Ten’s Rod Prosser chats VOZ, being the under 50s network, and integrating football into reality TV

Ten and parent company ViacomCBS have made a huge commitment to football, with recent deals to show top Australian domestic and international competitions. Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson spoke with chief sales officer Rod Prosser about how football fits into Ten's overall strategy as the 'under 50s' network, as well as the impact VOZ will have on how networks and advertisers think about TV ratings.

Off the back of big broadcast rights deals with various football competitions, Ten is hoping for a sizable second half of 2021, led by brands like The Bachelorette, as it continues to push its message to advertisers that it is the network for under 50s.

It’s an argument Ten has been making heavily in recent times, much to the ire of the competition who argue the figures indicate differently. Football and programming like The Bachelorette will be key to seeing how Ten carries this argument throughout the year.

Chief sales officer Rod Prosser says that programming like The Bachelorette, with its upcoming season featuring Brooke Blurton to be the first with both men and women in the mansion, shows Ten’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity and inclusion is a pillar of our business. We have a number of policies and diversity is one of them. It’s our job as a broadcaster to represent all of Australia so that’ll continue,” he tells Mumbrella.

“Hopefully we get to a point where everyone is doing that and all Australians are represented on the television screen.”

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The current season of The Bachelor has failed to gather meaningful linear ratings, with the lowest launch in franchise history, but with the Olympics out of the way and a fresh take on the format, Prosser has high hopes for The Bachelorette.

“We always expect big things from our Bachelor franchises. Brooke Blurton is known to viewers, and when there’s a known bachelorette, there’s always a lot of interest. It’ll be a first for us having both guys and girls in the mansion.

“In terms of advertisers we’ve had a lot of interest from brands and advertisers, and it’s selling really well. You’ll see all that wonderful integration as it goes to air.”

Ten and parent company ViacomCBS recently struck agreements with the Australian Professional League (APL) to broadcast Australia’s domestic football competitions, the A-League and W-League, across its free to air channels and also forthcoming streaming service Paramount+.

That agreement was swiftly followed by a deal with Football Australia to broadcast Australian national team matches, a clear signal of intent from Ten in its commitment to football, which largely sat behind Foxtel’s paywall in recent years.

Prosser tells Mumbrella it was a great opportunity, and that being able to broadcast a range of football competitions across its various platforms gives Ten ViacomCBS significantly flexibility in terms of what it can offer advertisers.

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“The football for us, both with the APL and Football Australia, was a wonderful offering in terms of a couple of elements. One, having all the rights across our own platforms is really interesting, and as we look at rights in the future,” he says.

“I think that model works not only from a scheduling point of view, because it gives us a lot of flexibility to schedule across our various platforms, but also from a monetisation point of view, because we then become the sole seller in market for those assets and for that content. Then we can have really different conversations with our clients and our partners.”

Football remains one of the most participated team sports in Australia, but that hasn’t ever really translated into crowds and television viewership. Prosser says Ten is aiming to change that.

“There are so many brand alignments with our business. The audience, and player profile fits with our viewer profile. It was the right shift, and a really big opportunity. We want to give it all the attention we can and amplify it as far and wide as we can.

“We saw a big opportunity. With the right attention and right amplification we can see the potential for growth for the sport, because participation to viewership hasn’t been running on a parallel. We want to put a stake in the ground and give it all the attention it deserves.

“You’ll see games on network Ten and and across 10Play, offering huge reach. All the games going onto Paramount+… It would suggest we are going to bring in a much bigger audience.”

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Since Ten announced its deal with the APL, the network has already begun to integrate football across the network. We’ve seen Ten’s news programming break A-League news, and players appear on shows including The Project and comedy panel show Have You Been Paying Attention?

Former footballer and current Fox Sports commentator Archie Thomson will appear on Celebrity MasterChef too, and though Ten has yet to announce its football presenter talent, it would be a good bet that Thomson could be part of it.

Prosser says we could even see that integration ramp up when the A-League and W-League return later in the year, and teases we could see some crossover with Ten’s reality TV shows.

“We call it an all-business approach. Everyone across our entire business, Ten ViacomCBS, is engaged with the sport.

“You may see integration across a lot of our show… we’ve done that with a lot of our sports like the Spring Carnival, so you’ll see more and more of that. There’s some obvious integration that may happen with some of our reality shows.

“We’ll try and weave it into as many shows and as much content as possible.”

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Ten announced this week the appointment of Nick Bower to a new position of sport sales director for ViacomCBS.

“[Bower’s] background and pedigree in sport across numerous businesses and platforms is second to none. He’s a real standout,” Prosser says. “He’s got a wonderful combination of experience, but really importantly knows sport products. He is coming back from Singapore but has great connections in the Australian market.

“His role primarily will be really focussed on our football content, across all our platforms, and really the monetsation of that content.”

The television industry officially launched its official VOZ measurement system last week, with the first reports becoming available taking into account viewers across both linear and BVOD television.

Prosser says that VOZ will ultimately change things significantly, bringing a bit of “big picture” thinking in how we think about ratings.

“In terms of VOZ, it is critical to our future success because it actually tells the whole picture. We’re obviously growing our on-demand services with 10Play. Having a ratings picture that is one currency across all platforms, particularly linear and BVOD, is critical. Look, the overnight ratings are still imperative to our business. But the full picture is becoming even more important.

“I don’t think you’ll talk to anyone in the industry that’s not buoyed by the release of VOZ, and I think that extends to the agency folks.”

Whether you measure with VOZ or not, Prosser says Ten is the undisputed network for under 50s. “It’s a fact. It doesn’t matter the way you slice it, we have a higher percentage of under 50s. It doesn’t matter if you look at VOZ or look at the overnights.

“So for advertisers, there’s less wastage and you can be more targeted. In a world where there’s hyper-targeting… from our point of view, it’s really clear: we’ve got a younger median audience.”


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