Why losing the Melbourne Cup is actually a good thing for Ten

Another contender in the dramatic race to obtain the Melbourne Cup’s broadcast deal dropped out last week, as Network 10 declared that it will no longer bid for rights to air the event after this year’s carnival. 

This makes yet another dent in Ten’s sports lineup, which despite having codes like the Australian Grand Prix and the A-Leagues, has a glaring absence of top-tier competitions.

Not to mention that the network now has the commercial focus of global owner Paramount as a priority, evidenced by moves such as the rebrand of 10 Shake to the Nickelodeon channel

Ten’s 2022 Melbourne Cup carnival team

However, while losing the Melbourne Cup may seem like another piece of bad news for Ten, media buyers have delivered a vote of confidence in the network’s decision.  

Craig Cooper, chief investment officer at Carat, said while there is no denying that the departure of the carnival will weaken Ten’s sport platform, a better question is what Ten will now do with the $100 million freed up as a result.

The number was reportedly the amount Ten offered for a five-year broadcast deal with Victoria Racing Club (VRC), beginning in 2019. 

Cooper said Ten is likely to have had a revenue loss because of its decision to pay top-dollar back then and the two to three years of Covid impacts on audiences that closely followed. 

Lucy Formosa Morgan, managing director of Magna Australia, echoed the sentiment around Covid and said Ten hasn’t had a smooth time of being able to monetise the Cup to its fullest potential over the past five years. 

“Couple that with Racing NSW and Seven scheduling and broadcasting race days up against both Derby Day and Cup Day, there has been an additional hit to audience numbers,” she said. 

This refers to The Big Dance, a race held annually on Melbourne Cup day at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse. Seven currently broadcasts Australian thoroughbred racing every Saturday of the year, under a deal with Racing Victoria, Racing NSW, Racing Queensland, and Racing SA that runs to 2027. 

Nevertheless, one elephant in the room that all buyers were conscious of is the heavy involvement of the gambling company Tabcorp and what it potentially means for other brands that want to get involved. 

The wagering giant has expressed interest in securing the domestic broadcast rights of the Cup in May, on top of the international broadcast rights it already owned. 

In Tabcorp’s quest to couple up with a free-to-air network so that it could meet the requirements of Australia’s anti-siphoning law, Ten was supposedly not the top pick due to “inferior ratings”, according to The Age/The Sydney Morning Herald

However, it is understood Ten was also growing wary about being associated too closely with Tabcorp, partially because of looming regulatory measures from the government on wagering advertising, but also because Tabcorp intends to control aspects of broadcast production and commentary. 

Justin Arlt, Melbourne’s head of partnerships at Initiative, said marketers are more conscious now than ever about the carnival’s brand safety concerns, both from an animal welfare standpoint and a gambling perspective. 

“No one is arguing that Ten isn’t playing third string to Seven and Nine when it comes to sporting credentials – Melbourne Cup or not, this wasn’t going to change,” he said. 

Adrian Roeling, managing partner of Hatched Media, agreed, saying: “With Seven and Nine’s more comprehensive sports portfolio, they are better positioned to commercialise the Cup, because the carnival on its own doesn’t provide as much scope to commercialise across annual deals or other environments.”

Arlt and Roeling said if Ten was to take the additional cash and invest in its existing lineup, including the A-League or other growth areas such as women’s sports, there’s an opportunity for deeper content commercialisation across the network. 

“Because they [Ten] typically do skew a bit younger, there will always be the opportunity to address the challenge of engaging with younger audiences with them,” Roeling said. 

Arlt added: “Even without the Cup, advertisers and agencies alike will continue to look to Ten for its ability to deliver audiences across linear and digital environments.” 


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