
Because, we all know if Seven do: Nine will be trying harder to keep it’s position, even promoting it’s 20th birthday (a milestone Extra missed by two and a half years) with class: just look back 20yrs, to when Nine produced a magnificent promo looking back at 37 years of QTQ’s news service, just as Australian TV was turning 40 and QTQ’s GC news was in it’s infancy.

And that ends the GC content study. Now onto some other “Brisbane” matters:

BTQ. Revisiting. History.

“Have you seen Bill today?”: “Sorry, too busy watching Lofty and Melissa” #kpitchVII #itstimeVII #bringFrankback” 9/8/15.

Bringing Frank Warrick back… ratingswise. This is what Seven faced in August 2015. Two records were shattered in the three weeks afterward of the Nine year victory on July 25. First was July 24, 2015: where ratings for the 6pm-6:30pm half hour of BTQ’s news skewed even lower than 30/1’s average, with a paltry 119,000 viewers (with the weak MDM lead-in, which has since been axed, despite giving away the first ever $1m prize at 5:30pm in March, (even more historic, BTQ’s news was soundly thrashed, yet MDM barely beat McGuire/Paige on that night: blame a certain delay for that one!), while the bulletin itself hadn’t broken the 200,000 mark average 6-7pm for a M-F based week since late April let alone actually win a week Monday-Friday since the second week of ratings in mid-Feburary. The second, was a 13 day winning streak by Nine’s news (which handed the Sun-Sat year to Nine on a silver platter), all while Seven was at the Ekka promoting itself with a hall of fail… what the unacquainted with the Kuttsy’s Pitch tone call, a poorly planned and timed exhibit (blame a certain… reality program for that one: you know, the one that isn’t The Hotplate, which was rating so low, we couldn’t even give you the SEQ figures when the series eventually ended. Let’s just say the Restaurant Revolution was televised… just to not many.) along with news presentation from a tent. 
Yes, a tent.
Nine got it right, with the Governor’s Pavilion, and turned it into a studio complete with control facilities and full sized studio cameras for five years letting visitors in on the process: Seven gave us their first attempt at Ekka news presentation since the 1980s, with a 1980s styled solution, of sticking a white tent near the RNA’s luxury suites and setting up a OB kit to match, with no public access, while the Seven exhibit’s highlight was…
“Cardboard Bill and Sharyn… #ekka” 7/8/15

Which leads us to this: Is Seven due to take a hard shot of it’s own medicine in 2016 and beyond? 

I honestly think, that new management, fresh eyes in the newsroom will be pleading for local programming and a complete and utter rethink of 6-7 slot, especially after a potential 39-1 loss (currently Nine hasn't lost a week in SEQ newswise since Feburary: 35 weeks ago...). A duplicate of 6pm news filled with wire stories at 4pm for 60min, then 1hr break that can’t compete properly, is still not the right way to go for Seven. Neither is The Chase. Something to remember, People will still tune out at 5:30pm, people will still not tune in at 5 (especially with a refreshed TVQ 5pm product, with more resources being given time to bed in (after all: it still outrates Nine’s local afternoon news, and has utterly slaughtered BTQ at 5:30 for months and is now doing the same for the entire hour leading into 6pm… along with Family Feud at 6): what I personally believe is the biggest threat to BTQ’s news next year: not Nine’s 6pm product), and most damaging is that people will still not tune in at 6pm. That is why Seven needs to be competing with Nine 5:30-6pm with a local focus: something not tried since Melissa Downes was one of Seven’s rising stars and Frank Warrick was in the chair at 6 with Kay.

The. Gold. Coast. Continued.

“The only head-to-head programming @Channel9 and @SevenNetwork should be doing is on the GC. http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/channels-7-and-nine-have-called-a-truce-promising-they-will-never-program-copycat-shows-against-one-another-after-viewer-backlash/story-e6frfmyi-1227515130183 #kpitchVII #itstimeVII” 7/9/2015

The content study raises a major point. Seven’s coverage is worse than a poorly applied sunscreen. The same can be said for it’s image on the Coast, which is non-existent, other than the Commonwealth Games rights. I alluded to briefly, how Nine would sell itself in a Seven launch. I’m about to show you how Seven should sell itself.

For starters, it won’t be the cheap stuff done for the launches of Seven’s regional services in Rockhampton/Toowoomba (traditionally WIN heartlands, both built on the fact that WIN pushed local news out of 6pm), but more expensive. It would simply sell Seven as a alternative product, that is focusing on it’s strengths against Nine: including better journalism. Nine would have history, Seven would have credibility. However, the big challenge will be the timeslots chosen. The edge Seven needs will be that it wouldn’t just offer GC news at 5:30 Monday-Friday. You would be offering it at 6pm on weekends, and a late night service, to really put pressure on Nine to invest, in saving their behinds. The most important part of this emphasis would be reviving the old battlecry from the 90’s, with a GC variant: “Nobody knows the Coast like Seven”, to target the rusted on audience that QTQ has to simply change to a news service the Gold Coast deserves, opposed to one that hasn’t changed with the times.

