Family Feud brings happy results as Ten climbs out of abyss

Family Feud, among other hit-rating shows, has revived Channel Ten with the station counting double-digit prime time ratings growth in every major city.Offspring.

Masterchef Australia.


Finally, Channel Ten is getting its mojo back.

Our youngest commercial network, which turns 50 next week, is not out of the woods yet. But it has pulled itself from the brink of the ratings abyss.

Its revived version of Family Feud stunned sceptics with a stellar debut last week, surging past its game show rivals. MasterChef, which had long been on the slide, was Thursday’s No.1 program – giving the show its biggest audience in two years and Ten its first top-ranked position since February. This victory followed popular drama Offspring winning its time slot on Wednesday.

Since Easter, the network has enjoyed double-digit prime time ratings growth in every major city, up by more than one third in Sydney and almost 50 per cent in Melbourne.

All this has given Ten something it desperately needs: mass audiences. It’s a chance to break the vicious cycle sparked by a series of programming blunders a few years ago. Viewership dwindled, leaving fewer people to promote its shows to, and the rot set in.

Broadcast television is not a pure meritocracy, in which viewers simply select the series they like. Success begets success. Networks fret over their early evening game shows because they’re vital in funnelling viewers to their prime-time programs.

It’s early days for Family Feud, which had a combined metropolitan and regional audience of almost 1 million on its first two nights. Viewers like to sample new shows, so its ratings may well soften once the novelty wears off. Its figures are also likely to dip when Ten stops simulcasting it on its digital stations One and Eleven (though it has not confirmed when this will happen).

Already, Nine’s Eddie McGuire has reclaimed the title of top-rating game show host; his Hot Seat program overtook Grant Denyer’s Family Feud on its third outing. (It’s the second time McGuire has crushed a Denyer-led uprising. Last year, the pair were direct rivals, with Denyer’s Million Dollar Minute briefly beating Hot Seat before McGuire snatched back his ratings crown.)

Yet Ten programming chief Beverley McGarvey’s decision to revive the show has undoubtedly paid off. Overnight, it more than doubled the network’s 6pm audience. It has proven popular with lucrative younger viewers, despite fears it would attract a disproportionately older following. It even beat Seven’s news in Sydney last Tuesday.

Ten’s news and current affairs chief Peter Meakin – who previously  was at the helm of Seven and Nine’s news teams – also deserves some of the credit for luring Denyer to the network. Despite his dismay at having to axe 150 staff recently, his reputation and expertise have proven valuable.

It was Meakin, for instance, who secured Ian Thorpe’s exclusive ‘‘coming out’’ interview for Ten, which delivered strong ratings and huge publicity. (Not least for Family Feud, with its logo hovering over Thorpe’s neck for the duration of the broadcast.) Fairfax Media has been told that Thorpe’s manager, James Erskine, approached Meakin only, and that Seven and Nine were never seriously in the running.

MasterChef’s resurgence is also worth noting. As Fusion Strategy media analyst Steve Allen observes, its ratings dropped after it cynically aped the ‘‘engineered personality clashes’’ of My Kitchen Rules.

‘‘MKR is a drama that happens to be around cooking,’’ Allen says. ‘‘MasterChef is a cooking show. It’s gone back to cooking … they’re to be congratulated for it.’’

Ten still has a long way to go. Most nights, it takes fourth place behind the ABC; something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. And its commercial rivals will not relinquish their market share without a fight. But the signs are good for the network that once raked in more profit than Seven and Nine combined.

According to Allen, Family Feud is ‘‘the best thing Channel Ten has done in three years’’.

‘‘To a large extent, Ten has more interesting things about it than the other networks,’’ he says. ‘‘That’s great for them.’’

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.