Where it Belongs: Positioning US dramas on Australian TV

Curator's Note

Television identity and promo materials play an important role positioning content for viewers. More than just advertising upcoming attractions, they model the experience of audiencehood offered by a network. Promos and idents comprise the glue that sticks the television broadcast together, providing continuity and connecting a range of often disparate elements into a coherent whole. They contextualize programming within the rhythms of the (television) day, suggesting modes of engagement and locating programs within domestic patterns of consumption. Identity and promo materials are especially important for contextualizing international programming, nationalizing programs as they’re located within the logics of domestic, and national, broadcasting systems. This 2004 promo from Australia’s Network Ten provides apt demonstration of this nationalizing role. Advertising the acquisition of The O.C., this promotional wonder works to position the US teen drama within a continuum of domestic programming experience. Ten was brought out of receivership in the 1990s by Izzy Asper, who appropriated Fox’s youth-centric model privileging the 16-39 demographic over all others. Importing a bunch of “youth-ish” US hits - Beverly Hills 90210, The Simpsons - Ten positioned itself as the domestic connection to transnational youth culture. Later home to both Australian and American Idol as well as the string of teen dramas that came to define the genre, youth [sometimes flexibly defined] was Ten’s top priority - the prime time audience of choice, and one that eschewed parochialism for the veneer of cosmopolitanism. Promoting their acquisition of The O.C. from Kerry Packer’s broad National Nine Network, where it was yanked after four episodes due to poor ratings, this history coalesces into 15 seconds. The promo explicitly draws the network and audience together, collapsing them as equivalent. For viewers aware of Nine’s dumping of The O.C., a public and reasonably well reported event, it reinforces the notion of the Ten Network as a youth space, as a specific location on Australian television for young viewers. At the same time, it connects The O.C. with the teen drama legacy, acknowledging the aging of the genre’s original demographic and reminding them they’re ‘youth’ until they turn 40.

Comments

Aswin Punathambekar's picture

Joshua - Terrific start! I

Joshua - Terrific start! I was toying with doing my piece on a television channel that brands itself as the destination for the best of world television (mostly American - everything from Aliens to America to Lost). And your argument about such promos working to “nationalize” programs works in that case too. They have gone on to construct “elite weekdays” for shows that are deemed women-centric, and so on. You’ve correctly pointed out the importance of paying attention to the rhythms of daily life. But is the (television) day really that crucial to these programming decisions? What is interesting to me is how this promo, in positioning Ten Network as a youth space, allows the channel to not worry about the (television) day - regardless of where and how and when you watch the O.C., you know you’re part of the Ten Network youthscape. Would you agree?

Ben Aslinger's picture

Joshua, a very interesting

Joshua, a very interesting piece and an important reminder that we should talk more about how American programs are made relevant via promotional materials, packaging, and purchasing contracts to different national audiences. I echo Aswin’s question about the “youthscape.” But I also wonder about your last comments, which hint at industrial desires (within the Australian context at least) to construct imagined communities of audiences that extend beyond the teen demo. I’m reminded of the clip’s uses of 90210 and other programs that are part of Gen-X culture, and the use of bitchin’ (which I hardly doubt is still a part of US surfer culture - indeed, I’ve often gotten a chuckle out of undergraduate students for suggesting that we bring bitchin’ back from the days of American Graffiti). For Ten Network, is it enough to identify with a cosmopolitan/transnational youth culture? How critical to Ten is it that viewers actually be youth - or is it enough to be youth-oriented?

Miranda Banks's picture

This is great, Joshua! I'll

This is great, Joshua! I’ll echo Aswin, in that your piece touches on issues that we both explore later in the week—not just the notion of network as destination, but also as a special place for “youth-ish” audiences.

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