'Enthusiastic' new chief buys Ten shares
Tuning in ... new Ten boss Hamish McLennan. Photo: Louie Douvis
Ten Network's incoming chief executive Hamish McLennan says he has bought more than three million shares in the company "as a sign of my enthusiasm".
Mr McLennan's purchase came as the struggling channel's chief marketing officer Tony McMaster followed chief executive James Warburton - who was given a notice of termination on Friday - out the door today.
Out ... James Warburton. Photo: Tomasz Machnik
"As I indicated in the statement to market on Friday regarding my appointment, I believe Ten is a great business," Mr McLennan said. "As a sign of my enthusiasm for Ten, I have personally invested in the company. I look forward to sharing in the future success of Ten."
A Ten spokesman earlier confirmed that Mr McMaster had left the company, but would not comment on speculation that other senior managers would follow.
"Speculation about other management changes is precisely that: speculation. We don’t comment on speculation," the spokesman said this morning. "The structure and focus of our marketing department is being reviewed, to ensure we maximise and build on the strengths of the Ten brand, now and in the future."
The channel's marketing department would report on a day-to-day basis to chief programming officer Beverly McGarvey, the spokesman said.
Mr McMaster, Ten's first chief marketing officer, was appointed in March.
Ten shares jumped on the top-level changes as market players expressed hope that new management may improve the struggling free-to-air broadcaster's performance.
Ten shares finished up 2 cents, or 6.78 per cents, at 31.5 cents. It was the third-best performing stock on the on the S&P/ASX200 index.
"Where you have a company performing poorly, and in particular where that performance involves a poor competitive performance – not doing well against its peer group – in those circumstances, the market often will attribute that to management problems," CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said.
"News of a change in management carries the potential for an improvement in performance."
Ten has fallen about 63 per cent in the past 12 months.
On Friday night, Ten announced it had terminated Mr Warburton's contract and appointed senior News Corporation executive Hamish McLennan as new chief executive.
Mr McLennan, who will take up the job on March 18, is executive vice president in News Corp's office of the chairman. He is also chairman of Australian-listed online real estate classifieds company REA Group.
Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch is the son of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and is also a News Corp director. In the interim, Russell Howcroft will act as chief executive.
Reports that the federal cabinet was this week set to discuss the government’s plans for media reforms, following the Convergence Review and Finkelstein Inquiry, sparked a debate in federal parliament on Monday over News Limited’s perceived influence on the Ten Network.
Greens Leader Christine Milne asked Communications Minister Senator Conroy if the government was concerned the channel’s Sunday political program Meet the Press had been ‘‘contracted out to News Limited’’, AAP reported.
Senator Conroy told the upper house that ‘‘if the senator is aware of any breaches of exiting laws or rules they should refer them’’.
‘‘As to whether or not he (Lachlan Murdoch) is influencing Channel 10, clearly as chair he has a role to play,’’ Senator Conroy said.
‘‘But in terms of the combined interests, if the senator believes if there is any matter that needs to be looked at she should refer it to the proper authorities.’'
A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy did not confirm the timing of the debate on the new laws, only saying in a statement: "The government is considering the recommendations of the Convergence Review and Finkelstein Inquiry and will respond in due course."
News Ltd also poured cold water on speculation in media reports and by brokers CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets that Mr McLennan’s appointment signalled it had a ‘‘strategic interest’’ in Ten.
Mr McLennan is a former top News executive and advertising agency executive, and will also remain as chairman of the News Corp-controlled online real estate interest REA Group.
‘‘Much of today’s reporting and commentary is conspiratorial, highly fanciful and wrong. News Limited has no plans to acquire Channel Ten,’’ a News Limited spokesman said in a statement on Monday.
‘‘News is opposed to the imposition of additional tests for media ownership, not least because massive increases in media diversity, and the extensive pro-competition and pro-diversity powers held by the ACCC and ACMA render them entirely unnecessary.’’
The spokesman added that such tests were ‘‘subjective, vague and imprecise, difficult to interpret and wide open to political interference’’.
Ten's ratings struggle began well before Mr Warburton started as chief executive on January 1, 2012, after being poached from the Seven Network where he was chief sales and digital officer.
The broadcaster suffered from a series of poorly-performing shows such as The Shire, Being Lara Bingle, I Will Survive and Everybody Dance Now, which was hosted by Mr Murdoch's wife Sarah Murdoch.
In October 2012, Ten said it would cut 100 newsroom jobs in a bid to cut costs.
The company also undertook two capital raisings in calendar 2012 in a bid to reduce debt and strengthen its balance sheet.
Match Media chief executive John Preston told AAP Mr McLennan, who had also been the global chairman and chief executive of Young & Rubicam, had a strong corporate pedigree and his time with News Corp would stand him in good stead, but that advertisers were unlikely to flood Ten’s coffers in the short term.
‘‘I’m sure we will see some significant changes that Hamish will put in place very quickly, around structure and investment in programming,’’ Mr Preston said. ‘‘It’s all driven by the fundamentals of audiences though.
‘‘If the changes that are made at Ten are reacted to in the way people act with their remote, then the revenue will flow.’’
Mr Preston said he wanted to see whether two advertising specialists - Mr McLennan and executive general manager Russel Howcroft - will be successful.
‘‘It’s quite unusual to see two ad men running a commercial network,’’ he said.