Australian drama series “Royal Flying Doctor Service” (RFDS) could be making a return, with the Seven Network looking at options.
The show, produced by Endemol Shine Australia, first aired in August last year, but as yet has not been signed for a second run.
Brook Hall, the Seven Network’s director of content scheduling, backed the show, but said it was a victim of the industry’s fixation with the immediate overnight ratings figure, particularly the one derived from the five metro markets of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane.
The first episode had an overnight metro figure of 604,000, while the eighth episode had dropped to 417,000.
Speaking at the Screen Forever conference last week, Hall said drama series in particular suffer from the focus on overnight ratings, as they’re more likely to benefit from catch-up and streaming later down the track.
This makes them look less successful than they actually are, he said, with the full story not being understood by the media cycle and advertisers alike.
“I loved that show,” he told Foxtel’s director of television, Brain Walsh, on stage at Screen Forever. “It’s one of those ones that gets hurt by the old metrics the most.
“So the metro overnight was doing like 450,000… But then when the regional [viewing numbers] came in, of course that over indexed, it did 400,000 there. And then the timeshift did 200,000, and then the BVOD [broadcast video on demand] did 200,000.
“So when all those metrics were added in, for the end-of-year analysis, including all the free-to-air broadcasters “Home & Away” was number one and “RFDS” was number two, but it got lost… because the media cycle had moved on.”
He noted too that the advertising cycle for free-to-air television, including the increasing reliance on integrations, didn’t favour premium dramas which have a slower take-up of viewing.
Despite the potential challenges of reviving RFDS, Hall said the broadcaster is increasingly looking at how it can get premium local dramas to survive and thrive on its BVOD service Seven Plus.
“I still think [“RFDS”] is so premium that it belongs on Seven… But how do we make it financially work for us?… We’re actually in advanced discussions to try and get season two up… because it did succeed.
“Did it make financial sense? Maybe not so much. But can we do it differently to how we were talking about? I think we can… We’re encouraged by it. We’ve just got to make it financially work.”
Foxtel’s Walsh said the revelation was encouraging for local premium dramas and noted the show had a fabulous producer in Imogen Banks, great story lines, a terrific cast and the unrivalled background of the Australian outback.
The show was filmed in the remote NSW region of Broken Hill.