‘The Veronicas are just so well matched with MTV’: Simon Bates
The critical and commercial success of The Veronicas: Blood Is For Life – the first of the six-part series launched November 10 in a Sunday primetime slot – was a turning point for MTV Australia.
It has opened the doors for more local reality shows as well as its proven brands as Unplugged, TRL, Teen Mom and Cribs.
Simon Bates, Sydney-based VP head of MTV APAC, had long been waiting to do a show that was a mix of reality, music and entertainment.
It was not through a lack of options. By his reckoning, Bates gets approached at least once a week from someone insisting their life is crazy enough to hang a reality series on.
But when he got a pitch from Red Management about a show around The Veronicas, his instinct kicked in.
He set up a lunch meeting with the twins. “After that lunch, I was 100% making this show with them,” Bates reveals.
“They are absolutely perfect for MTV. We’re perfect for them at this particular stage in their career.”
The Veronicas are the sort of act who remains the centre of a storm. As they themselves wryly admit, things just happen to them.
The last big one was the infamous plane incident when a request to a hostie for help with overhead locker luggage ended with Federal Police being summoned and the duo splashed all over the 6 pm news.
What’s also notable is the close ties they have with their fans, and the fondness with which they are regarded by the music and mainstream media.
In the run-up to its premiere, the series got more media publicity than any of MTV Australia’s shows.
At the initial meeting, what impressed Bates about Jess and Lisa Origliasso was how open they were, how willing they were to reveal themselves to the world, the collective soul of their personal relationship and how the spirit of their individual partners coloured in the gaps.
“They’re super-talented. They’ve had this amazing career and they came to us at this pivotal time in their life where they were like, ‘We’ve just come off this really tough year.
“Personally where we fell out, we had these difficult relationships, our mom fell sick.
“We’re going to move back to Australia, buy a house, get the band back together, sort ourselves out, spend time with our mother and relaunch our career in Australia… and we’d like you (MTV) to come with us on that journey.
“So everything about it was right.”
He sums up: “Their brand and ours is so similar in that we’re music, but we’re also more than that, we’re celebrity pop culture.
“They’re all about design and style and fun, but they’ve been pop and rock. They’re just so well matched with MTV as a brand.”
During the six-month shoot in Sydney, the twins were hands-on, coming up with ideas and working closely with the MTV team rather than being given instructions.
Internationally, MTV makes highly formatted and polished reality shows.
But The Veronicas: Blood Is For Life deliberately has moments of rawness, similar to The Osbournes and early Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Viewer feedback showed that this was a major pull-in factor.
“From the outset, we were both really clear on the show that we wanted to make and they’re experienced enough to know what audiences want to watch.
“If it was a pithy piece on, let’s follow the girls on their promo tour to help showcase their music, it’s not nearly as interesting and it wasn’t going to work for us. It had to be real.”
The Veronicas: Blood Is For Life now gets screened through MTV internationally – with a particular push in the US, UK and parts of Europe where the act has a large fan base – before going on to YouTube.
Bates believes this will widen the size and demographics of the act. In the meantime, ideas are being thrown about for other series for MTV.
MTV’s strengths are that it’s transformed itself into a viable youth digital music publishing business and an in-house team of 100 creatives working at its Sydney HQ to make the operation cost-efficient.
Additionally, its expansion of local shows, its huge pipeline of international content and archival footage also solidifies active listenership.
“Our [community] is really, really engaged in spending ridiculous amounts of time with us because we’ve got so much video content.
“We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of hours every year of fresh content alone. Because of all that video, our average time on site is like 22 minutes. Whereas most of our competitors would be two.”