Seven Network cuts off ‘Headland’

Channel 4 may not air skein in U.K. at all

Seven Network axed its second local drama in a fortnight on Tuesday after it stopped production on university sudser “Headland.”

Show was originally planned as a spin-off from successful soap “Home and Away,” a hit in Blighty, where Seven hoped to attract a production partner. However, it changed radically in development to emerge as a stand-alone series.

Channel 4 eventually came on board but put back its U.K. launch for “Headland” from late 2005 and now may not air the skein at all.

“Headland” pulled a respectable 1.3 million viewers when it opened on Nov. 15, but this recently fell to around 800,000.

It is yet another blow to the local drama industry. As previously reported, Seven dumped long-running cop drama “Blue Heelers” on Jan. 14 and it leaves the major networks with little in the way of drama for 2006; the official ratings period kicks off Feb. 12.

Last year every network had a high-profile drama casualty.

Seven laid off male-skewed drama “Last Man Standing” and Nine’s expensive outback serial “The Alice” rarely rated above the magic million and was killed off mid-year.

Ten’s experimental foray into half-hour non-sudser drama “The Surgeon” — an attempt to curb sometimes-prohibitive drama costs — also failed.

Interestingly all these dramas were critically acclaimed but the plaudits did not translate into eyeballs.

Oz local content rules insist on a certain level of local drama and that brief is filled by the long-running sudser “Neighbours” on Ten, while Seven has “Home and Away” and medico skein “All Saints.” Nine has successful rural drama “McLeod’s Daughters,” which enjoys solid local auds and international sales.

But it will now be a very brave network that puts production coin into a local drama at a time when the industry needs it most.

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