As programmers pick through the rubble of the TV year, there are lessons to be learnt from the success and failure of big reality franchises. The Voice was an unequivocal triumph for Channel Nine, MasterChef Australia a late bloomer for Channel Ten, with Channel Seven's Australia's Got Talent badly hit by several factors. But what seems to be simply the price paid for The Voice's success is, on deeper examination, a more complex issue about pace and promise.
The Voice succeeded because it showcased great talent, had (mostly) strong, A-list judges and kept focused on building its contestants up, not tearing them down. But it also succeeded because of an economical, almost frugal, use of its air time. Like any treat in short supply, the audience savoured every morsel, knowing the end was never far away.
The strategy employed with Australia's Got Talent, in stark contrast, was one of oversupply. It started the same week as The Voice and yet, more than a month after The Voice concluded, it was still on air. A whole finals ''series'' was followed by a grand final and then a grand-final decider.
It was to reality TV what War and Peace was to narrative fiction. Or to put it in plain English: it was too long. Little wonder that by the time it took its final bow it was barely able to raise 1 million viewers. MasterChef, which has a more emotionally engaged and loyal audience, parlayed its own long season into a better result. But the lessons both could learn are stark.
Programmers have long believed that working formats until they die is the smartest way of getting the best result from them. Case in point: Nine's scheduling of the US version of The Voice and its spectacular failure.
It's a terrifying strategy built on this market's crippling dependence on overnight ratings. The Voice taught program makers many things, but perhaps the most powerful lesson is that less is more, particularly where the appetite of the audience is concerned.
Michael Idato is on Twitter: @michaelidato