Media buyers dissect Ten ViacomCBS’s upcoming content and ad propositions in 2022

Ten ViacomCBS was the third cab-off the rank for the 2022 TV networks upfronts, which saw its key tentpole primetime formats return to screens, while some formats were back after a break, others are getting a major shakeup. Here, Mumbrella speaks to a range of media buyers about whether the elaborate reveal of what’s in store meets the mark when it comes to their key focus - content and ad revenue.

The Ten ViacomCBS upfronts presentation opened respectfully with an Acknowledgement of Country, which was then immediately followed by an update on the company’s focus on social responsibility. It detailed projects relating to diversity, equality, inclusion, social justice and gave an outline of their Reconciliation Action Plan.

Spark Foundry’s national head of investment, Lucie Jansen says not only do these issues “resonate strongly” with Ten’s under-50s target audience, “they also have a firm hold in our broader industry where many agencies – though by no means all – are striving to make significant and rapid progress. So, this was of great interest to me, as I’m sure it was for others in the audience”.

“The presentation was heavily weighted to content as opposed to data and tech, and there was a clear strategy of balancing tried and tested programming with some new contenders, and a good balance of locally produced and imported content.”

Nunn Media’s MD, Chris Walton notes that the network took a completely different approach to their previous upfronts, and that the role of ‘tentpole content on the main channel’ was not even broached until the second half of the presentation.

“They used this presentation to present themselves as a multi-media, multi-geography media titan that yes, has a main terrestrial channel in Australia that shows stuff, but that this is about fourth or fifth on the list of what they want to talk about,” Walton says.

Much like Janson’s response, OMD Sydney’s head of trading, Marelle Salib says it was “brilliant” to see Rod Prosser open the presentation with the network’s commitment to how they intend to continue creating a better society through the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“These are important issues for our generation and generations to come. Australian media brands and advertisers can use their scale, reach and influence to drive change. For years, we’ve seen through Ten ViacomCBS’s casting and storylines a mirroring of the diverse Australian population and culture on-screen,” Salib says. “They shared their involvement and support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, as well their intention to reach net zero emissions as a network. No doubt there will be more to come on this and with many brands sharing a focus on sustainability, 2022 will see new partnerships and possibilities emerge in this space.”

Carat’s chief investment officer, Craig Cooper admits Ten’s strategy over the past few years has been very much centered around consistency.

“It has delivered in spades from both an audience and revenue POV. This year’s upfront has cemented this strategy again and it should deliver the sustainable growth they have been striving for,” Cooper notes.

PHD Australia, group investment director, Brittany Crowley adds that while Ten presented progressive and safe programming for advertisers with new and returning content which extends across their growing portfolio, holding the audience will be key.

“New programs; The Hunted, First Date and Would I Lie to You will appeal to their core audience demo 18-39, but ensuring they can hold the audience will be key,” Crowley says. “Much of the linear content pipeline features returning favourites and whilst successful in their own right, strong competitor program line-ups and competing timeslots will pose a challenge for the network to grow audience in the fickle world of streaming and content consumption habits. Taking into account global dominance, the full raft of new, exclusive international and local content across 10 Play and Paramount+ , there is a rich amount of content and opportunity for brands to tap into, however ‘sport’ was more event based.”

Mindshare’s investment lead – Melbourne, Lisa Fahey, says the common theme this year, across all FTA network upfronts is standing by tried and tested content, however, doing so could see audience fatigue with some returning franchises whilst maintaining audiences with programs such as Have You Been Paying Attention and Gogglebox.

“Evolving the MasterChef format to re-introduce previous contests with Foodies v Favourites is a good strategy and should draw back audiences that enjoyed the 2020 Back to Win season. New programs such as Hunted, look set to provide audiences with a fast-paced reality experience and the adaption of the UK program Would I Lie To You will introduce audiences to new and refreshing formats,” Fahey admits.

Pearman Media’s Steve Allen, has a very different view: “There was no strategy. Ten have not said how they will re-capture lost audience. What I was looking for was the answer of how to re-capture the lost audience of this year.

“Their competitors are going to have the same key franchises, and in the case of Seven, more, and they are resting on existing franchises that have not performed well.”

“They are very engaging for advertisers, they boost, brand, they boost profitability, but we are not changing anything.

Meanwhile, Initiative, national head of partnerships, Simon Reid notes that given the state of the market, at best, the content strategy will “maintain their audience, rather than grow it.”

“What I did like was that the audience is five-years younger, we know that consumption habits for them lends itself to other platforms, one being streaming in particular – I think they have a really clear strategy around their streaming content strategy – so launching A-League and shows on Paramount+ is a clear strategy.”

Reid adds: “That is where they need to grow for their own revenue base. I don’t think their linear will grow, but it should not lose too much. Those tentpole shows they have loyal bases, so when advertisers get on board, we know it is going to rate consistently.

“I don’t think they have been overly ambitious with roll-out. It is solid. Very similar to this year. They have a clear strategy to grow their online base. Reality programming draws large audiences, when you think about live viewing, it is sport and reality. A lot of the scripted shows can be viewed later.”

