‘It’s rather flattering’: Why Ten isn’t worried about James Warburton’s play for younger audiences

During Seven’s results reporting, when new CEO James Warburton had been in the role for just five days, he said it was clear that Seven’s ageing audience demographic wasn’t conducive to the network’s success. Warburton told Mumbrella Seven relies on “ageing warhorses” in its programming and has “skewed too old”.

To many, that sounded like he might be coming for Ten, which has positioned itself as the under 50s network and places its primary focus on the 16-39 key advertising demographic. But, Ten isn’t concerned that Seven may be coming for its young audiences.

“From my perspective, it’s rather flattering and suggests that the buyers and advertisers should be taking more notice in the under 50’s network,” Ten’s chief sales officer Rod Prosser told Mumbrella.

Prosser thinks Seven’s play for younger audiences is ‘flattering’

Ten CEO Paul Anderson agreed, saying that since Ten has “leant in” to becoming the under 50’s network, it’s shown great success in those younger demographics, to the point where many of the media headlines now draw focus to Ten’s power in them.

“What I would say is it’s very easy to say you’re going to attract younger audiences, but you actually have to come up with formats and shows that are attractive to younger audiences,” said Anderson.

“One could argue that that’s exactly what Seven has been trying to do for the last three or four years, and a lot of that programming hasn’t resonated with the younger audience.”

Anderson is confident in Ten’s success in the key advertising demographics

But alongside Ten’s demo success, there was one show that didn’t resonate for them either. Saturday Night Rove was cancelled earlier this month after just two episodes. The program, which was picked up from Pilot Week the year prior, bowed out with a dismal 138,000 metro viewers and has left a hole in Ten’s already weak Saturday nights. The network dipped to just a 4.8% audience share last Saturday and, without any Saturday sports on the cards, it’s hard to see how it can recover.

“We’re the first to acknowledge that Saturday nights are just a very difficult night and no-one is more disappointed that Rove didn’t work than we are,” said Anderson.

“We do have various plans, we had hoped Rove would be part of that, he’s been part of our network for a long time, but it’s hard and I think the environment we all operate in is hard and Saturday night is more difficult and we do need to be different given the sport that’s on the other channels.”

Ten has secured its position for the latter half of 2019. Australian Survivor and The Bachelor Australia are wrapping up soon, both of which have done well in ratings and demos for the network, The Bachelorette Australia with ex-Goggleboxer Angie Kent in the titular position is still to come, as is The Masked Singer which Ten has thrown all its efforts behind, and The Amazing Race.

Will audiences love Angie Kent as the next Bachelorette?

Plus there’s the $25m Melbourne Cup, the Rugby World Cup and consumers are still yet to see Trial By Kyle which also got the green light from 2018’s Pilot Week.

Anderson and Prosser are both hoping a strong end to the year will give Ten the drive it needs to hit the market strong in 2020. Prosser said the commitments Ten has made to advertisers over the past few months have all been fulfilled and the network is ready to walk into negotiations for the next spots with a solid backing.

Prosser’s sales team has been undergoing the process of moving in-house since the dissolution of the joint venture with MCN, now Foxtel Media, which saw Ten make the decision under CBS to cease outsourcing its commercial arm. Prosser and Anderson promise there will be plenty of sales-related announcements at the network’s upcoming upfronts, but Prosser can say Ten is now operating with a full in-house team, with all the capabilities other networks have, and with a trading platform that is about to have a very large announcement dropped around it.

The challenge of the process has been going back out into market and having those discussions again with agencies and clients now that Ten is doing everything in-house, but Prosser said they’re pleased with where they are after nine months.

The Masked Singer will land on September 23

Another challenge the sales team has faced is Ten’s different programming. The Masked Singer is being toted quite literally as something that hasn’t been seen in this market before, Pilot Week is a fairly unusual offering, and The Amazing Race hasn’t been in Australia for years.

“There’s no question that there’s a certain amount of risk when you buy a new format. So our job is to really educate [agencies]. The upside on something like Masked Singer is it’s a new format to this country, but it’s a format that’s gone around the globe and been very successful. So buyers have had a huge amount of curiosity around that particular format,” said Prosser.

“It’s about being really smart in how we integrate those brands into the show and we’ve got some partnerships which will announce close to launch of those shows.”

In the lead up to upfronts there’s a lot of teasing from the networks about what will be announced. Anderson and Prosser promise plenty of sales-related announcements, the slate for Q1 of 2020, and the reveal of which formats will make the cut into next year. But the biggest programming question is will the new Masterchef hosts be revealed after George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan parted ways with the network this year?

The long-time Masterchef judges parted ways with Ten this year

“The plan is to announce them on the 10th of October [Ten’s upfronts],” said Anderson.

“It’s taken some time to go through the process and do the chemistry testing and all that, but October 10 is the plan.”

“We’ve just completed our host and renewal conversations with all our partners, we’ve got a record number of partners this year, and of course the first question was about the new hosts, but we’ve been able to refresh the show and the partners get it. The show has always been about the people and the food,” said Prosser.


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