BY ALEX EUGENE
It may be business as usual on our tellies, but speculation continues to build around the financial woes of Channel 10.
The shocking announcement that the national broadcaster would no longer be backed by billionaires Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon came just over a week ago.
With whopping debts and a reported loss of almost $250million in just the last six months, the company was forced into administration and is now in the hands of Mark Korda, Jennifer Nettleton and Jarrod Villani of KordaMentha.
Ten’s demise prompted media groups to rally together and put pressure on the government to loosen media ownership laws, and reduce licence fees.
Though the changes would make the prospect of an investor rescuing Channel 10 better, in the long run the effect would benefit monopoly moguls like Rupert Murdoch, shrinking even further the tiny diversity that Australian media currently has.
The company remained tight lipped about the controversy, putting out an evasive statement thanking staff and management for a job well done in the “challenging times.”
There was no mention of the predicament on the Channel 10 Twitter feed. In fact, they seemed to be attempting to put their best foot forward, triumphantly tweeting on the day of the announcement that “Masterchef Australia had 1.25 Million viewers nationally last night. #1 program in 25 to 54s, #1 in its timeslot, up 6% on 2017 Series Average.”
The message has been re-tweeted multiple times since then, along with an ostentatious “Have you been paying attention?”
Masterchef is the network’s best performing product.The reality cooking show is a saving grace amongst just about everything else which has flopped, including Ten’s copycat Breakfast show that was axed after failing to compete with Nine or Seven’s Today andSunrise.
Speculators have been murmuring for years about the broadcaster’s downward spiral since the end of the 90s, after reigning supreme during its Simpsons andVideo Hits heyday.
Ten had cemented itself through that period as the favourite choice for teenage viewers, but with Gen Y now too old for youth programming, and their children turning to the internet for instant gratification, free to air television is set to be the next casualty of the changing media landscape.
Dr Michael Richardson, of the UNSW School of Arts & Media said broadcasters would have to start looking at other options if they wanted to stay alive, amid the ruthless competition of streaming services.
“Streaming places broadcast networks in a double bind. They face competition from new players like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon who are eating into their audience. At the same time, competing with streaming services by having their own digital platforms risks cannibalising those already shrinking audiences,” he said.
“Advertisers simply won’t pay the same rates for digital delivery, nor can as many ads be screened in streamed content. And if all that’s not tough enough, TV viewing culture is changing. Young people want content on demand and mobile devices are transforming where and how people watch.”
Neil Shoebridge, the company’s Director of Corporate and Public Communications did not respond to City Hub’s requests for comment.
Nonetheless, it hasn’t stopped the Twitterverse and social media users from weighing in on the hot debate.
“We removed our aerial awhile ago and haven’t looked back. iView can take care of any ABC that I care for. Netflix, Google and good old physical media on occasion at our place,” said one user.
“The Simpsons everyday at 6pm was a lot of ppls [sic] thing. Bring Simpsons back, then I’d continue watching ten,” said another.
“The never ending MASH reruns were the only good thing about this channel,” read the comment of another nostalgic viewer.
But others used the opportunity to lash out at Muslims, claiming Waleed Aly and The Project’s “left wing propaganda” was to blame for dwindling audiences.
“Persisting with obnoxious left wing presenters insulting their audience and those who don’t even have the respect to have a shave like Wallied Aly [sic] killed Ch10 not the ABC,” said one put-out viewer.
“Put Andrew Bolt on at 6pm followed by Mark Latham at 6.30pm, problem solved,” crowed another.
Dr Elaine Jing Zhao of the UNSW Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences said the public debate showed that viewers cared about the quality of their content as much as the cost.
“Television stations are facing significant challenges in today’s on-demand digital content consumption environment. Streaming platforms are vigorously producing or commissioning premium-quality content,” she said.
“In this format-driven era of television, how to enhance content innovation to audience taste becomes a key question.”
But it seems Channel 10 will look to sports fans as their saviour, having recently secured a deal to screen Hyundai A-League football and Caltex Socceroos matches in prime time television slots.
Though part of the company’s crash has been due to enormous fees for American shows, there has been no hint that more locally-made content is on the agenda.
The Hyundai football season will be simulcast on Ten and FOX sports on Saturdays at 7.30pm.
Peter Tonagh, the CEO of Foxtel sits on the board for Channel 10 and partook in the joint decision to put the broadcaster into administration.