Regular TV viewers will have noticed that all the networks, but particularly Nine and Ten, have been heavily promoting a host of fast tracked US programming that will be coming to our screens over the next two weeks.

One of the benefits of this is that keen fans of programmes don’t have to wait weeks or months after a programme has aired in the US to find out what is happening with their favourite TV show. Or worse, accidently find out plot spoilers on the internet. The benefits for the networks is that it minimises piracy as fans are less likely to illegally down load to stay up to date with the US programme schedule.

Cynics however, may suggest that the reason Nine and Ten are fast tracking so many programmes is because they have had an unlucky year with programming, with many of their new launches in 2011 failing to find a significant audience. This has left the programming cupboard a little bare and has left them little choice but to fast track US programming. This move is not without risks. Returning programming such as NCIS, Big Bang Theory, CSI, Modern Family and Glee all have a proven track record. But Nine and Ten are also fast tracking untested programming such as Terra Nova (10), Prime Suspect (9), Person of Interest (9) and Charlie’s Angels (9). I suspect that not all of these programmes will be a success in the Australian market.

The most high profile fast tracked programme will be Two & Half Men. Its first returning episode is guaranteed to be a ratings winner thanks to the extensive publicity and continuous promotion that the re-born series has received. However, as a programme it will fundamentally change and I wonder if the introduction of Ashton to replace Charlie is this series’ ‘jump the shark’ moment.

The big question is will the fast tracking of US programming turn around the ratings fortunes of the networks? The answer is – very unlikely. Of the top performing regular* programmes ratings year to date only 1 of the top 15 is an overseas production, that is the UK series Downton Abbey. The first US series on the list comes in at number 17 which is NCIS. New US programming rarely changes the fortunes of a TV network. Quality, broad appealing Australian content is almost always the answer to a winning programme line up

*Regular programming defined as 2 or more episodes. Top programming this year includes: Australia’s Got Talent, Downton Abbey, State of Origin Series, Packed to the Rafters, The Block, Underbelly, Master Chef, X-Factor, Wild Boys, My Kitchen Rules, Dancing With the Stars, Winners and Losers, Seven News, Nine News, Amazing Race Australia, Come Fly With Me, NCIS

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