The buyers also weigh in on the fact that Ten had a strong focus on local scripted content.

“There is no doubt that Paramount+ is a superior streaming platform and enticing for consumers with both local and global content, Carat’s Cooper admits. “However, it remains unclear as to how advertisers can leverage or integrate within this ecosystem.”

PHD’s Crowley adds: “Ten ViacomCBS/Paramount+ locally scripted content is a key differentiator. Local Australian content has seen positive take-up when it resonates with the viewer and brands like to engage with local content too, Ten ViacomCBS has proven this with many of their locally produced shows over the years. With so much quality content to choose from, the challenge is around holding audiences and ensuring the content is relevant and refreshing.”

OMD’s Salib says a good portion of the upfront was dedicated to Paramount +, where they also announced a plethora of locally scripted, exclusive content across many genres and of course, the much-awaited partnership with A-Leagues.

“Currently, advertiser opportunities across this platform are extremely limited. Based on the time spent sprucing this platform, I envisage there is more to come with the potential of brand integration, brand funded content and potentially an ad-lite model further commercialising the platform and providing brands with reach extension across more screens,” Salib says.

Mindshare’s Fahey adds: “It is important that global platforms such as Paramount+ have locally curated content that can provide a point of difference and draw subscribers. The success of original scripted content comes down to the quality of the story telling, production and talent. They have landed what looks like an entertaining and compelling slate to attract and maintain subscribers. In particular The King of the X and The Bridge and should attract subscribers to the Paramount+ platform.”


Moving on to sports, the buyers comment on the network’s upcoming sport slate for 2022. During the presentation, it was announced that ViacomCBS and The Football Association (The FA) entered a media rights agreement which will see the Emirates FA Cup matches broadcast live across Ten and Paramount+.

Allen also praised the network’s new sport rights as the “one bright spot” in the line-up. “The A-League needed a good FTA partner. All sports need mass audience. Ten will be able to build a soccer audience, but it will not turn their audience figures around,” he said.

“When you look at the revenue base of Ten group, the overwhelming revenue base is Network Ten – these other bits and pieces are other bits and pieces. The engine room is Ten. It needs significant repair work.”

Spark Foundry’s Jansen says: “Key to the content developments for 2022 is the addition of more football, notably the FA Cup to their sports portfolio, which will add to the existing rights they have for Lexus Melbourne Cup and Grand Prix.”

She adds: “The strategy to include multiple tournaments in the new rights also lends itself to a slightly younger demographic than its rival codes. Much of this football will be broadcast on Paramount+, but the opportunity for integration and commercial space on this platform (which is non-commercial for general entertainment) within sport is a unique one, and something that I think will appeal to relevant advertisers.

Ten ViacomCBS, executive vice president and chief content officer, Beverley McGarvey admitted during the presentation that they need to “educate” audiences on where the content is across their platforms.

Nunn’s Walton’s says: “Educating the audiences is a nice way of saying they need to do their damnedest to get people watching their network when they don’t have the promotional platform of a large national sport to do it with. That is a bloody hard job and I would say they haven’t worked out a way of doing this yet.”

He adds: “For sure, I’m a Celebrity is successful, well known and starting very early in the year (and well done on a 3 Jan start date – a bold move), and no doubt they will leverage this show for promotional purposes, but it is just such a big challenge to do vs cricket and tennis (and then later AFL and NRL), none of which they have.”

OMD Sydney’s Salib notes: “A-Leagues and the FA Cup are a great addition to Ten ViacomCBS’s growing stable of sport content and will help broaden audiences across their platforms. A-Leagues fits perfectly with Ten’s focus on creating a better society through diversity, equality and inclusion. I anticipate this will be one proof point of their strategy in this space, as well as continuing to lead in mirroring Australia’s diverse population on-screen.”

Carat’s Cooper says football was a much needed piece of the puzzle for Ten to ensure they maintain a sporting destination.

“We need only remember what Ten did for Big Bash and if they use that as a blueprint, then we could see soccer reach significant mainstream audiences. It will be interesting to see how Paramount+ can support incremental audiences, and if this is a draw card for subscriptions.”

Initiative’s Reid agrees with Cooper. “You need sport as a network. I don’t think that it [A-Leagues] has the clout or power that other codes do. I think the best introduction was the addition of the Matildas, that really resonates with our advertisers.They need to market the hell out of it – they need to put some marketing dollars behind it,” Reid says.

PHD’s Crowley adds that it’s a positive move seeing the network’s football offering. “Whilst their sport offering has taken somewhat of a back seat over recent years, it was positive to see their football offering further strengthened with the addition of the FA cup.

“Whilst no contender to its competitors in terms of a ‘core’ and ‘always on’ sporting strategy, Football, Australian GP, NBL, Melbourne Cup carnival it does provide a more steady offering to complement its broader programming line-up and cater to a different audience. Whilst the sport offering is clear to the industry it may not be clear to the viewers. Ten ViacomCBS will need a big marketing push to drive viewers to the content and ensure they are aware of what/when/where/how to access or it will be a lost opportunity.”

