Australia’s got talent? Seven to revive MKR, four talent shows in 2022

Seven is betting the farm that Australia really has got talent, with its prime-time line-up for 2022 featuring no fewer than four shows in which ostensibly ordinary Aussies take a stab at impressing a panel of celebrity judges.

After a stellar run this year, The Voice will return, both in its regular – that is, revamped and shorter – format and in a second, even shorter version featuring performers from across the age spectrum.

James Warburton, chief executive of Seven West Media, presenting the broadcaster’s 2022 line-up.Credit:Seven

The Voice: Generations will include young and old performers, including some from the same family. Guy Sebastian, Keith Urban, Jessica Mauboy and Rita Ora will return to the coach-mentor-judge roles.

Also on the line-up are two shows that were first announced at the network’s upfront presentation a year ago, Australia’s Got Talent and Australian Idol. The former had been due to air this year until COVID-19 disrupted production schedules, while the latter was intended to debut in 2022.

Seven’s programming director, Angus Ross, downplayed the risk of relying so heavily on talent contests.

“We’d rather be controlling those formats than having them programmed against us,” he said. “There’s definitely still a talent pool here. AGT has been off for two years because of the impact of COVID, and as for Australian Idol, I don’t think there’s a show with more nostalgia and anticipation around it than that.”

They’ll be back, twice: Keith Urban, Rita Ora, Jessica Mauboy and old boy Guy Sebastian will return in two iterations of The Voice.Credit:Seven

In another blast from the not-so-distant past, Seven is reviving My Kitchen Rules, with a revamped format and new hosts. While controversial judge Pete Evans will not be involved, the fate of Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and Manu Feildel – who were reportedly signed to a three-season deal for the ill-fated Plate of Origin – is less clear.

“It’s an opportunity for a fresh slate,” chief executive James Warburton said of the new-look show, which is currently out to tender with Australia’s major production houses (minus Endemol Shine, which makes MasterChef for Ten and is thus judged to have a conflict of interest). “I talked about bringing it back when we had our mojo back, and it’s fair to say we’ve got our mojo back.”

Having scored a hit with its leaner version of The Voice, Seven will continue to give shorter runs to its reality franchises, in part as a means of containing costs and in part to guard against viewer fatigue.

Big Brother we did 30 something episodes, Farmer Wants a Wife was 15, The Voice was 15, AGT was going to be 10, Idol will probably be around 20,” said Ross. “So reliance is not a word I would use.”

Warburton described the line-up he inherited when he took on the chief executive role in September 2019 as, “tired, stagnant and stale. We had stuff that was skewing old, and we needed to get back to being talked about.”

Key to that, he said, was making content “for all screens” as younger viewers deserted the TV set for computers, phones and tablets, with content streamed on broadcast video on demand [BVOD].

“BVOD was a separate division then, and now it’s been brought into programming,” said Warburton. “It’s one piece, one team of people, not warring executives. That’s the future of TV, working across those platforms.”

Warburton has also been a key figure in the campaign to move the narrative around TV audiences away from overnight metro-capital figures and TV watching alone to a measure that incorporates viewing in all markets, on all devices, within the first seven days after broadcast.

Last month, following years of discussion and planning, the industry finally began officially using the Voz (Virtual Australia) measurements. And Seven has been an immediate beneficiary.

Seven has outlined its content plans for 2022 at its annual upfront event.Credit:Seven

Driven largely by the Olympics, subscribers to the network’s 7Plus platform have almost doubled this year, from 5.1 million to 10 million. Warburton said on Tuesday that around 95 per cent of those new subscribers remained active.

That has helped Seven to claim a 47 per cent commercial share of the BVOD audience this year (including the Olympics). Last month, it claimed that once catch-up and online streaming audiences were factored in, the 2021 season of The Voice “had an average total audience of 2.11 million viewers. That represented a 24 per cent lift on the 2021 series’ average overnight audience.”

On the drama front, Seven will air a reboot of Fantasy Island – think of it as a family-friendly version of The White Lotus – and Harry Palmer: The Ipcress File, a British spy series based on the Len Deighton novel in which Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders, Gangs of London) takes on the role Michael Caine famously played in the 1965 film.

The Australian drama line-up rests heavily on Home & Away, a show Ross labels a “tentpole” that performs well across platforms.

A new season of Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries – which has already screened on subscription service Acorn – and a four-hour dramatised investigation into the Claremont serial killer in Western Australia complete the local drama slate.

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.

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