Last week, I asked Seven if Sunday Night would go to allow Dancing With The Stars to switch to 6.30pm on Sundays, and got the usual guff about how they don’t comment on their schedule more than two weeks out. I also got a lot of guff about how Seven was committed to Sunday Night, especially in Seven programming and its head scheduler, Tim Worner.
Well, it seems Tim Worner is committed: he just wants it to take a rest for three months while he slots in Dancing With The Stars at 6.30pm instead of 7.30pm where the series last year ran in the back half of the year. The one thing that is essential in trying to embed a new program in viewers’ thinking is continuity: leave it there if you think it will work and keep promoting it. Programs like Sunday Night take time to click with viewers and if they are successful, will return stronger in the second season.
It’s what Kerry Packer and Sam Chisholm did with 60 Minutes. Seven management knows it, but for the sake of some obscure programming ambition, Sunday Night has turned into a fair-weather current affairs program; just like The Force, The Zoo etc, a short series currently affairs/reality program. A new genre of TV, it seems.
Sunday Night has built an audience of around 1.1 to 1.2 million at 6.30pm. It was working slowly. It needed to get a bit more pointed in news selection, it was making 60 Minutes look, old, flabby and slow, as it is. Now Seven has handed bragging rights to Nine about how another one has bit the dust.
Now Seven needs Dancing With The Stars switched away from Tuesday nights because of the success of Packed To The Rafters. Last year Dancing started poorly at 7.30pm on Sundays, but finished strongly and helped Seven get on par with Nine on the night. Dancing With The Stars could easily start at 8.30pm and run for 90 minutes, instead of two hours, as it does for the early episodes. The quip about Seven is that it’s the only network that can snatch defeat from the jaws of a programming victory.
The funny thing is that by resting Sunday Night, Seven has given John Westacott a goodbye triumph. He said in his amazing story in The Australian on Monday that 60 Minutes had seen off Sunday Night, and he was right.