As for the network’s 10 Play sitting at 4.4 million registered users – significantly lower than Nine and Seven, we ask the buyers whether that is an area of concern.

Nunn’s Walton admits: “Yes, it is significantly lower than Nine and Seven so they will be wanting to differentiate themselves more in the future than they did in this upfront and tackle the quality v quantity angle, although more evidence will be needed on what that quality is.”

PHD’s Crowley says: “The growth across 10 Play is positive regardless of its current market position and they’ve done well in this space. The benefit of 10 Play is the exclusive younger audience and content, and it delivers less duplication than competitors. For the right audience, Paramount+ and 10 Play provides a competitive online viewing experience for consumers and advertisers. We expect the users to increase with the advancements to the app.

OMD’s Salib notes that Paramount+ will increase Ten ViacomCBS’s access to data across their registered users.

“It is safe to say Paramount + will see them increase their current 4.4 million user base by at least 50%. Regardless of numbers, Ten ViacomCBS continues to innovate with premium ad formats across 10 Play, designed to engage the growing audience. Two new formats were announced: 1. Dynamic e-trading placement, designed to allow brands to showcase multiple products and alter creative in real-time, beneficial for retail clients and not too dissimilar from e-commerce products launching across other broadcasters in 2022 and available across other digital publishers. 2. Happy Hour, is the first of its kind allowing brands to essentially sponsor and provide viewers with an ad-free hour, cut-through and positive sentiment back to the brand affiliated.”

Meanwhile, outside of programming, Ten ViacomCBS launched two new ad products – Dynamic e-Trading Placement and Happy Hour – which are set to enhance 10 Play in 2022.

In this new ad-format, Dynamic e-Trade Placements offers a real-time ad option for retail clients to showcase their inventory and products, so  advertisers can  dynamically change pricing, images and offers, every five minutes.

“Ten announced some new opportunities for advertisers in various forms. ‘Dynamic e-trade placements’ are set to launch shortly and reflect the changes we have seen in consumer behaviour since the first lockdown, as well as Ten’s growing focus on ecommerce,” Spark Foundry’s Jansen says.

“They also announced “Happy Hour”, an opportunity for advertisers to ‘own’ an hour of broadcast, uncluttered by other advertisers and a likely win for viewers alike. Category depending, this could be an attractive proposition for some clients, depending on the level of premium attached, which we understand will be brought to market in the coming weeks.”

Pearman Media’s Allen says the Happy Hour option is a good idea for advertisers who can’t afford a sponsorship of one of the major franchises.

Initiative’s Reid says: “I think any time you get to have a break from ads, audiences like it, I think advertisers will like it as well, it comes down to what is the cost rate, what is the premium, which was not disclosed.”

Carat’s Cooper agrees: “I love the concept of the Happy Hour, and think that this is a really clever way to create impact for clients – particularly for a product launch or perfectly aligned content environment. There will be interest in this tactic, dependent on premium and if this satisfies a ROI.”

Nunn’s Walton adds: “I liked this proposition and it’s certainly one that is worth a go, assuming it is promoted robustly and gets the viewers in. What sort of premium would I expect? Compared to what? If the sales pitch is as savvy as the idea then they will remove price as a barrier to getting on board with this at the start.”

While PHD’s Crowley says that giving back to consumers will always resonate well.

“It’s human nature and there is a challenge in advertising to find ‘clean space’ and own this. The concept is well received but in the current climate where ROI and business outcomes are critical, this would need to deliver some pretty solid results to justify any premium and measure of success metrics will be key,” she says.

The presentation also touched on “Promote Aus” which offers clients access to the vast audiences across the US. Jansen says this demonstrates the network’ advantage advantage in being owned by US powerhouse CBS. “Although, details of how this works in practice were, at this time, limited.”

Meanwhile, the buyers then weigh in on LiveRamp’s Safe Haven product, and whether or not they’re currently using it, and if so, how effective it is for integrated targeting.

OMD’s Salib says: “In 2021, Ten ViacomCBS have made progress in securing data partnerships with Fly Buys, Equifax and LiveRamp to grow their people-based data offering and compete in market with other broadcasters. The utilisation of LiveRamp’s SafeHaven product will allow advertisers, without the need to have costly technologies to gain greater insight into their current and potential customers as well as activate across the 10 Play platform, to target these audiences.”

She adds: “The offering is strong, Ten ViacomCBS would benefit from being as vocal in market as their competitors and demonstrating the data levers they can pull to deliver business outcomes that are supported by measurement.”

PHD’s Crowley explains: “The possibility of marrying clients 1st party data with Ten ViacomCBS’s growing pool of audience data is obviously welcomed and LiveRamp is a platform that other providers are also utilising. Privacy-safe data usage is extremely important to advertisers and brands – access to solutions such as Safe Haven provide advertisers the opportunity for secure data partnerships, in a market which continues to evolve.”


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