Monday, April 16, 2012

The Lurgies

Last night in Brisbane, 244,000 people watched The Logie Awards telecast on Nine. It’s not a particularly high number, given that the lead-in programme, the new talent show called The Voice, triumphed with 454,000 and the Red Carpet arrivals special delivered 329,000 viewers. I’m sure Nine was hoping for better. Logies-related water cooler chat this morning has been sparse at best, limited to a few comments on the number of bridal frocks and the eternal Australian Cultural Cringe.

The Logies are Australian television’s Big Night. There was a time when the Logies equated to a big Friday night around the tellie, cheering on your favourites in your PJs, then waiting an eternity for the next edition of TV Week to come out with the winners listed…and then the next edition, with the photos.

Things were different last night. A few of us gathered in Brisbane for a live-recorded Logies Podcast with the brilliant Steve Molkentin of MolksTVTalk but every one of us in the room was splitting our attention between a telecast that couldn’t hold our interest, and the temptations of the twitter feed.

So what’s happened to the Logies?

Let’s try a little Root Cause Analysis and see if we can find the problem.

Problem 1: The Telecast wasn’t live.

As late as Saturday night, Nine boffins were tweaking the schedule, moving the end time for The Voice from 7:30pm (ish) to 8pm, effectively pushing the Logies telecast back half an hour. No big deal, thought Nine, in a piece of staggering rose-coloured naivety. The telecast was being delayed already.

Enter Twitter. Add some wine. A few nerves, a bitchy comment , a photo of a frock, and everybody’s smartphones were out. Never mind that the Logies had a strict policy banning tweeting at the event. The same policy was in place last year and the year before. It didn’t work then; it wasn’t going to work last night either. The tweeting was well under way by 7:00pm, and there was no holding it back.

Delayed telecast in a room that was impossible to “seal” ensured leaks were inevitable. In fact, for most people with access to a smart phone, there was little reason to watch the Awards show. The results came faster on Twitter than they did on television.

Problem 2: The Telecast finished too late.

It’s an Awards Show tradition to run late. They’re always longer than they should be: too much padding, thank you speeches that run forever (Ray Warren, Asher Keddie), delays in getting back to the action while we wait for celebrities to get back to their seats after a trip to the too-few-loos. Still, last night was unforgivable; where were the familiar prompts: the swelling music, the audience coughing, a gentle hand on the elbow from the presenter, a huge shepherd’s crook? It went on and on and on…

The saving grace of these shows, at least for the network with hosting rights, is that the big awards are presented last. If we want to know who wins the coveted Gold Logie, we need to wait up til midnight. Newsflash for Nine: We don’t all work in television. Most of us have school or work today, so a late show on a Sunday was never a good idea.

That’s when the wheels really fell off the Logie wagon.

Problem 3: The Leak

Last night, bad things happened and the blame game is actually more interesting that the main game. Somehow, the Gold Logie’s winner’s name was available for a short period of time via a Google search which included a result for the Herald Sun’s website. There it was, for all to see: Hamish springs golden surprise, time stamped 22:29pm, some 90-odd minutes before the results were announced via the telecast, timed to coincide with the media embargo.

The Herald Sun says they were testing their new iPad app, and it was accidentally live for a moment or two, but that it was all Google’s fault, who accessed the News Limited system to find an unpublished story. Google are denying it.

In any case, it’s irrelevant. There was a 90 minute gap between when the winner was leaked, and when the winner was announced. Nine carried on as if nothing had happened…until the Herald Sun reporters in the room were escorted out by Nine’s hired goons.

Ninety minutes of internet denial - in twitter terms, that’s several lifetimes.

Problem 4: The show was old fashioned

I don’t remember a recent Logies Ceremony with so many musical numbers. From the One Direction boys to Flo-Rida to Delta Goodrem to the incredible Tony Bennett to Seal. I guess the thinking is that there was something for everyone. It was a good old-fashioned, singing and dancing variety show. I’m just not sure that’s relevant any more.

Add to that Nine institution Richard Wilkins, and his Logie Minutes, and we had another way of dragging the show out.

I’m not sure of the chronology, but obviously the show had to be timed to end at or around midnight, in order to coincide with the timing of the press embargo on releasing the winner’s details. Really Nine, was all this carry-on scheduled to meet a meaningless deadline?

Root Cause?

In a nutshell, the Logies have resisted change for far too long, and found themselves languishing back in the mid-90s, while the rest of us moved on. It’s the same affliction that first saw me watching illegal downloads of television programmes that Nine was airing five months after their screen date in North America. It’s the same disease that enticed me to spend many many hundreds of dollars buying television series on DVD from overseas suppliers because Nine had dumped them mid-season. It’s the same illusion of indestructability that had NBC sobbing into their Dr Peppers back in 2000, because the Sydney Olympics failed to rate. Why? The internet had undermined the exclusivity of television, and the committed sports fans were getting their Olympic news on the net, hours before NBC’s delayed telecast hit the screens in peak viewing times.

Australian television is still waiting to learn that lesson.


TV Week and the Logies Organisers have to define what they want the Logies Awards Night to be. If it’s an industry night, kill the telecast and give us a tight highlights package the next night.

If it’s for the television audience, tighten it up, get rid of the fillers and broadcast it live, later in the week. Incorporate social media participation into the telecast. Make it relevant again. Review the categories and add some fun ones. Have a look at The Molkies categories, probably inspired at least in part by what the Logies don’t give us – engagement, fun, relevance, social media, and irreverence.

I had a fun night last night, hanging out with friends and snarking the Logies. What a shame it was more about the snark than about the awards themselves.

1 comment:

  1. So people still watch the tv? wow. With a small w.