Seven’s. Case. Of. 2020. Vision.

“Does flicking the channel to Lofty and Melissa count as a big response? #kpitchvii” 16/10/15.

It was in October 2014, when Seven CEO Tim Worner proudly boasted a move to remain #1 until 2020 at a major upfronts event, without any clarity on how it intended to do it other than a famous image describing live sport, live news and Australian programming as supposedly “piracy proof”.
At that point, Seven had snapped up exclusive Olympics rights from 2016-2020, and the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Since then, it has added the 2016 Paralympics, and AFL rights jointly with Foxtel until 2022: in other words, massive expenditure on the first plank of piracy proof programming.
Unfortunately, this massive expenditure will see the other two planks of piracy-proof programming suffer. Seven News will need dramatic on-air, and cultural change as we approach 2020. Successful weekday teams in Adelaide and Perth are approaching retirement, the bungled move to hot-switch Kay and Rod to weekends for the last few years of their run at Seven won’t help either: as they are approaching retirement themselves. Even the breakfast cashcow Sunrise will have to approach generational change with Kochie using a light touch.
And then there is the third plank: Australian content. Seven in my mind cannot rely on aging tentpoles, especially as the X-Factor is 10yrs old in Australia in 2015, MKR is heading towards it’s sixth season in 2016, and Dancing With The Stars is so tired in 2015 after fifteen seasons in ten years, along with the lack of investment in drama, and a lack of awareness by programmers of viewers who are sick and tired of reality: proven by the failure of “that restaurant show”.
This is what we are re-iterating this year: Seven cannot rely forever on rehashing the MKR formula, in the face of streaming services that can offer better foreign product than the FTAs and Foxtel combined, yet Seven themselves developed a tool, that allows Queenslanders to watch NSW timed product, (the 7Live streaming project) and could potentially be the very product that sees QLD become the VPN State, during summer, if they went and geoblocked it.

But as we close Kuttsy’s Pitch in 2015, on 11/11/15: we look back on something the “Big Fella” said when Nine moved into 50 Cavill in 1996. What Kerry Packer said about Nine’s new presence on the Gold Coast was simply, “the Gold Coast deserved a capital city news production”. That line was said in a era, when the only other local television news service on the Gold Coast was produced by regional network Prime. At that time, the GC population had only hit 300,000 people, Q1 was still a dream, Robina Town Centre was approaching completion as a outdoor shopping centre, the Pacific Hwy was still a 4 lane goat track, the member for Surfers Paradise was about to become QLD’s 35th premier, and the railway to Brisbane was returning after 32 years absence: into a short-term terminus at Helensvale.
Today, as the city approaches 600,000+ residents, that Packer line is as apt today as it was in 1996. The Gold Coast does deserve capital city-style news presentation. But, it has to be good quality, something Nine has strived for in the last 20 years, while fighting off some major challenges (Deal or No Deal, budget cuts in 2006 that saw the bulletin produced out of Brisbane briefly, and most recently: The Chase, giving Nine a unblemished record in the south-east against Seven’s new product: and leaving programmers at 7 scratching heads in the process) and if Seven were to launch on the Coast, it’d be another challenge: one that could benefit everyone. But it all will come back to the Packer line: “capital city-style news presentation”.

A future Gold Coast news service for 7 will either be adhering to the Packer line to the word: i.e. that means a 7 day news service, like other Seven Network capital city stations have (a major point of difference to Nine, that could count), or copying and pasting the Seven Local News formula, and delivering a concise 30min news Mon-Fri, and have weekend stories reported every Monday night. Whatever the direction Seven goes in, it all means nothing unless you remember this fact.

When television debuted in Adelaide in 1959 (56 years ago): to a city of 586,000: the city supported three news services on television: two commercial and the ABC (which was slower to launch than in other capitals.)

When television debuted in Brisbane around the same time, it was to a similar sized city as the 1959 Adelaide market, and supported once again, by two commercial news services and the ABC.

The Gold Coast in 2015 has a population soon to be higher than Adelaide in 1959. Yet: the area is served by one metropolitan news service. There is room for both 7 and 10 to launch comprehensive local news services focused on the Coast. There is no need for the ABC to launch TV news: the statewide ABC bulletin is still sufficient: but their radio news is being hacked to bits.

It is simply, a matter of time. 2018’s grand spectacle is only 875 days away as of tonight (11/11/15). Seven’s in the drivers seat with the broadcast rights to 2018: and simply needs to announce their direction concerning the Coast, sooner or later as otherwise… Seven may air the Comm Games, but Nine will end up stealing the show: simply because Seven left their run concerning Gold Coast news too late (giving time for Nine to prepare): instead simply of giving it time to bed in, a year or so in advance.
7: Still stuck with the memories of 2000.
Seven, get the point. #kpitchVII 11/11/15. #itstimeVII” 10/11/15.

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