JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Zero out of Ten: network still in strife

Lachlan Murdoch ... Ten investors could be wondering how the broadcaster will fight its way back to strength.

Lachlan Murdoch ... Ten investors could be wondering how the broadcaster will fight its way back to strength. Photo: Rob Homer

Channel Ten network will soon have its fifth CEO in two years and there's no indication that the broadcaster has a clue about how it might climb out of its governance, ratings and financial pit.

It says plenty about the Channel Ten board that Lachlan Murdoch is still chairman – it's been a troubled period since the day he gained a seat at the table after chiming in on James Packer's grab for control of the vulnerable network. Pity the poor minority shareholders who found themselves at the mercy of the current management.

With chairman Murdoch sacking James Warburton last week, the Ten board has not offered a clear vote of confidence in the network's current direction. Close to the most important job of a board is to appoint the right person as CEO.

Warburton was Lachlan Murdoch's personal pick, thus his ditching after a bare year in the job suggests that even he thinks the appointment hasn't worked out. But many of Warburton's problems were not of his making – they were put in train by his immediate predecessor, Lachlan Murdoch himself.

Now Murdoch has made his third and fourth picks as CEO – and neither of them has much in the way of television experience. Russell Howcroft's first-hand television knowledge is appearing on the ABC's Gruen Transfer – his day job until joining Ten last year was running an advertising agency.

Admittedly Howcroft is only acting CEO until Hamish McLennan comes on board in three weeks from New Corp. McLennan also is an advertising executive – he hasn't even been on Gruen.

Why anyone in their right mind would want to be Ten's CEO is beyond me. That McLennan comes from a role in News Corp's “office of the chairman” sparks suspicions about just how close the relationship is between Ten and News with Murdoch remaining on the News Corp board. It's a suspicion that McLennan plays down, but it remains.

Australian Financial Review journalists James Chessell and Ben Holgate were busy on Friday updating their Ten ways to kill a TV network feature, adding the latest scalp to the very large Ten executive pile. Their December review of Warburton's precarious position concluded:

“Many of the bad calls that have contributed to Ten's demise were made by Murdoch. It was Murdoch who passed on the AFL rights for being too expensive, and let Nine get its hands on The Voice and Big Brother. These are the decisions that have cost Ten dearly.

“Ten was in questionable shape when Grant Blackley was fired. It was in a far worse condition when it was handed to Warburton.”

On Friday, before the Warburton announcement, Crikey television watcher and business commentator Glenn Dyer coincidentally filed prescient paragraphs in light of Ten's Thursday night ratings performance:

“Call it the curse of the Murdochs, call it bad luck, call it bad management, but whatever the reason, the Ten Network is being strangled by the dud performance of the Murdoch family TV production arms, Shine and Fox ...

“Ten's board and management can take some of the blame for this, but ultimate responsibility must lie with chairman Lachlan Murdoch. The related-party production deals with Shine and Fox are costing Ten well over $120 million a year, and at the moment, they are not delivering.”

So Ten's chairman is a director of News Corp and the News Corp chairman's son and Ten's soon-to-be CEO is coming from the News Corp “office of the chairman”, but apparently it would be wrong to think there was any relationship between News Corp and Ten.

There also has long been a suspicion that the move by James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch to get control of Ten was at least partly driven by the desire to hose down Ten's first digital channel, One, as its sports programming could be a threat to the motza the Murdochs and Packers were making out of providing sports programming for Foxtel. It's a suspicion denied in the AFR feature.

But it's hard to see a way through the problems now facing the pair at Ten, particularly if you are one of the hapless minority shareholders without a seat at the board table.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.

101 comments

  • ..."driven by the desire to hose down Ten's first digital channel, One, as its sports programming could be a threat to the motza the Murdochs and Packers were making out of providing sports programming for Foxtel."

    Duh. Murdoch was already bidding on the rights for AFL through Foxtel, why would he have another company of his bid against it? Blind Freddy could see this anti-competitive behaviour a mile away and it was still allowed to happen. The death of Network 10 will be at the hands of Murdoch and the regulatory powers that allowed him to.

    Commenter
    PD
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 9:12AM
    • A lack of a competetive playing field and poor programming decisions have made Ten a pariah in television broadcasting. Just what have the board been doing ?

      Commenter
      NSW Observer
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 9:21AM
    • Perhaps Lachlan thinks he is running a phone network.

      Might be time for 10 to get into the gambling business.

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 10:25AM
    • If the NBN ever gets up (with fibre to the home) the 'free' to air television networks will die a slow death. The major sporting codes will be able to stream content directly into homes on a user pays basis and DVD's and all other digital content e.g.news will be sourced from anywhere in the world. Why watch World Movies on Foxtel when you will be able to access any foreign language content directly over the Internet. Where will advertisers go? of course to where the viewers go and that will not be free to air.

      Commenter
      Belocose
      Location
      Belamby
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 10:30AM
    • I'll do it for the bargin basement price of $10mil

      Commenter
      Doug
      Location
      Sydney CBD
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 10:55AM
    • There are so many amazing shows that none of our networks pick up - Game of Thrones, True Blood, Girls, Breaking Bad, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - just to name a few. If the networks kept up to date with original air dates then people would not resort to downloading these shows straight after airing in the states. I'd be happy to watch ads on a station that delivered these shows.

      Commenter
      Caitlin
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 11:01AM
    • I agree with you 100% PD. The sale of TEN should never have been allowed to go through in the first place and we are now seeing the results. Less sports on free to air. Less quality local content. Less real actual news (what they did to George Negus was a disgrace). More ads plastered over ever available second. More shows based on lowest common denominator. More rightwing bias dressed up as 'opinion' & 'infotainment'.

      Commenter
      Dial M for Mismanagement
      Location
      Ivory Tower
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 11:13AM
    • All those shows are on Foxtel. They're not free to air in the US, either. Not everything is meant to be seen on free to air.

      Commenter
      Caitlin
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 11:51AM
    • I gave up reading the Murdoch Press because of people like Andrew Bolt and did the same with Channel 10.

      Commenter
      zacca
      Location
      adelaide
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 1:03PM
  • Wasn't Gina going to save them? After all she was going to save Fairfax & Sons? Keep the dirt flowing!

    Commenter
    stever
    Location
    earlywood
    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 9:13AM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed

    Related Coverage





    Featured advertisers

    Special offers

    Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo

    Executive Style