EXCLUSIVE: Brook Hall reveals more about Seven’s biggest shows in 2022 including Big Brother, Dancing with the Stars: All Stars, The Front Bar, Farmer Wants a Wife, Australian Idol -and the rival show he is a fan of.
In 2022 Seven is ready to reset its first Quarter, with a suite of programmes to keep the network at #1.
After a challenging first quarter last year, the network is ready to do battle. In its arsenal: the Winter Olympics, The Voice: Generations, SAS Australia and Dancing with the Stars -and that’s just for starters.
“Our 10 years of dominance was driven by My Kitchen Rules, it’s no secret we rode that momentum,” says Seven’s Director of Scheduling Brook Hall.
“I’m not saying anything here people don’t know, but the last three years, Q1 has been our Achilles heel. It’s been a big problem. It was an amazing effort to claw back last year, but it’s not where we want to be.
“So Q1 is a vastly different quarter to what we’ve seen the last few years.”
The Voice: Generations, at just 3 episodes long, is a taste of what’s to come and builds on the show’s extraordinary success last year. Coaches Keith Urban, Guy Sebastian, Rita Ora and Jessica Mauboy return with more feelgood moments as families, neighbours and friends take to the stage.
The series, produced by ITV Studios Australia, is a deliberate alternative to Nine and 10 reality shows.
“We still have the belief that getting the family unit around entertainment can work”
“You’ve got to acknowledge the strength of your competitors in that fight with Married at First Sight and Australian Survivor, personally one of my favourite shows. But we still have the belief that getting the family unit around entertainment can work in this space. Holey Moley‘s launch showed that,” he explains.
“The Voice was Seven’s biggest show with kids under 15 in 5 years …. the tone is right, we think the time is right. This COVID situation is still going… kids, parents, grandparents, we don’t really matter your age, all of them can sit around and enjoy it.”
The Winter Olympics commence in Beijing with first events from tomorrow and the Opening Ceremony from Friday. There will be up to 20 dedicated Olympic channels across Seven and 7plus, broadcasting more than 1600 hours of Live, HD content. Like the Summer games, Seven is giving the Winter games primetime coverage on the main channel.
“The history of coverage in this in this country has either been largely a multi channel or late nights. Basically for the next two weeks, it’s the spine. Olympics at 7 or 7:30, every night,” Hall continues.
“We’re really confident that we’re going to get the best Winter Olympics result we’ve seen in a long time.”
Daily coverage will begin from midday AEDT on weekdays and 10.00am AEDT on weekends, until approximately 2.00am AEDT. Hosts include Johanna Griggs, Hamish McLachlan, Abbey Gelmi, Mel McLaughlin, Lydia Lassila, Jason Richardson (pictured), Matt Shirvington, Basil Zempilas, Georgie Parker, plus reporters on the ground in Beijing.
Also across this period are Seven News, Sunrise, The Morning Show, The Chase, Home & Away, Better Homes & Gardens.
“The standard of dancing is amazing”
Post-Olympics brings Dancing with the Stars: All Stars to Sunday nights and SAS: Australia to weeknights. Both shows were filmed late last year through Warner Bros / BBC Studios and Screentime, respectively. Promos are already teasing Bridie Carter, Grant Denyer, Courtney Act, Kylie Gillies, David Rodan on the ballroom floor.
“One benefit of having All Stars is they’re highly skilled because we ask more winners and runners up,” says Hall.
“However we do insert a few Wild Cards on top. You do like seeing the ‘growth’ journey. But the standard being so high just makes every dance an event, as opposed to one or two a night. The standard of dancing is amazing.”
This season also includes a performance from Sonia Kruger with Todd McKenney -plus a guest appearance by 2012 winner, Johnny Ruffo.
Tackling the next SAS: Australia course are Geoff Huegill, Wayne Carey, Paul Fenech, Melissa Tkautz, Locky Gilbert, Orpheus Pledger, Anna Heinrich and more.
