A conversation with...
Duane Hatherly, Group Channel Manager, FOX8, ARENA, The Comedy Channel and 111 Hits. Duane’s stable of channels have been nominated for a total of 18 ASTRA Awards, 14 of which are for FOX8. Here Duane talks about factors contributing to FOX8’s success, how commissioning decisions are made and exciting new programming in 2012.
In terms of share of viewing, FOX8 has been a leading channel on the platform for several years. What are some of the key factors that have contributed to FOX8’s success?
The team at FOX8 have always taken the approach that we are playing in the same universe as the FTA Networks and that they are our major competitors- so we try to be as responsive and strategic as possible with that in mind. Our acquisitions are of course, targeted for our slightly younger demo but have as broad an appeal as possible to maximise our potential audiences. And we have increasingly spent more and more on first-run exclusive content. Shows like Gossip Girl and American Idol set the tone for us several years ago in claiming big programs and coming out of the gates with them first and/or exclusively. We’ve followed up with many since then and now have a schedule filled with first run drama and reality. When it comes to our local productions- we aim high with our talent and try to continually invigorate our formats each season. We also aim to make as much noise as possible with our signature shows in the marketplace and the payoff has been solid viewership and enormous buzz.
How are commissioning decisions made at FOX8?
It’s an organic and ever-evolving process. We take hundreds of pitches and we make many different kinds of deals. Most of our big commissions are format reality shows and I suppose that having a track record of performance for a show from another territory helps us in our decision making. Top Model, The Contender and Got To Dance are examples of this process. We have also made some derivative shows based on ideas we have seen work in other territories or where we think our audience has shown interest. The Football Superstar and Cricket Superstar franchise is an example of us taking inspiration from a few different ideas to create our own format. When it comes to scripted, we have pitched to the market the types of shows that we see working on the channel and look to the Australian production community to respond. SLiDE was a product of this process. So there are many different ways that we end up putting pen to paper in a commission and of course all of them come with a lot of spirited debate between myself, our head of Production and our Director of Television!
Can you tell us about upcoming FOX8 programming?
We’re currently in the planning phase of a second series of ROVE LA which will have a few revisions but will feel true to the original show. The first season last year was a huge success for us and it is fantastic to have someone of Rove’s immense talent and calibre both on FOX8 and part of the STV platform. We secured some major Hollywood names for the first season and we are already working on getting some big names this time around. We will also launch series two of Falling Skies soon, which was our number one drama last year, as well as premiere series of Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf and Secret Circle. Dating in the Dark, our fun and racy dating reality series is on air now, and I’m also across the local productions on ARENA and we’re just about to start shooting our 4th series of Project Runway Australia with Megan Gale and Alex Perry!
As the platform moves into Olympics Fever, will we see programming on FOX8 that complements FOXTEL’s coverage of the Olympic Games?
Olympics fever is heating up and FOX8 has a tradition of running stunt programming through the games. We’re not looking to break that tradition this time, so you will see a raft of animation coming your way from the end of July and through the games. We will use this platform to launch some of our new and returning series that will hit our air in August and through October to coincide with the Fall broadcast of these shows in the US. We endeavour to keep our broadcast dates as close as possible to those in American so that Australian audiences can be up to date with their favourite dramas.
Family Guy, The Simpson’s and Futurama are popular, regular series on FOX8. Are there any new animation series that we can look forward to?
We love animation at FOX8 and have built solid viewership on the back of many hours of it! FOX in the US is the most prolific at knocking out new animations and multiple series of some of the stalwarts like The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama. Last year, Napoleon Dynamite was the new animation to watch out for on FOX. At the moment though, the series only has a small number of episodes- so we are not yet sure whether it will hit FOX8. Comedy is hard. Animated comedy is even harder. We’ll see what comes out of this year’s LA screenings.
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