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Can Ten be great again? Broadcaster at crossroads amid murky future

Ten faces troubled times – prompting speculation it may be curtains for the network.

Ten faces troubled times – prompting speculation it may be curtains for the network. Photo: AAP

In early May, the Ten Network confirmed its two big-budget reality TV shows, The Masked Singer and The Bachelor, were being “rested”.

Around the same time, there were questions about how viewers relying on the network’s joint ventures with regional TV stations in northern Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia would continue to watch popular shows like MasterChef Australia and I’m A Celebrity … Get me out of Here!.

Blogging site TV Blackbox revealed Ten’s rating share last year was its worst since OzTam ratings began in 2001 – it came in at No.4 behind Seven, Nine and the national broadcaster, the ABC.

And, frustratingly for Australia’s huge Matildas fanbase, Football Australia announced this week that fans would be able to watch the team’s July 13 match against Canada only via broadcast partner 10 Paramount (subscriptions to Paramount+ required). The Matildas’ last pre-Olympics match won’t be on free-to-air.

Queensland University of Technology Professor Anna Potter, who is part of the Transforming Media Industries research program, said the days of three FTA networks in Australia appeared to be numbered.

“There’s a big question about whether Australia can support three [commercial] television broadcasters – and I’m not sure we can,” she told The New Daily.

Colleague Professor Amanda Lotz predicted just two by the end of the decade.

“It’s just math. We’re now in a death spiral. And eventually, it might be that we just have one,” she earlier told news.com.au

‘We are used to speculation’

Contacting Ten to discuss the concerns, The New Daily was referred to a Paramount Australia statement from May, saying it was “confident” of its position in the market.

“As a member of a global business, we are used to speculation about our company, but Paramount Australia is a strong diversified media and entertainment business spanning linear free-to-air TV, multichannels, FAST channels, BVOD with 10 Play, SVOD with Paramount+ as well as consumer products, branded content, [and] live events,” it said.

“On free-to-air, our content slate has had strong results with Ten securing four of the top 10 shows of the year … with Australian Survivor, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, Gogglebox and MasterChef Australia.

A spokesperson said Paramount+ remained the “fastest growing streaming service in the country since launching more than two years ago”.

And overnight, a potential lifeline … or more uncertainty?

After months of negotiations, Paramount Global (Ten’s parent company) struck a deal to merge with Skydance Media, with the transition expected to close in the first half of 2025.

Mediaweek reported that after talks briefly fell apart in June, other prospective bidders for National Amusements (Paramount’s parent company) emerged. They included independent Hollywood producer Steven Paul, Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman, who is backed by private equity firm Bain Capital, and InterActiveCorp chair Barry Diller.

In April, it reported that there was no detail about the likely future of Ten if a merger went ahead.

“Some think whoever the new Paramount owner turns out to be, they will be mainly interested in the studio business, the US CBS network, and the US cable channels,” wrote publisher and long-time media commentator James Manning.

“Other assets might be sold off.

“Those could include the Paramount+ streaming business and the free streaming business Pluto TV in the US.

“International assets to be sold off could include Australia’s Network Ten and UK’s Channel Five,” Manning said, adding that the most likely buyer of Ten was a private equity firm enticed by a “bargain buy”.

Potter agreed.

“My feeling is that it’s probably not an asset worth holding,” she said.

TND has contacted Free TV Australia, the peak industry body that represents commercial broadcasters.

olivia-newton-john

Olivia Newton-John and Pat Carroll were Ten regulars back in the day. Photo: Getty

‘Very special place in viewers’ hearts’

Ten will celebrate its 60-year anniversary on August 1, the date in 1964 that it began broadcasting as ATV-0.

According to the National Film and Sound Archive, teenage dance show Go!! helped launch the 0-10 television network. “Australia’s swingin’est teenage show” premiered in August after the Beatles’ Australian tour.

“Ten holds a very special place in viewers’ hearts and I would not be the only one to admit that my all-time favourite shows either screened on Ten or were made by them,” writes film and TV historian Andrew Mercado.

He said the network used to take “wild gambles and sometimes they hit the jackpot and changed television forever”.

Number 96 (1972) was the world’s first five-night-a-week soap in prime time, Perfect Match (1984) broke records at 5.30pm, and Big Brother (2001) turned a late-night format into a family-friendly hit at 7pm, he said.

Mercado also gives honorary mentions to Young Talent Time (1971), The Mike Walsh Show (1973), Blankety Blanks (1977), Prisoner (1979), The Dismissal (1983), Return To Eden (1986), The Comedy Company (1988), Totally Wild (1992), Heartbreak High (1993), Bondi Rescue (2006) and Offspring (2010).

The network’s relationship with production company Working Dog continues with shows such as Have You Been Paying Attention?, The Cheap Seats and the upcoming Thank God You’re Here, Deal or No Deal, NCIS spin-offs and the Australia Cup final to kick off the second half of the year.

“As they look back at their wonderful history, let’s hope Ten can remember what made it so great,” Mercado said.

“While Seven and Nine fought each other with copycat programming, Ten often took the opportunity to try something different.

“Television is cyclical and Ten can still be a powerhouse if they take some bold risks and go for it.”

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