The view

Tent-pole … shows like The Voice are propping up ratings.With the official ratings season for 2012 wrapped, a complete picture emerges of how free-to-air commercial television fared during the year. Essentially, in the battle between the networks, Channel Seven triumphed, Channel Nine gained ground and Channel Ten floundered.

What is also clear is the increasing reliance of the mainstream channels on ”tent poles” to prop them up. In the fight against fragmenting audiences and the migration of viewers to alternatives on pay TV and online, the primary channels have sought salvation in shows such as The Voice, My Kitchen Rules, The Block and The X Factor, which can draw large and consistent audiences across a range of demographics.

Typically, tent-pole programs run on weeknights for months. They feature an element of competition, which means fans need to watch them live. They ignite immediate chatter, so if you want to talk about the contestants, the judging or the eliminations, either online as they’re screening or the next day in the office or playground, time-shifting isn’t an option.

These competitions are produced on a scale beyond the capacity of a niche broadcaster. If it’s a talent quest, it’ll play out in an arena, with screaming fans packed into stadium-style seating and lots of dramatic explosions. Even a kitchen setting will have rows of stoves and supermarket-size pantries.

As the networks strive to cement their place in an evolving landscape, we’ve seen lots of tent poles being erected, and we’ll see more next year. Nine will launch The Great Australian Bake Off and has snapped up Seven’s discarded Australia’s Got Talent. Seven has announced a new renovation show, House Rules, and Ten will run two rounds of MasterChef, with the first featuring professional cooks.

So 2013 is likely to see a forest of tent poles from as early as January, with The Block All Stars on Nine, MasterChef: The Professionals on Ten and My Kitchen Rules on Seven.

Let the contests begin.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


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