“The audience profile is almost an anti-Reality audience”
“The audience profile is almost an anti-Reality audience,” he suggests. “I know that sounds insane, but when you think about it, it’s not polished …there are no retakes if the filming misses something.
“This show is very hard work. It’s not comfortable for celebrities. What you see on the show is what you get.
“One thing that we have learned is that people genuinely want to do it as a challenge to themselves, as opposed to wanting to be on a Reality show to boost their profile. They’re doing it for personal satisfaction.”
Director of Scheduling, Brook Hall
Hall joined Seven for the launch of 7mate in 2010. Describing himself as “a data nerd,” his foray into entertainment began at research company Audience Development Australia.
“I thought, ‘I can use numbers not to be an accountant’ but look at some fascinating stuff like television. Then I went for a year and worked with Brian Walsh and Steve Baldwin at Foxtel,” he recalls.
“I jumped across to Seven two months before 7mate, looking after the multis and moving up from there.”
Now as Director of Scheduling he has his eye firmly set on Seven’s programming grid and audience behaviour across both linear and BVOD.
“The two celebrity versions of SAS are the biggest shows ever on 7plus. It’s a strong broadcast show, although not as high as The Voice or some of our other traditional ones.
“If you look at the streaming shows for all the networks it’s dating shows, but SAS is a military style, anti-reality, gritty show. I was shocked!”
The Front Bar will also follow the Winter Olympics, with several nationally-appealing shows spanning multiple sports before the AFL version.
Also featuring in Q1 are The Amazing Race (“in primetime with double eps to catch up”), The Rookie, UK dramas Showtrial (pictured above) and Harry Palmer: The Ipcress File, Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mystery S2 (previously on Acorn TV), plus the Grammy Awards and Academy Awards.
“All the footage is shot by the police themselves”
There are also two new local factuals both by WTFN.
“Strike Force features gripping, nerve-wracking, stings and task force operations in Australia’s. All the footage is shot by the police themselves. This isn’t a camera crew running around with them, but Point of View.”
Code 1: Minute by Minute profiles First Responders of events which made news headlines.
Big Brother returns in Q2 with a new cast and returning favourites from previous seasons on Nine and 10.
“It’s mainly new contestants with a scattering of some of the most iconic Big Brother housemates mixed in,” Hall reveals.
“There’s a clever way that they’re all brought in…. they enter with a different point of view to the rest of them. That’s all I can say on that one.
“Big Brother is our most-demographically rich show. It’s very young, obviously great for 7plus.”
“There’ll be nomination nights, task nights”
Hall hints at format changes to the physical challenges that have favoured the fittest housemates.
“It won’t be as formulaic as ‘Here comes the challenge, the eviction segment.’ There’ll be nomination nights, task nights, it will be broken up…. we want to make sure there’s some fun in there.”
Big Brother: VIP, previously announced for 2022, is not proceeding.
Farmer Wants A Wife is currently filming its third season for Seven, returning in Q2 and now includes a female farmer ‘Paige’, looking for love (pictured).
“We are casting for genuine farmers”
“I know this often gets talked about with diversity. We are casting for genuine farmers and just naturally in the realm…. there is an over-indexing of straight, white males,” he suggests.
“But we thought it’s important to get a female farmer in there. It is amazing how many people nominate their friend to be the farmer and most of those applications are from a certain community (background).”
Sam Armytage will also feature for a cupid-inspired “Sam’s Choice” pairing, but Hall insists it won’t mess with the show’s romantic roots.
“Some people use the word ‘daggy’, which may be true, but I actually think it’s authentic. …. obviously Sam coming in will add a little bit, but largely the form of the show stays the same. We want to keep this grounded.”
“It’s the biggest show on TV and we want it to be again in 2022”
Bolstering Seven’s mid-year slate will be a full season of The Voice which has just completed filming. Hall insists Seven resisted the temptation to supersize the series.
