Where it Belongs: Positioning US dramas on Australian TV
by Joshua Green — Massachusetts Institute of Technology
March 31, 2008 – 02:47
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.