Can Masterchef’s success help Ten cook the books?

Last night’s ratings win for Masterchef was a very important moment for Network Ten argues Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes.

It’s become something of a morning ritual to write a ratings report with news of a returning franchise showing dwindling audiences. So for Masterchef to not only win the night, but also boost its launch audience by 44 per cent, is deeply impressive.

Especially given the brutal competition from Seven and Nine, who both took a leaf out of Ten’s book by simulcast their new reality shows House Rules and Reno Rumble on their multichannels.

masterchef 2015 logoWhile Ten coined this trick last year for the launch of Family Feud and continued it with I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, they decided not to with Masterchef. Clearly it paid off with a rare audience share win.

Last night’s results might be taken as an indication simulcasting on multichannels doesn’t do much for these kind of shows – if someone doesn’t want to watch a reality show they will flick over to find an alternative and are likely to be annoyed at being served up exactly the same thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few streaming services saw a slight uptick in primetime because of this practice last night.


Masterchef’s audience is even more impressive when you consider the relative lack of lead-in the show had in terms of promotional exposure. Both Nine and Seven have been trouncing Ten in the ratings for weeks and plugging their shows hard in the process.

Both Nine and Seven also had much bigger audiences directly before the show – Home & Away had 883,000 metro viewers, and A Current Affair had 886,000 metro viewers. Ten had 653,000 for the 7pm segment of The Project.

Unsurprisingly Ten wasted no time sending out a circular trumpeting the show’s success last night. It was the message at bottom of that was most interesting: “Masterchef continues tonight…Contact your Ten sales rep today”.masterchef contact your sales rep

And therein lies the challenge. Sustaining the audience against what I’m sure will be an increasingly determined assault from its free-to-air rivals is one thing, but turning those impressive numbers into cold hard cash is another.

Ten’s half-year results last week did not contain a lot of great news – TV revenues were down on the year before, despite audiences being up. Most worryingly it admitted it was pushing the limits of a $200m loan it got from the Commonwealth Bank 18-months ago which was secured by shareholders including Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer.

TenIn that earnings report it stated “there is a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the group’s ability to continue as a going concern,” stressing it may need to take out another loan to tide it over until revenues pick up.

And that despite the slash and burn last year that happened in the news department and to its output deals with US studios as it looked to cut costs.

Couple that with dwindling TV audiences – it has been well documented prime time audiences this year are down 6 per cent on last year – and increased competition for eyeballs from things like video streaming services, things weren’t looking great for Ten.

On top of that you have to look at marketing strategies from some big brands. Just yesterday marketers from Bacardi and ANZ Bank said TV was playing a much smaller part in their thinking, and their spending, on new campaigns.

With the mooted investment by Foxtel still very much hanging in the balance, last night’s result could not have come at a better time for Ten.

As of midday the share price had risen 3 per cent, to 22.5c – a decent recovery after falling to 19.5c last Friday after the results announcement.

Inevitably the numbers will fall away from the launch as it settles into a regular season pattern, and as one swallow does not a summer make, one good audience result does not a recovery make in TV land.

But what it does do is give Ten’s sales team some confidence, something to go out to market with and sell to agencies.

What that will do is make that balance sheet a little bit healthier.



It also give Ten’s CEO Hamish McLennan a timely result to show to the NRL and AFL bosses the network can still draw decent audiences – as he looks to come through on his stated aim to secure a winter sport for the network. I’m assured there are banks out there who would secure loans on the back of those rights, so raising the capital might not be as hard as is mooted.

And should Foxtel become a shareholder it would be interesting to see which networks they are suddenly willing to put their considerable financial clout behind during those negotiations.

If nothing else last night’s result proves it’s not entirely a two-horse race on TV.

  • Alex Hayes is editor of Mumbrella

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