“We’re not going to 25 episodes or anything, that’s one thing that. I can admit as a programmer it is an easy temptation to try and go ’12 eps did 2m viewers, why aren’t you doing 25?’ But we’ve tried to be restrained. It’s the biggest show on TV and we want it to be again in 2022. So it’s largely the same feeling, same rollout, same coaches, just slightly earlier.”
In late July are the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, sitting effectively in the Calendar year as the Olympics did in 2021. With Aussie hunger for Sport, it gives Seven a big platform to promote its second half slate, headed by the reboot of My Kitchen Rules.
ITV Studios Australia is giving MKR the same producers as The Voice, and Seven is adopting a less-is-more approach.
“When MKR left our screens it was 50+ episodes, but this will be similar to what we’ve done to The Voice. ITV brings a completely new set of eyes on it and it will be significantly less episodes. Too many shows -and all of us can be guilty of this- become successful and get stretched out. This will be a really condensed version,” he promises.
“Obviously Manu is back, but he’ll be joined by some big international food stars. The contestants are going back to the basics while ITV pitched some other small changes that we think are really exciting.”
“We’re trying to get that whole panel that we announced last year back”
Seven is also plotting its Australia’s Got Talent return, by Fremantle, after COVID halted production in 2021.
“We’ve been trying to get this show for three years. It’s been cancelled two years in a row. Last year Sydney went into lockdown on day one of the shoot. We had all the international acts flown in and quarantined, so we were so close,” he reflects.
“We’re trying to get that whole panel that we announced last year back, Neil Patrick Harris, Alesha Dixon, Kate Ritchie and Shane Jacobson. We think we’ve got them all but naturally, you have to shoot when you’ve got internationals.”
This brings us to ambitious plans for Australian Idol, also held over from 2021. Unlike other recent reboots Seven and producers Fremantle are sticking to the ‘Live’ model, not pre-recorded. But that means it is also highly dependent on the ever-changing COVID situation. Seven is hopeful it can air in 2022.
“We want the true experience”
“Idol has international judges flying in, there’s contestants and it’s Live. A lot of other shows have moved to pre-recording. But with Idol a very important part of that are the Live shows and the audience choosing each week,” insists Hall.
“We want the true experience where they’re travelling around Australia, turning up at auditoriums with huge crowds. That needs to be filmed in advance. I don’t think there’s a logical workaround.
“We want the Opera House event feeling. Even if it’s not there, we can’t cheat it. That is what people think of when they think Idol.”
Hall also reveals Apartment Rules may also move to 2023 in order to find the best timing.
“We would not want to be putting it against The Block. I think we’re past those days in television where we put ‘like for like’ shows against each other.”
Meanwhile there’s good news for nostalgic Hey Hey it’s Saturday fans with new specials coming, plus newly-announced This Is Your Life events. Seven also has new episodes of 7News Spotlight, Crime Investigation Australia, and Homicide: With Ron Iddles from CJZ, however Nurses is not returning.
Coming later this year is Seven’s new local drama Claremont, a four-hour mini-series by Screentime surrounding a 25 year investigation by WA police. Cast are yet to be announced and filming will commence in coming months.
Hall says no decision has been made on 2021 drama RFDS, with his data experience hinting at the network position.
“You’ve got to look at overall returns. It did a solid number, overnights of 500,000. But Drama is no cheaper than any genre.
“The thing is -and I know it’s not a sexy thing- but Home & Away is our main drama that we run pretty much all year. It’s an expensive drama, a high quality one, it runs on our main channel in primetime.”
Sport is another big play for Seven with AFL, Supercars Championship, Bathurst 1000, NFL and Super Bowl, and horse racing including Golden Slipper, The Everest, the Golden Eagle, the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate.
Together with Entertainment, News, returning favourites and new offerings Hall is confident Seven has something for everybody.
“We are confident our 2022 content line up will deliver more consistency, and consolidate our number 1 position.”
Spoken like a true numbers man.
Tomorrow: Network 10.