Finally, a TV network taking its own marketing seriously

So how many companies with annual revenues of more than a billion dollars can you think of that don’t have a chief marketing officer?

With the possible exception of mining firms, TV networks are the only ones I can think of.

Which is why new Ten boss James Warburton’s appointment of Tony McMaster as CMO may turn out to be the most significant move he has yet made.

For a while now, I’ve been puzzled why the networks don’t give board level priority to marketing.

Funnily enough, it’s only a few weeks since a media agency boss told me somewhat derisively that a particular network’s marketing strategy was based on the contra deals with other media owners that could be done in the back of taxis.

Another was just as puzzled at the relatively low priority given to marketing by all of the networks when even shifting viewing share by a single percentage point – let alone bringing in new television viewers – would make millions of dollars of difference.

When it’s done well, it works. Look at Revenge, on Seven. That was marketed brilliantly, and delivered 2m viewers.

But all of the networks focus almost exclusively on individual shows, not on building brand. In TVland, we’re always in the midst of an everything-must-go, final-24-hours sale.

In other markets,  TV networks CMOs have the sort of profile – and respect in the market – you’d associate with a billion dollar brand.

When did one of our networks last create a brilliant, memorable ad campaign for its brand? (And I don’t mean a promo – they do those well, of course).

Until Ten’s move, the marketing function always came under the wing of the sales director. They may like and respect marketers, but it would unlikely that the best person for the job to run the network’s sales operation would also be the best person for the job to run the marketing.

Of course, it will only make a significant impact if Ten now backs itself and makes the marketing investments that go along with it – a real media budget, not contra; a decent creative agency.

Ten’s move offers what is potentially a major competitive advantage. It will be interesting to see how long it takes its rivals to respond.

Tim Burrowes


  1. Marshy
    19 Mar 12
    7:38 pm

  2. Nice commentary Tim, it made me wonder if networks in other markets already do this or is this a new thing?

  3. mumbrella
    19 Mar 12
    7:51 pm

  4. Hi Marshy,

    They already do it. When I was in the UK about seven or eight years ago, ITV’s Jim Hytner was one of the best known marketing directors in the country. These days he’s just about to become worldwide CEO of media agency Initiative.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  5. Adam Joseph
    19 Mar 12
    8:46 pm

  6. Interesting development, and one that proves why “Sales and Marketing” shouldn’t go together in the same job title for major brands.

    Brand Management 101 = good brand positioning. A simple, tight, meaningful way to describe and differentiate the brand. In TVland a really good example is SBS with “Seven Billion Stories” … it’s about storytelling on a global scale.

    Compare that with the description on the Network Ten corporate website:

    “Ten is the destination for family entertainment with a focus on viewers aged 18-49. Ten is the home of ‘big event’ TV and features a mix of local and international dramas, light entertainment, comedies, factual series, as well as news, sport and current affairs. TEN is broadcast in Standard Definition digital and analogue and is online at”


    Breaking that down, “family entertainment” is a category generic; the 18-49 demo is similar to 7 and 9′s money demographic; “big event” TV isn’t unique to 10 (e.g. MKR as dominating current OzTam ratings) and the rest of it is pretty generic stuff.

    To really stand out from the pack, the channel needs to stand for something bigger than just the latest programming schedule.

    And I reckon some brand/advertising consultants will make a lot of money advising them on what exactly that brand positioning should be.

  7. Well, hello
    19 Mar 12
    9:39 pm

  8. They have finally cottoned onto it here.
    Will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially with the institutional investors.
    Might be time to buy in?

  9. Logic
    19 Mar 12
    10:20 pm

  10. It’s difficult for this to work unless the CMO has influence over product. Otherwise they are just trying to flog product they have no input into. If the CMO is the true custodian of the viewer, then they need a seat at the product table. Marketing Directors have been attempted in media companies before and this is generally the thing that stops it working.

  11. Craig
    20 Mar 12
    1:14 am

  12. Government agencies.

    Many government agencies with ‘revenues’ (appropriations) of a billion dollars or more do not have anyone more senior than an Assistant Secretary (SES1) responsible for Communications.

    This is two steps down from a CMO level, which would be a Deputy Secretary (SES3) – who is one step below the Secretary (Equivalent to the CEO).

    Perhaps this explains something about the approach taken to Communications in the public service, where we see some great (tactical) campaigns but little or no branding of cohesive strategy over multiple years.

  13. Correction
    20 Mar 12
    9:14 am

  14. Sbs’s 6/7 billion stories is marketing at its worst. It’s a catchy line that cleverly uses SBS but a) makes the station feel niche b) does not help guide behaviour / decisions. The station has suffered as a result. Adam marketing is simple but not easy.

  15. Adam Joseph
    20 Mar 12
    10:15 am

  16. @ Correction

    Thank you for anonymously sharing your opinion, which in this instance is simple but not right (IMHO). I’m with Jacquie Riddell, director of marketing at SBS:

    “Our brand is in great shape and our audience is telling us our branding is a great way to sell what SBS provides … Since launching ‘Six Billion Stories and counting…’ three years ago, audiences now view SBS as braver, creative, relevant, and intelligent. As a true multiplatform broadcaster we are well positioned for the changes taking place in the media marketplace with a brand that is built to last.”

