New hosts fail to gain traction with young auds

SYDNEY It survived rebukes from the Aussie prime minister, calls for its head by Christian pressure groups and accusations of sexual harassment — but being ignored by its core youth aud finally killed off the Aussie franchise of “Big Brother.”

Ten Network announced the demise of its biggest franchise (just behind “Australian Idol”) last week. In its heyday the Endemol franchise could not be beaten, delivering auds in excess of 2.5 million and having advertisers lining up.

Just last year ratings were solid. But then long-term host Gretel Kileen was replaced with shock jock Kyle Sandilands (also an “Australian Idol” judge) and his partner Jackie O; the two never gained traction with auds.

Part of the problem with the show was that it turned into a vehicle to propel wannabes into a media career.

Housemates went on to star in sudser “Neighbours,” become TV reporter for kids’ skein “Totally Wild” and even hosts of “BB”‘s latenight wrap-up show.

But in its dying days not even a gratuitous appearance by “Baywatch” babe Pamela Anderson helped.

Ten’s topper, Grant Blackley, praised “BB” even as he pronounced the death sentence.

“Importantly, as ‘Big Brother’ represented up to 120 hours of TV, we now have an opportunity to further diversify our schedule with new, exciting and bold programs,” Blackley said. “We are already in discussions and development with Australian content providers and we have a number of exciting prospects.  We expect to announce these programs in the near term.”

Stateside fare from 20th Century Fox and CBS Paramount — with whom Ten has an output deal — will likely take up the slack.

into Queensland, the state where “BB” is filmed, lamented its loss and estimated the show made the local industry A$1 million a year and employed 300 people. But the door is open to reinvent the franchise, particularly with the advent of HD channels which will put pressure on content. Endemol/Southern Star will make the format available to other webs.

Meanwhile, the 10th season of the U.S. version of summer veteran “Big Brother” is off to a sluggish ratings start on CBS. The first week’s ratings dipped by about 10% vs. last year, on the heels of a poorly rated winter edition necessitated by the writers strike.

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