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Networks tuning in to viewers’ tastes

CHANNEL Seven Perth might just have found the answer to surviving winter 2002 without the footy.

Locally produced It’s Academic, the revamped quiz show originally put to air in the 1970s, has achieved unexpected success at 5.30 on Saturday afternoons.

The strong ratings have alerted network executives to an emerging market that’s looking for an alternative to sport on Saturday afternoons.

The quiz show for students from schools all over WA has highlighted the ratings power of locally pro-duced television.

Postcards WA, The Real Estate Program and Fishing Western Australia are just some of the local success stories that are driving growing investment in local productions.

It’s Academic presenter Jeff Newman said the show had proved far more successful than the station ever imagined.

The popularity of It’s Academic suggests the networks have promoted sport on Saturday after-noon to the detriment of this powerful emerging market.

“I believe there’s always room for television that promotes good values, common sense, family values and allows everybody to sit in front of the television set and not be abused and insulted,” Mr Newman said.

“There’s always room to promote a little thinking and it also displays teenage kids in a very good light.

“I’m ecstatic with the results, it’s a lot better than I had ever hoped for. It really vindicated my belief in television.”

Mr Newman believes the quiz show’s strong following is driven by its multi-generational appeal.

Perth school kids are glued to the screen, eager to see how different schools are performing.

“Every parent went to school, so they have an interest in how their old school is going and they can relive some of their own memories,” Mr Newman said.

Earlier this year, Ten Perth announced a deal to broadcast the Coates Avon Hire endurance event nationally as part of its commitment to local programming.

The broadcast will include a series of television ‘postcards’ of tourist attractions in the Swan and Avon valleys, produced in conjunction with the WA Tourism Commission.

“Later this year Ten Perth will produce a high definition docu-mentary on James Fitzpatrick, the WA-based Young Australian of the Year,” Network Ten Perth general manager Kel Robards said.

“This too will screen nationally.”

Another local project is gaining leverage from WA beauty spots, this time following the coast of WA in search of fish.

Fishing Western Australia was developed with a view to attracting a larger female audience.

“Guys will like fishing anyway, so our policy was to make a fishing show for women that don’t like fishing,” Fishing Western Australia presenter Stephen Correia said.

Network Nine Perth has just signed a further two-year deal with Fishing Western Australia for a second series.

The first series has been sold to Foxtel for its Lifestyle Channel and there is international interest in the series, which showcases WA’s spectacular coastline.

“Channel Nine wants this second series to run for at least 18 weeks, compared with 13 weeks for the first series,” Mr Correia said.

“And it will be repeated during the international cricket, as it was last year.”

As is the case with Postcards, Fishing Western Australia allows the regional and city audience to feel a real connection with the network. Programs in the series based around WA’s regional towns develop an emotional link between the viewer and the station and reinforce the importance of WA to the network.

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