  17. Smartin
    20 Mar 12
    12:34 pm

  18. I agree with Adam. Not a traditional watcher of SBS myself I have found my viewing habits have changed over the last few years (given the content on FTA) and falling under the SBS spell. I watch their “stories” with interest and always come out the other end feeling I have been on my own small journey. With a greater appreciation, understanding or a reminder of empathy towards others I do believe they deliver creative, relevant and intelligent content.

  19. John Grono
    20 Mar 12
    12:45 pm

  20. Wow … 7 billion is a niche? Well I’ll be buggered – pretty big niche!

  21. Crienna
    20 Mar 12
    1:59 pm

  22. Great idea, can’t believe none of them did this previously!

  23. Brand Panda
    20 Mar 12
    3:00 pm

  24. @ Correction

    I saw a brilliant presentation by Jacquie Riddell Director of Marketing at SBS. Not only did 6 billion stories and counting a) feel like a big idea, not a niche one but b) it did seem to guide decision making and activity. She recounted how the idea of ‘everyone has a story to tell’ was lived and breathed throughout SBS, including on business cards – hers had not only her name and title, but a snippet of personal info. This carried through to individual depts within SBS having a ‘story’ of who and what they were about. The idea translated into the way they marketed the 2010 FIFA the ‘let’s all play some football’ with individuals chanting the song.

    The concept and the explosion across touchpoints was inspiring

  25. Gezza
    20 Mar 12
    4:35 pm

  26. I could be wrong but I would think a significant if not the primary function of the marketing role here is B2B. Developing relationships and new integration/content with major clients. A campaign around the Ten brand would be possible if they had a clear position with enough content to back it up.

    There’s a familiar expression at agencies – people don’t watch networks, they watch programmes. Hence the single minded approach when promoting TV networks.

    I think the opportunity for 10 (and the other FTA’s ) is to develop distinct content strategies for the six FTA multi channels and promote the heck out of those against Pay TV.

  27. John Grono
    20 Mar 12
    6:14 pm

  28. There’s your problem right there Brand Panda. You’re approaching this from a basis of first-hand experience, knowledge, and facts – instead of pre-conceptions and other such shibboleths.

  29. Geoffrey Dickman
    21 Mar 12
    12:44 am

  30. NZ’s broadcasters have, for the most part had dedicated marketing heads that report through to the CEO for as many years as I can remember.

    Having dedicated leaders with the ability to clearly define and activate a house of brands to trade, consumer, industry and regulatory audiences – as well as shareholders, is a significant task and should be taken seriously.

    Sales directors already have a hefty challenge in an increasingly fragmented environment; therefore it makes absolute sense to separate the functions – their world is concerned with increasing market share; not the requirements of publicity shoots, promo trailers and intricacies of brand architecture.

    With Ten placing marketing at the top table, they are making a serious statement to the market about their intention to proactively improve their business. And I reckon these changes will start to take shape very quickly.

    Great announcement. Good luck James, Tony and the Ten team.

  31. Richard Moss
    26 Mar 12
    1:03 pm

  32. Yes, lots of good comment here for a very fine original posting. Marketing is vital, but the networks have grown up with this old wave culture and a basically amateur approach to creativity. When presenting a new show or a news/current affairs package, it needs great content, good management and engaging presenters, but this is just the biscuit, we still need to package it, to get the public to want it, to swallow it and then to hunger for it. Drama (to deal with my own area of expertise) has suffered from this very problem for decades.

    Beware: Excellent Marketing of a dud is also the road to disaster, it has been attempted many times in other areas.

    Here is a hint of what I feel. If you think you are doing good work, but you doubt it, when it’s finished, you will toss it out to the public and run for cover until the reports come in. If the reports are good, you will climb out of the bomb shelter and look surprised, not sure of quite why, you will then produce more of the same and the product will wither and die. If the bricks start flying, you will stay in the shelter and send out messages excusing your bad workmanship and likely blaming others. Half cock is half cock, and no amount of hard work or talent will fix it.

    We must strive for excellence in all that we do, learn to love each other and respect each others work and input, then back it to the hilt and market it for every last ounce that it is worth, if the public rejects it, we will at least have the courage to bury it and move forward with the full knowledge that we are a team doing a good job for the right reasons. The process is simple, the achieving of the process is the difficult part.

  33. Simon
    11 Apr 12
    9:01 pm

  34. Perhaps there is a distinction here to be made between free-to-air networks and pay ones. Think of HBO, or AMC, MTV or Discovery – here as I type in the UK – Sky Movies, Sports or any of the other Sky branded channels. They need you to want them enough to pay, so the brand and persona of the channel – while intrinsically tied to content – is vital. It needs a voice, like HBO’s one-time slogan, ‘Making Water Cooler’. Broad-reaching FTAs who are after eyeballs require a deep level of commitment across the organisation to really buy into a brand promise, and they don’t tend to have the balls to stick with it – and who can blame the individual whose targets are eyeballs in 30 second blocks.