Kris Noble, director of drama at Nine Network since 1991, recently signed on for two co-production projects: Pig’s Breakfast from Australia’s Southern Star, to air after May of 1999, and Farscape, a Jim Henson Company/Hallmark project which is slated for broadcast after July 1999.
‘We liked Pig’s Breakfast so much we ordered 52 half hours in one go,’ notes Noble, who paid around US$35,000 per episode for the series. Southern Star will serve as distributor of the co-production, which is a combination of CGI, puppetry and live-action that will be produced at Nine Network’s facilities in Melbourne. The series, targeting the under-13 set, features aliens that take over a morning children’s TV show while constantly running the risk of being caught by the kids they’ve befriended by sneaking back to their spaceship. Noel Price from Southern Star Pacific is executive producer, having previously worked on the Spellbinder series with Noble.
Noble says that sci-fi drama such as Farscape is a genre the network has been interested in for several years. Twenty-two episodes of the one-hour series, which incorporates high-tech animatronics and puppetry, have been ordered, coming in at US$636,000 per episode. Brian Henson will direct the first series to be shot in Fox’s new state-of-the-art Sydney studios, which will also be home to Lucasfilm’s next three Star Wars prequel features. The Henson name makes the project desirable, and strong international sales are expected to offset the project’s high price tag, Nobel says.
Strategically, both projects are a good fit for the network. Pig’s Breakfast meets Nine Network’s kids strategy to develop broad dramas that are locally produced, original in concept and of interest to the international marketplace. Of the network’s weekly kids slate of nine half hours, only two of these are acquired, non-Australian product. This emphasis on local programming is spurred by the Australian TV quota system, which is an integral part of Nine Network’s license agreement.
According to Noble, the kids market in Australia is ‘opening up,’ and Nine Network’s co-productions in this category have increased 120% in the past five years.
Farscape fulfills the network’s mandate to target a broad audience of ‘boys and girls, trekies and adult men,’ according to Noble. Acquisition-wise, Noble is looking for products that ‘work on two separate levels’ for adults and older kids.