The Voice Australia coaches
(Image: Nine)

Nine got it right when it farewelled The Voice after nine seasons, with Seven buying the rights to the format in Australia.

In fact, Nine could have been tougher than describing the talent show as the “poorest financial performer” in its line-up. If that’s the case, it will sit well in Seven’s 2021 schedule with a long list of other weaklings. 

A more telling point is that all Seven’s banks will let it buy these days is another networks’ cast-offs, like Big Brother (which Nine picked up when it was poorer in 2012 and then dropped after the ratings faded) and Farmer Wants A Wife (after Nine let it go).

Both Big Brother and Farmer did OK for Seven this year, but they were not able to replace the ratings and revenue lost this year and the two previous years by the network’s fallen giants, My Kitchen Rules and House Rules.

Now there’s talk that Seven also wants Nine’s Australian Ninja Warrior. Its weak ratings performance this year tells us that it is close to exhausting its appeal to local viewers and faded badly this year (just as the ratings for The Bachelor in Paradise and The Bachelor have both faded for Ten).

Seven tried a Ninja Warrior knock-off with Australian Spartan, but the spoiler broadcast in 2018 didn’t last as the Ninjas prevailed.

Some print media journalists would have us believe Nine losing The Voice is a triumph for Seven. But the move suggests that House Rules will not be with us in 2021, and the millions spent on it will go to produce The Voice.

It is a cost cut in disguise.

Seven simply doesn’t have the money to include The Voice in its line-up for next year along with My Kitchen Rules and House Rules, plus Big Brother and Farmer and any other big ticket idea.

But Nine would not have let The Voice go if it was producing solid ratings (it’s a young female viewer-skewing demographic play), solid revenues, at least covered its costs and was breaking even.

Nine’s description suggests it wasn’t. A network that has a strongly-performing format will try and wring every rating point, dollar of revenue and publicity from it before letting it go.

Nine has done that with The Voice this year as it was also battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Complicating matters for every TV network, including Foxtel, is the influence of COVID-19 and the social distancing rules that have disrupted production and forced networks to make unappealing changes to formats such as no audiences. 

The Block, The Voice, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Q&A, NRL, AFL, netball and soccer have all been impacted.

Nine has also made a judgement that with the rules for live programs, audiences and production uncertain for 2021, producing a big, expensive program like The Voice will be tougher and more costly, so if the ratings and revenue won’t be there, let it go.

Seven did that with Australia’s Got Talent which it let go to Nine in 2013 where it lasted for a season. Seven said in 2013 that letting Talent go was  “the right thing to do”. The weak ratings for 2019’s season of Talent on Seven therefore must have been the wrong thing to do. 

A 2020 season was announced, with judges, but was delayed by COVID-19. The weak ratings suggest it won’t be back. In 2010 there were more than 3 million viewers for the grand final. In 2019 around 1.183 million watched. You can’t blame Netflix, Google and Facebook for that collapse.

And it is the same story with The Voice. The grand final of the first series in 2012 was 3 million viewers. This year it was 1.2 million (for both the winner and the lead-up combined and averaged).

It has run out of gas and Seven is throwing scarce money after the questionable objective of more ratings with a so-called tent pole format that has seen better days, like much of Seven’s prime time schedule.

Peter Fray

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