Channel Seven has picked up a wounded The Voice from Nine’s scrap pile, and will attempt to bring it back to life by altering its format and halving its production bill.
Kerry Stokes’ Seven is particularly feeling the sting of the global pandemic – the rescheduling of the 2020 Olympics have left it scrambling, evident in the loss it posted last week.
Seven announced the Voice adoption on Sunday morning, but Nine had flagged last week it might not hold onto the singing competition.
The handball is part of a trend between the big three commercial broadcasters, screen industry analysts say.
On its new channel, The Voice will run a shorter season in 2021 – going straight from blind auditions to semi-finals – at a cost of between $15 to $20 million, in stark contrast to Nine’s $40 million bill from last year’s season.
Seven announced it will be hosted by Big Brother presenter Sonia Kruger, but stopped short of detailing its judges.
The season on Nine that finished in June featured international judges in Kelly Rowland and Boy George, alongside Delta Goodrem.
Don’t be surprised if there are no overseas characters on the panel or in the coaching boxes, TV Tonight’s David Knox said – producers will be trying to keep costs down as low as they can.
Victoria University senior screen media lecturer Marc C-Scott mused Seven could be looking at The Voice as a lead in to its Olympics coverage next year.
Dr C-Scott referenced Farmer Wants a Wife and Big Brother as successful TV formats Seven had picked up and turned around – although both had been on hiatus before returning to our screens this year.
As Mr Knox pointed out, Seven’s programs in My Kitchen Rules and House Rules far from delivered the figures the channel desperately needed.
“The Voice has an audience, and looking at Seven’s ratings, they’re going to need something that’s going to assist that,” Dr C-Scott said.
As more younger viewers depart traditional broadcast television for streaming services, Seven is trying to lock in the older audiences who still tune in on a nightly basis.
Mr Knox said giving The Voice a refresh – with its punchier timeline, for one – plays into this game plan.
“The format appeals to older viewers more than younger and Seven has plenty of these,” he added.
Dropping the catch?
While Dr C-Scott does not believe Seven will give up its Olympic coverage rights, the same can’t be said for the summer cricket season.
Seven’s tussle with Cricket Australia for the season just gone was well documented, and now that our summer of cricket is looking decidedly less international, Dr C-Scott said we could well see Seven send cricket packing.
“Those big-name international players probably won’t be flying in for the Big Bash League, and that’s what everyone is banking on this season,” he said.
“Seven could just say no thanks, and Cricket Australia would be left scrambling to find a broadcaster.”
Seven CEO James Warburton said recently Cricket Australia was a “train wreck” and that his company would considering walking away from the $450 million broadcast deal, if he wasn’t satisfied with their summer offering.
As for the fast ball when it comes to programs swapping from channel to channel, that’s just part of Australia’s media landscape, said Dr C-Scott and Mr Knox agreed.
“It is cheaper to build one show and strip it than to have five separate shows that could be hit and miss,” Mr Knox said.
To those who keep their eyes on the antics of our TV channels, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Nine dropped The Voice.
“As you go forward those shows just, you know, get a little bit more difficult to hold onto,” Nine boss Hugh Marks said on Thursday.
“The Voice is three times the cost per hour of something like The Block and maybe double the cost of an hour of something like Married at First Sight.
“It’s a world at the moment where every efficiency gain is necessary to continue to drive profitability. These are just decisions that we’re going to have to continue to look at.”
Depending on which news outlet you read on Sunday – Nine owns the former Fairfax network – either Seven outbid Nine or Nine let the show go.
“This is a coup for Seven,” Seven’s Mr Warburton told The West Australian, which is owned by Seven West Media.
“Adding The Voice to our 2021 program slate is another brick in the wall of our content-led growth strategy of using proven, power formats.
“The Voice is a television megabrand that will deliver on our promise of more tentpoles, audience growth and consistency across the year.”
Nine added a bit of sass to its comments on Sunday, with a channel spokesperson providing the following comment to Nine-owned outlets The Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald: “Unfortunately due to the age of the show and declining demographic profile, The Voice had become by far the poorest financial performer on our slate,” they said.
“We wish Seven well in their quest to revive yet another Nine show.”
Nine has been home to The Voice since 2012.