Australian public has ‘lost faith’ in Ten, claims former sales chief Mike Morrison

The Australian public has lost faith in Ten, and now faces its main competition from secondary channels while Seven and Nine enjoy a duopoly over the market, the man who was briefly the company’s chief sales officer has claimed.

Mike Morrison – whose short tenure lasted from January to June last year after he struggled to win over media agency executives – is now MD of ad agency Innocean. This week Ten said Morrison’s claims were incorrect and naive.

Morrison told Mumbrella: “There has been a shift in the TV industry in Australia, and now we see Seven and Nine with a duopoly position in the market.

“There came a point where the Australian public no longer trusted Ten, and Ten is now competing with subscription TV channels.

“Ten’s relationship with the Australian public has fundamentally shifted,” he added.

Ten had a poor year in the ratings, with its struggles triggered by the failure of Everybody Dance Now which it eventually axed. The network has been focusing on stabilising its audiences this year with a share of total free-to-air viewing ranging from 10% on a poor night to around 15%. However it performs better in its key advertising demographics of 16-39 and 18-49.

With media agencies keen to keep Seven and Nine honest, Ten’s current chief sales officer Barry O’Brien appears to be bringing in a greater share of advertising revenue than the network is achieving in audience share, although it is still struggling.

Secondary digital channels such as Go, Gem, 7Mate and 7Two tend to achieve shares of around 3-5%

Ten issued a statement to Mumbrella in response to Morrison’s comments. A spokesman said:

“Obviously, the views and opinions of a former Ten employee are not objective or up to date. It’s worth noting that Mike Morrison was only at Network Ten for five months, and he has not worked here for more than eight months.

“We don’t know the context in which Mike Morrison made his comments. But to say Ten has “lost the trust of the Australian public” is absolute nonsense.

“Yes, Ten had some unsuccessful programs last year. But we also had many successful programs, such as Offspring, Modern Family, Homeland, The Biggest Loser, MasterChef Australia, Ten News At Five, The Project, Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms and so on. Already this year we are seeing good results, particularly in our core target market of people 18 to 49, from programs such as Elementary, Africa, NCIS and the Sunday episodes of MasterChef: The Professionals – and the year has only just started.

“Eleven remains a hit among people aged under 40, and One remains a robust channel, particularly in its target market of men 25 to 54.

“Our focus this year is one delivering a consistent, stable program schedule, one that is absolutely based on the trust people have in the Ten brand.

“Our research shows Ten has absolutely not lost the trust of Australians, and the strong opening numbers for new shows such as Africa and Elementary prove that is the case. Consumers see Ten as a strong, youthful brand.

“As for Mike Morrison’s apparent comment about Ten now competing against the digital channels, that is rubbish. Even the most cursory glance at the broad ratings numbers proves that is absolutely incorrect and completely naïve.”

Last night, Ten suffered another blow, with Glee delivering one of the lowest network peak time audience of all time.

Morrison left Ten suddenly in June last year. He had been the first major hire of Ten CEO James Warburton, but his non-television experience – with Y&R Brands and Sapient Nitro – raised eyebrows.

Innocean has struggled to win business beyond founding clients Kia and Hyundai, but Morrison said he had his eye on “not big, but blue chip targets” to add to the client list.

“Of course we want to grow, but not at all costs,” he said. “I’ve been in a number of firms where the pressure to deliver results quickly is extreme.”

“We are taking a measured, ordered approached to growth. It has to be good for our staff and good for our culture,” he said.

Robin Hicks

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