A re-vamped version of the talent show Australia's Got Talent will screen on the Nine Network in 2013. A deal to save the series has been finalised only 24 hours after rival Seven confirmed it was axed.
Industry sources say Nine is planning to invest heavily in the show to give it superstar judges and production values equal to the network's established ratings juggernaut The Voice.
The deal is a major strategic maneouvre by Nine, which is locked in a ratings battle with longtime rival Seven. This year Nine has clawed back some ground against Seven, particularly in advertiser-friendly demographics, and clearly thinks the acquisition of Australia's Got Talent will strengthen its position.
AGT performed poorly against The Voice earlier this year, but in its previous outing, in 2011, it was one of Seven's strongest performers, commanding audiences of almost two million viewers every week. The audience for the winner announcement in July 2011 was 2.98 million viewers.
With The Voice as a stablemate, and not a timeslot competitor, Nine is clearly confident there is a loyal audience for the show. The series would also allow Nine to program more aggressively in the genre by scheduling two talent franchises across its ratings year.
Seven confirmed it would not renew the show yesterday, though sources say its rights expired some time ago and that production company, Fremantle Media, had been trying to negotiate a resolution.
It is understood Nine is not interested in using any of the show's existing judges - Dannii Minogue, Brian McFadden and Kyle Sandilands. Of the three, only Minogue is still contracted to Seven.
The series is based on Britain's Got Talent, a format created by television producer Simon Cowell. It has aired on the Seven Network for six years. At least 50 country-specific version of the show have been produced since 2006.