EXCLUSIVE | Is 10’s executive team facing the axe?

10 CEO Paul Anderson, Content officer Beverley McGarvey & President and CEO of CBS Studios International Armando Nunez

PHOTO: 10

On 31 October 2018, the night of the annual ‘upfronts’ event, Channel 10’s executive team were riding high. They had come through the uncertainty of administration and now had a powerful media company behind them as they delivered their programming plans to a packed house at Darling Harbour.

Advertisers were impressed with the presentation, media writers were full of praise and staff in attendance were buoyant.

CEO Paul Anderson, Chief Content officer Beverley McGarvey and executives had already cashed in, receiving mega bonuses in December 2017 for cost-cutting efforts realised through the ‘Blue Horizon’ initiative. As part of an incentive scheme senior staff focused on a range of initiatives including streamlining the business, cutting back resources and making staff work harder. Bonuses ranged from $30k to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars.

Then around March 2018 those executives received another mega bonus due to the network returning a paper profit. The reduction of licence fees (paid for by the taxpayer), the loss of the Big Bash League and the termination of the output deal with FOX saw a major improvement in 10’s bottom line.  

Now with hefty bonuses and money to burn on programming, 10’s executive team set its sights on commissioning a new slate of programming. 2018 was always going to be a work in progress with the payoff coming in 2019.

But that payoff hasn’t come and the pressure is on as each major launch fails to resonate with audiences.

Despite a promising start with I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, 10’s audience share fell dramatically when Nine’s Married at First Sight and Seven’s My Kitchen Rules returned to our screens. 

ABC v 10 PRIMARY CHANNEL WEEKLY SHARES 2019

In the first 7 weeks of 2019 the ABC’s main channel has beaten 10 five weeks to two.  In network shares 10 fares slightly better but the ABC still comes out in front four weeks to three. Currently 10 is now the fourth placed free-to-air network and week 8 is already proving to be a major disaster (more on that later).

ABC v 10 network weekly shares 2019

Since CBS acquired Network 10 by accident (it was not a planned takeover), CBS executives have been treated to multiple powerpoint presentations on how executives plan to turn the ship around. And by all accounts CBS lapped it up.

Last April, CBS Studios International president Armando Nunez told the AFR he backed 10’s strategy to produce more domestic shows as part of a long-term commitment to lift the network.

“We have all the confidence in the world in Paul (Anderson, CEO) and his management team, they’re a terrific team” he said

In April 2018 Nunez expressed confidence in 10’s management team

PHOTO: Mediaweek

That confidence has carried the executive team all the way to 2019 despite many expecting a leadership change. But that confidence appears to be coming to an end with speculation around the network Paul Anderson and Beverley McGarvey are on borrowed time.  

Insiders tell TV Backbox whispers are getting louder the two leaders will be gone by the end of the year, but it’s unclear if this is just wishful thinking by disillusioned staff or if CBS really are losing confidence in 10 management. 

The executive team know there is a morale problem within the network, made obvious by the number of leaks to media, including this website. The problem is so bad CEO Paul Anderson sent a threatening e-mail to staff warning them against leaking any further.

“We have a talented team...

We market and promote our shows and cast in order to get the biggest audience we can.

Some of this stuff is kept secret... for good reason. If we do establish ‘the leak’ – and we are looking …hard – then there will be serious consequences.

So let’s keep our stuff to ourselves.”

Yet the leaks continue.

Morale is so low Beverley McGarvey has embarked on a whistle-stop tour, visiting markets outside the Sydney/Melbourne office she usually frequents. Local staff can’t remember the last time the Chief Programming Officer paid a visit to deliver a presentation in person (usually they only see her via video link from Sydney).

This year was supposed to be 10’s crowning glory and the executive team know they have to deliver on all of the promises they’ve made to their American owners - and so far they are failing miserably.  

Natalie Bassingthwaighte hosts Changing Rooms which launched with a dismal 204,000 viewers

PHOTO: 10

Already the network previously known for giving shows a chance has made multiple amendments to its schedule. When Changing Rooms launched with a dismal 204,000 viewers programmers reacted quickly and bumped the Wednesday/Thursday show to Friday/Saturday. That has set in motion a chain of events that has seen the schedule completely reworked.

More changes have been made after Tuesday night’s disastrous result where the network only managed an 8.1% share on its primary channel.

But the network only has itself to blame.  

Instead of commissioning new and exciting programs, executives have tried to play it safe by bringing back heritage brands. Despite claiming to be catering to an under 50 audience, the network is producing shows like Dancing With The Stars which skews old.  Unfortunately for those whose jobs are on the line, viewers are not watching and it’s causing major grief for all involved.

Dancing with the Stars is traditionally an older skewing show, which has failed to resonate with 10’s under 50 target audience

PHOTO: 10

Once upon a time 10’s execs used the excuse of not having the money to go big on programming, but that excuse no longer applies and now those executives are seeing the result of only employing ‘yes’ men who do not challenge the status quo. 

Money that could be used on programming is being used to hire middle-management teams and throw lavish parties. Just a couple of weeks ago all news presenters were flown in from around the country for a promo shoot. While there’s nothing too unusual about that, partners were also invited and premium accomodation was supplied at the Star Astral with most staying more than one night (I’ve never known partners to be flown in for a promo shoot in all my years at Seven and Nine). By all accounts everyone kicked up their heels into the early hours of the morning with tequila and espresso martinis the most popular order of the night.

But executives are now feeling the pressure, look no further than the frenzied scheduling changes happening daily. Once upon a time 10 was known as the place that would give programs the best opportunity to develop and grow an audience. Have You Been Paying Attention is a classic example of this. When it first launched it struggled but was given room to breathe and is now one of 10’s biggest shows but in today’s environment changes are being made to increase audience share at any cost, because programmers are failing to meet their KPI’s.

Another bonus is due around now, will those executives be cashing in after a terrible start to the ratings year and declining revenue? In the last 6 months of 2018 10’s share of the free to air TV advertising market slumped to just 22.3%, according to Mumbrella. Whichever way you look at it, 10 is in trouble… and if the rumours are to be believed, so are its bosses.

*Rob Mcknight is a former employee of Network 10

**Send your tips to rob@tvblackbox.com.au