A conversation with...
Peter Hudson, CEO, TV1 & Sci Fi
Peter Hudson, CEO of TV1 and SCI FI Channel speaks to ASTRA as the final part of our series featuring decision makers who are commissioning Australian content. Now in his 12th year as CEO, Peter oversees the commission of original Australian content on TV1 which has included the award winning telemovie The King: The Story of Graham Kennedy, The Proposition, and Stupid Stupid Man. In addition, Peter oversaw the launch of SCI FI Channel in Australia in 2006. Here, Peter discusses the groundbreaking new drama Killing Time.
With the premiere of Killing Time finally on the schedule, what can you tell us about the journey to get the story to air?
The Killing Time journey has certainly been exciting; it’s been lengthier than anticipated but most certainly very satisfying. The journey commenced when Jason Stephens from Fremantle Media, pitched the idea – we immediately loved the story – it is extraordinarily compelling. To bring it to life we needed some financial juggling, as this is by far our biggest ever production, and we required support from the TV1 Partnership to embark on this most ambitious project. We successfully negotiated those hurdles. The Andrew Fraser story is a very real, very controversial and very current story. This compelling story needed great writing to bring it to the screen and what a truly great team of highly credentialed Australian writers assembled, including Ian David (Blue Murder) Mac Gudgeon (HalifaxFP, Stingers) Katherine Thomson (Satisfaction, Answered By Fire) and Shaun Grant (Snowtown).
With finances in place and much of the contractual work behind us, production commenced in April of 2010 with a great line up of established and successful Australian actors including David Wenham, Colin Friels, Diana Glenn, John Wood and Kris McQuade working alongside great performances by Richard Cawthorne, Malcolm Kennard, Kate Jenkinson and Reef Ireland. Working with this great line up of talent was a great production team assembled by Fremantle Media, headed by Jason Stephens Executive Producer/ Producer, Producer John Wild and Line Producer Amanda Crittenden and the directors Peter Andrikidis Ian Watson and Kevin Carlin.
Production wrapped in August 2010, but we had been seeing rushes and incomplete episodes since the end of May. Excitement was building and the wheels of our promotional , publicity and marketing were rolling for a launch date early September 2010. In early August, Victorian Legal Aid contacted us regarding the production and its depiction of one of its clients. There was an impending court hearing relating to an Appeal before the Victorian Supreme Court. VLA indicated they would make an application for non publication. On legal advice we decided to withdraw the scheduled broadcast and await the outcome of the case before the courts. Once the case was heard the accused and convicted stated he would appeal. Deadlines for appeal have been extended throughout 2011 with the latest expiring 9 November 2011. All the time we were in close contact with our legal advisors and in July this year, the OPP and VLA granted clearance to broadcast and the premiere was set for Wednesday 2 November 2011.
What were some of the learning curves in producing drama versus the light entertainment genre which TV1 is known for?
TV1 has an interesting heritage in local drama production. Firstly the channel presents almost exclusively scripted drama or comedy and these are the two genres on which we have focused our local productions, rather than light entertainment – The Bob Downe Show and TV1’s Cash Trivia Challenge have been our limited steps into this space. Our local drama expenditure productions commenced with Comedy and two seasons (each 8 × 30 minute episodes) of an 80’s based AM Radio Station battling the introduction of the power of FM in Shock Jock. We also commissioned two seasons (also each 8 × 30 minute episodes) of Stupid, Stupid Man, based in the offices of COQ Magazine (a Men’s Monthly Mag) starring Wayne Hope and Mathew Newton – Logie nominated and ASTRA Award winning. We stepped into serious Drama when we were the principal Australia investor in the feature movie The Proposition. Back to television in 2007 we commissioned The King , produced by Fremantle Media, the story of Australian Television legend Graham Kennedy – Logie, AFI and ASTRA Awarded. And in 2009 we commissioned Killing Time our biggest investment yet, a powerful story brilliantly produced and sure to feature in the upcoming awards season.
The biggest learning curve in this process was, be aware and prepared for the legal processes required when dealing with drama based on a true story, involving individuals still alive and in this case still in front of the courts. Australian television audiences love Crime – it has been worth the wait.
How have you worked with the platforms and ad sales to maximise value and impact for this unique production?
Our experience with Killing Time has been extraordinary – a perfect example of how the power of combined efforts can create a heightened anticipation of a program premiere, for the program brand, the host channel, the STV channel community and importantly the available platforms. In reverse order, the platforms both FOXTEL and AUSTAR – access to not only massive marketing support but involvement at all levels whilst we explored broadcast opportunities when it appeared broadcast into Victoria was challenged, and even a little legal department involvement and of course plenty of senior management support. The power of the STV channel community came to the fore with extensive cross channel promotion that established Killing Time as the pre eminent content priority for launch. Opportunities like Killing Time are reserved normally for much larger operations, so the involvement internally at TV1 was unique. All the elements of our business were integrally involved, with the outcome – a fantastic Killing Time promotional look and tone, the publicity second to none, our marketing explored new bounds for TV1 and finances were stretched. And the TV1 partners CBS Studios International, NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Television, have been very supportive and patient and I’m sure delighted. The program; see Question 1, great story, outstanding performances and great production experience. The team at Ignite Media Brands excelled in a challenging market to deliver two blue chip sponsors in Lion Nathan and Toyota Commercial Vehicles and a load of premium spot advertisers. Individual screenings, advertiser only premieres with the stars of the show all assisted in generating client interest and delivering a strong result, that enhances the on air presentation.
Are there more local productions on planned for 2012?
Maybe not in 2012, but depending on court outcomes, there could be more Killing Time. We are certainly considering future production opportunities now. We have set the benchmark and expectation high, and look forward to identifying our next production soon.
Read more about Australian content on subscription TV in Part 1 with Peter Jenetsky, General Manager Marketing & Content for Movie Network Channels and Part 2 with Peter Rose, CEO of Showtime Movie Channels
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