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Is Daryl Free To Air Television’s Death Knell?

By Rupert Truscott-Hughes on May 17, 2016 in Other

Photo: Dickie Knee

Photo: Dickie Knee

A few years ago I wrote a piece predicting the imminent demise of free to air television. At the time, Channel Ten was really battling, while the Nine and Seven networks were dominating proceedings despite their overall audiences slipping.

Since then, audiences have continued to decline, the ABC has had its budget cut by the Liberal government, Netflix has arrived on Australian shores and the writing on the wall has become bigger, bolder and less avoidable.

Furthermore, last month the Nine Network’s parent company, Nine Entertainment Co, saw its share price crash twenty per cent in one day after a disappointing trading update that unveiled an eleven per cent fall in revenue for the March quarter in comparison to the corresponding quarter the previous year.

All this aside, the biggest indication that free to air television has one foot in the grave struck me one Sunday night in early April. Having settled in front of the idiot box after a long day sailing my 18-footer, I reached for the remote control, hit the power button and nearly fell of my couch when a voice from the distant past rang out from my Bang & Olufsen surround sound system. Could I have been imagining this? Unfortunately not.

Within moments the camera panned from its contestants back to the show’s host. There he was. All five foot nothing of cheap suit, cheesy grin and charmless wit. Daryl f**king Somers was back, saved from the obscurity he’d duly earnt by a desperate network searching for ratings.

Never had it been clearer to me that free to air television was a dead man walking than at that precise moment. To be honest, I actually thought Daryl was dead, but I guess that was just a case of wishful thinking. He’s like the T-1000, it seems; you just can’t get rid of him.

Strangely enough, Daryl’s new show, You’re Back In The Room, actually rated quite well, confirming that the vast majority of the television watching public are just plain stupid. Many, though, were not stupid enough to watch it the following week, as the show shed nearly 250,000 viewers, which gives you some hope for the future of our once great country.

Moving along from Daryl (as I’m sure Channel Nine executives will in the not too distant future), though, it’s not just the dredging up of has-beens for poorly thought out game shows that appealed to audiences back in the 1970s that is going to bring about the undoing of the free to air networks. Rather, it is choice that is going to deliver the killer blow.

Viewers want to watch what they want, when they want, and it seems they are willing to pay for that privilege. As long as the free to air networks remain largely inflexible, the likes of Netflix and other similar streaming services will move closer to landing the killer blow.

Even an old bugger like me is consuming more and more media through devices like my iPhone, iPad and AppleTV, and If it means that I never have to see Daryl Somers’ annoying face again, then so be it.