SEVEN executives look to TODAY TONIGHT as the future of HOME AND AWAY now in doubt

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The SEVEN Network has a problem, a 7pm problem.

The beachside soap Home and Away has lost its shine, and it’s bringing the networks prime-time line-up down with it.

Pressure is mounting on SEVEN executives to make significant changes to its programming for 2020. TV Blackbox has previously revealed details regarding a reboot for MKR, and the network is expected to announce a programming shake-up at its Upfronts event later this year.

While SEVEN remains the number one network, due to the strength of its News, Sports and Multi-channels. Prime-time programming on the once dominant main channel has struggled this year against a resurgent NINE and hit shows including MAFS, LegoMasters and The Voice.

On Monday night, 7News had an audience of 1.115 million in the 6:30pm timeslot, by 7pm that audience had shrunk to 661k. That’s an audience of 454k switching channels the moment they hear Home and Away’s familiar theme tune.

There are plenty of shows on Australian TV which would love to be rating 454k, yet SEVEN is saying goodbye to a similar sized audience most weeknights.

And what makes things worse for SEVEN is the fact the audience is not returning. While The Chase Australia and 7News are dominating ratings charts, prime-time shows such has MKR, House Rules and The Super Switch have all struggled on the back of a weak lead-in.

Home and Away has been a mainstay of the 7pm timeslot for SEVEN consistently over the last 30 years. However, ratings for the show have declined significantly since 2017 as viewers failed to embrace new characters and storylines.

SEVEN needs to find a way to keep its 7News audience engaged with the rest of its programming, one option currently being considered is returning the Today Tonight brand to eastern states. There is a belief by many within SEVEN its time the network combatted A Current Affair head to head in the 7pm timeslot. The new current affairs programming would be funded and staffed by the axing of the struggling/problem-plagued Sunday Night True Story.

TV Blackbox has learned one option currently being considered by SEVEN would see Home and Away move to a later timeslot after the nightly reality offering; the new time would allow the show to better embrace more adult oriented storylines.

Another more radical option currently being considered by SEVEN, would see five new episodes of H&A premiere each Friday evening on streaming platform 7PLUS. Those episodes would then be broadcast across the next week on multi-channel 7TWO.

Home and Away is already a big traffic driver for 7PLUS and giving it a streaming first focus could push the catch-up platform into the Nb1 position and help position SEVEN for a digital future.

SEVEN experimented with screening MKR in the 7pm timeslot earlier this year. The results were mixed, but the cooking show did perform marginally better than H&A.

It’s easy to come up with reasons as to why Home and Away should remain in the 7pm timeslot. Despite the decline, the show remains one of the highest rating drama productions on Australian Television. Advertising slots during H&A are highly sought after due to its ability to deliver a consistent audience in the notoriously fickle 16-39 age demo.

Produced internally by Seven Studios, Home and Away has significant international distribution deals including Channel 5 in the UK, meaning the show remains highly profitable for the network.

But it’s also clear the show is doing real damage to the network’s prime-time line-up. Unless producers can find a way to reboot the somewhat stale beachside soap quickly, SEVEN’s bosses will have little choice but to take swift action.