Last night I sat in the audience for The 7PM Project. Filmed at Ten’s studio at the Como Centre, the audience for the show comprised of approximately thirty people. Like myself, most of the others in the audience had never sat in on the audience of the show and it’d be surprising if they get very much repeat business. There’s so little engagement with the audience that it’s just not an entertaining enough experience for the crowd.

Audience members for the show are asked to arrive at approximately 6:20-6:30pm for the 7pm taping. Once escorted upstairs by Ten’s security, the audience get their name signed off at the door and wait in a room for 5-10 minutes as the crowd are organised and checked in. The waiting room is a little unusual in itself in that it features absolutely no Channel Ten signage in there. I don’t know if the room is used for purposes other than audience herding, but it did seem a tad strange that there wasn’t even a 7PM Project standee or something similar to make the room feel like part of the Ten/7PM experience. From there, 5-10 minutes before the show starts, the crowd are ushered into the small and intimate studio.

The purpose of an audience for The 7PM Project has always struck me as a little odd. Anyone in the audience have effectively come to see the taping of a news program. The audience are rarely shown on screen and there is rarely any real audience engagement. After attending the recording of the show, the need for an audience seemed even more unusual. The show utilises so many pre-recorded segments that the audience seems pretty redundant. On last nights show, the breakdown of the show was:

Intro / Host banter
News of the Day – Pre-recorded news stories
Ad break
Feature story on the Bali 9 – Pre-recorded
Interview with teen superstar Taylor Lautner – Pre-recorded
Ad break
Interview with two cast members of The Renovators – Pre-recorded
Show close

With all of the pre-recorded segments, the actual in-studio live content was (at most) maybe 4 minutes thirty worth of show. While I’m sure that varies from day to day, the audience really don’t contribute all that much than some clapping coming in and out of a quarter of the segments. What is the audience really bringing to the product broadcast?

Ultimately, the experience was pretty much as expected. I’m glad I signed up to be a part of the audience as it gave me the chance to see first-hand the way the audience are involved in a show like this. I can’t imagine most of the audience members got all that much out of it.

Just a few other thoughts:

  • Dave Hughes seemed to make a point to come over and chat with the audience before the show, during every ad break, and briefly at the end. While Charlie Pickering did wander over at one point, I’m sure that for many in the crowd, Dave Hughes would have made their night.
  • It was lovely seeing (guest panelist) Jennifer Byrne live and in person.
  • The 7PM Project brings in approximately 650,000 viewers nationally each night. While it’s not a wild ratings success, I’m sure it plays well enough into their desired demo’s. Beyond ratings, one of the benefits of a show like 7PM is the opportunity for cross-promotion. Yet they don’t capitalise on this effectively. On the taping I attended, why did they bother doing a “live” cross to the Sydney set of The Renovators? Surely The Renovators would benefit much more if 7PM itself was broadcast from the set of The Renovators. Have Charlie and Dave on the set of The Renovators interviewing the cast of that show and Taylor Lautner, with crosses back to Carrie Bickmore in the newsroom, and you suddenly have a far more compelling promotional tool than was on offer.

On Wednesday, I’m on the audience list for The Circle. With more live content, it should make for an interesting comparison.