Brad Lyons reflects on 20 years of Australian TV
Brad Lyons stepped down earlier this month as the Seven Network’s director of network production after 20 years with the broadcaster. IF asked the executive, who worked his way up the ladder from head of infotainment and oversaw some of its biggest franchises including My Kitchen Rules, House Rules, Little Big Shots, The Chase, Dancing With the Stars and First Dates, about the changes he’s witnessed over two decades.
You have seen monumental changes in broadcasting in the past 20 years. Apart from the dramatic shift to streaming and catch-up viewing, what have been the biggest changes and how have you adapted?
We always had success by making sure we had extremely compelling characters and compelling storylines whether it be drama or reality. It’s a very noisy marketplace and you do have to stand out. Every single detail is looked over time and again. But you must also trust the creative process and that’s where incredible people come into play. Storytellers have and will always be invaluable.
Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner said the network had launched more than 25 shows, including a raft of original formats, during your tenure in production. Which shows you most proud of?
I’m actually proud of all of them because no one sets out to make a bad show. But I think Dancing With the Stars, Deal or no Deal and My Kitchen Rules are standouts because we were the first territory in the world to pick up Strictly Come Dancing and we actually gave it its international name. We also we were the first territory to strip Deal and it worked a treat. On MKR it’s just so gratifying that a locally created show can be number one for so long and it’s sold all over the world.
Which shows performed better that you expected?
The executive producer and I had our hearts in our mouths during the first live Dancing With the Stars. It was a real roll of the dice. We did have great backing from the management team but when the numbers rolled in at two million the next day we certainly let out a deep breath.
Which shows did not perform as you had hoped? I imagine that list could include Cannonball and Hell’s Kitchen?
When shows don’t perform as you wish you learn from that and move on. There are so many factors involved in launching a show, like the opposition and the current environment but you back yourself to get it right more often than you get it wrong.
Apart from Seven’s shows which series do you enjoy watching at home?
I’m an absolute TV junkie. It’s quite strange because when you are in the day-to-day I normally watch the opposition and look at Seven-produced content and what it looks like off air. But embarrassingly, my wife and I recently binge viewed Mad Men. Yes I know we are late to the party but it was superb. Everyone raves about the costume and production design but it was also a complex story as well. That’s what I loved. The Handmaid’s Tale was superb, gripping TV but then you’ll also catch me watching The Chase because I’m a sucker for game shows.
Why did you decide to call time after 20 years?
I loved every minute at Seven and I was given opportunities that were amazing. But I’m first and foremost a content creator and the world is opening up unbelievably in this area that I thought I must have a change. I’m keen to explore all areas of content creation and I have quite a few passion projects I’d love to see fly.