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Seven turns to local talent

CHANNEL Seven Perth plans a significant rise in local production next year, focusing largely on lifestyle programs as the station moves to see off a challenge from rivals.

A new magazine program Perth At 5.00 is the cornerstone of the strategy, dismissing talk that Seven was going to cut back local production ahead of a move into new smaller studios catering for digital television at its Perth Entertainment Centre.

“It is a pretty brave move,” Seven Perth program director Jamie Martinovich said.

Sports presenter Basil Zempilas has been contracted to front the new show.

In addition, fledgling WA renovation and home guide Nuts & Bolts will be moved from 5.30pm Saturday to the prime 8pm time slot on Tuesdays, boosting the chances of a second series production following the current 13-episodes.

The show is hunting for a younger demographic and bigger audience with the move to follow Better Homes and Gardens.

Seven is also talking to soccer team Perth Glory about free-to-air coverage because WA does not receive the Seven Network-owned C7 pay television channel which broadcasts the National Soccer League.

However, Our WA will be cut back from a summer series to about six one-hour specials.

Mr Martinovich said strong local production was a legacy which had helped Seven remain at the head of the ratings in WA when rival Channel Nine, owned by Publishing & Broadcasting, set the pace nationally.

“Perth has built a history on localism For us to maintain that success we have to keep doing that, ” Mr Martinovich said.“Channel Nine recognised that, they have increased local production in recent years, they have upped the ante and we have to respond to that.”

Mr Martinovich said Seven produced a number of other programs in Perth including Basil’s Footy Show and the only current affairs program made in WA, Today Tonight.

However, he said the station would increasingly look to outsource more production following the success of Nuts & Bolts made by Leederville-based Whiz Digital through a financial sponsorship arrangement with Midland Brick/Boral.

Mr Martinovich said outsourcing would become more prevalent in Perth and increased local production was partly reliant on the station finding financial partners to sponsor local programming.

Commercial partners would also be critical to Seven’s hopes to broadcast Perth Glory games, due to the cost of catering for the Perth market alone.

Seven Perth’s move to purpose-built studios at the Entertainment Centre remained three to five years away following the loss of the Nexus consortium’s bid to build the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and the a soccer stadium on the Wellington Street site.

Seven’s biggest shareholder is Perth-based businessman Kerry Stokes.

The network is fighting a consortium involving Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Kerry Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting and the Federal Government’s Telstra Corp to retain the broadcast rights for Australian Football League matches.

Mr Martinovich said Seven had the rights at least until the end of 2001.

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