Viewers will be winners

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Television viewers should be the main winners next year after Mediaworks bosses announced not only a new line-up of programmes for their flagship channel 3, but a restructuring of C4 and a re-calibration of their target audiences. 

As TVNZ prepares to reveal its own programming highlights for 2011, its rivals over at Mediaworks have thrown down the gauntlet in the ratings battle, changing 3’s target demographic to match that of TV One, and restructuring C4 to closely mimic TV2. 

Like TV One, 3 will now aim its programming at viewers aged between 25-54, while C4 is to be rebranded as Four, stripped of its music content and pointed at those box-gogglers aged from 18-49, a shift from its current 15-39 target audience. 

The changes effectively mean Four will take over as the light entertainment arm of TV3, picking up shows such as America’s Next Top Model, The Simpsons and Top Chef in what will be a news-free schedule, heavily studded with overseas comedy. 

Thought to be prompted by the reality of an ageing baby boomer population and 3’s need to get in touch with older viewers, the adjustments will at least bring some consistency to the ratings results and allow some decent comparisons to be drawn. 

The revamp includes some new shows for Four, including police comedy Good Guys, student comedy Community, and a supernatural crime drama entitled The Gates, which premiered in the United States this year. 

Already restructured a couple of times in the past, Four will create room for its new line-up by transferring its music video component, along with presenters Shannon Ryan and Drew Neemia, to Freeview. 

“Everything the channel does will be entertainment,” Mediaworks TV boss Jason Paris says. “No news, sport or information, just pure escapism.” 

Changes will be more subtle at 3, but the channel will attempt to emphasise its newfound maturity by shedding dime-a-dozen crime dramas such as CSI and NCIS and ushering in what it hopes will be a popular array of fresh content. 

New shows from overseas will include the re-make of old-time favourite Hawaii Five-O, legal comedy drama The Defenders (starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell), and James May’s Man Lab, featuring the Top Gear presenter in pursuit of the mythical “independent man”. 

On the home front, replacing Outrageous Fortune as the channel’s main home-grown drama will be The Almighty Johnsons, the story of four Kiwi brothers from rural New Zealand, who find they “kind of” possess superhuman powers. 

The Almighty Johnsons is produced by Outrageous Fortune creators South Pacific Pictures and stars Tim Balme, possibly best known for his role as Greg Feeney in Shortland St. 

Other features of 3’s 2011 line-up include a deserved new season of current affairs comedy 7 Days, and the arrival of Aussie panel show The Gruen Transfer, a programme hosted by comedian Wil Anderson that targets advertising. 

All of which sounds like good news for viewers, especially with TVNZ promising to announce its own new programme schedule this week.