You can
tell the Ten Network wants to change the image for its 2006 launch by the amount
of distance it is putting between it and the final of Australian
Idol
.

Last year Ten used the live Idol final
from Sydney’s
Opera House as the launch pad for its 2005 programming with the slogan
“Bigness.”

This
year the Grand Final of Idol will be held in the last week of ratings, on a
night to be announced: not Sunday, but certainly not Friday or
Saturday. The
following Tuesday, November 29 sees the launch of the Ten schedule for 2006.

Idol
will feature, but it won’t be the reason many people front for the function that
evening, unlike last year. In fact, Ten was all
over Idol a year ago, milking the final for all it could get, with pre-final
and post-final parties, plus the launch and the actual final that ran heavily
overtime.

X-Factor, Big Brother, Mary Bryant, the local Queer Eye,
Raymond and of course Idol, were among the highlights.

Well, dimlights for many viewers in 2005. X-Factor flared
and failed; Raymond is no more; Big Brother worked well, except for upsetting
public order and taste. Mary Bryant certainly was big, as we saw this week when it
finally went to air.

House,
the network’s biggest success this year, couldn’t be talked about a year ago
because it wasn’t really known. What’s worrying for Ten is that Idol has flickered all season in
2005, losing viewers and just not giving Ten any momentum, unlike last
year.

It certainly helped Ten in its target 16-39 age group, but if
that’s the best that can be said about a program that was such a huge hit in 2004,
then this year has been pretty average for Ten. Hence the Network’s
decision to avoid any direct link between Idol and the
2006 year.

It
would be too much of a risk for the Network to make with major clients and the
media looking on: too many chances to remind people of the underperformance in
2005 for that and other programs.

Its costs may still be lower than those of Seven or Nine but even Ten wasn’t
immune to the sharp loss of growth in advertising as we’ve seen since late
August. So much so that Ten was forced to warn
that its first quarter sales and profit for 2006 would not match the boom-driven
numbers for the same period of 2005.