Australians have a growing appetite for local drama – and they are finding it across a variety of platforms, Nine’s co-head of drama, Andy Ryan, explains.
Speaking about the strength of Australian drama for on-demand platforms, such as 9Now, Ryan notes the growth of binge-watching means viewers are often watching an episode on television and then seeking additional episodes online.
“Increasingly audiences come to drama across different platforms,” says Ryan, referencing the likes of Love Child, Doctor Doctor and Here Come the Habibs as examples.
“Nine’s dramas are successful across all platforms – and they consistently win their timeslots on overnight numbers. However, audiences are also engaging with these shows on time-shifted viewing and additionally on demand through 9Now.”
Ryan argues that this reflects a growing desire to watch content at a time of the viewer’s own choosing.
“We find audiences gravitate to shows at times convenient to them,” he says. “We are finding drama really resonates on 9Now. Audiences come to the platform because of convenience and also because of the ability to go back and binge on previous episodes they may have missed.
“As a broadcaster we want to give drama a life outside overnight broadcasts,” he adds, noting shows such as Love Child Nine create fresh online content.
“With drama we are also trying to leverage online specific content,” says Ryan. “This year with Love Child we have created a number of ‘webisodes’ called ‘Living in the 70s with Martha' featuring the character played by Miranda Tapsell who takes viewers on a journey through 1970s fashion, mod cons and so on. We are increasingly looking to do things like this where we drive viewers to 9Now for additional content.”
Lizzie Young, director of innovation, partnerships and experience at Nine, believes unique online content is just one area where Nine seeks to innovate and find new ways to engage audiences.
She notes the broadcaster has launched its new Story+ product, offering advertisers new ways to integrate brands around Nine’s drama offerings.
“The challenge for us this year was finding something that innovates our drama offerings and the way brands can fit in with our content,” explains Young.
“We are well known for what we do with our reality formats but the other great play in local storytelling is drama and we’re launching a product, through Story+, that enables brands to tell stories using drama, digital and their own assets, so extend the amount of content we produce in those shows.”
“They give marketers something unique to own because you see extended storylines and there is an opportunity to have alternative endings to a story and the potential to bridge a gap between seasons one and two that the audience would otherwise not get to see.
“What we know from doing those types of exclusives is that they are incredibly popular and sharable. They’re the new watercooler moments.”
Ryan expects strong audience numbers for dramas and comedies such as Doctor Doctor.
“Nine has been very successful with shows such as Here Come the Habibs, Doctor Doctor and Love Child and I think one of the reasons is that Australian audiences just love watching Australian stories,” he maintains.
“The power of local stories for an Australian local audience is profound there is a lot of drama out there from a lot of sources for audiences to choose from - but there are not that many who tell local stories that are relevant and pertinent to Australians. At Nine we can do that in a way that is comparable to the best in the world.”
Ryan observes that commercial television for many years steered away from comedy but last year’s decision by Nine to experiment with Here Come the Habibs had been a real success, often drawing audiences of over 1m viewers.
“Here Come the Habibs was really a breakout hit last year,” Ryan continues. “We hadn’t done a scripted comedy for about 20 years on Nine and so the time was right for a show that was topical, a bit hard-hitting but also just a lot of fun.
The Nine drama boss says he’s also keenly looking forward to examining reaction to the return of Doctor Doctor.
“Doctor Doctor was another great breakout hit from 2016 and we are back with more this year,” reveals Ryan. “Our lead character, played by Rodger Corser, was nominated for a gold and silver Logie which is unprecedented for show in its first run.
“This season we’re turning up the pressure on Dr Hugh, Roger Corser’s character, and we’re making life much more difficult for him.
“But it’ll be the same characters and same world, though we touch on some contemporary issues while still being laugh-out-loud-funny and a bit outrageous.”