Behind the doors of… Multi Channel Network

Behind the doors of… Multi Channel Network

The past 10 years has seen constant evolution at MCN, but the team at the top has remained largely the same. Lucy Clark reports on the company’s landmark decade.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

If you look at the numbers, MCN is a success story. If you look at the team behind the numbers, MCN is a bigger success story.

The company responsible for advertising sales on most of Australia’s subscription TV channels is booming. Growing 10% year on year and accumulating more channels, websites, mobile sites and apps than you can shake even the biggest stick at, MCN has numbers to be proud of.

Today, from its Pyrmont offices, it represents 55 channels, 72 websites, 61 mobile sites, 40 apps and, just for good measure, three IPTV services.

And the team at the top must be one of the most experienced in their niche, with most of them having been with MCN for a decade.

Mark Frain, national sales director, joined MCN nine years ago. “We had 12 channels and wrote about $40 million in annual revenue back then,” he recalls. “It was a classic start-up, with no formal arrangements with clients.”

CEO Anthony Fitzgerald adds: “To be honest, our sales proposition at the time was pretty simple. It was sponsorship-driven and spot placement against a fairly limited audience.”

MCN has grown to around $500m annualised revenue. The team has grown from 55 to 250.

When Fitzgerald took the helm in 2003, MCN reinvented itself. “Before I started, MCN was not even squarely positioned in the TV industry. We positioned MCN as a competitive television network that was delivering to a significant and high value consumer. It was no longer the three free-to-air networks. Foxtel and MCN now delivers an audience that is equal to and often exceeds one or two of the free-to-air networks.”

The work

MCN’s growth has been defined by acquisitions, developments, launches and Foxtel’s growth. Today, online sales are taking on a growing presence.

Murray Love, insights and analytics director, says: “TV is still the main part of our business, but digital is really important now. It’s more of a combined consideration for clients. I would say most advertisers want to be split across both.”

Data has always been crucial to MCN’s work, with Multiview, launched in 2010, sitting at the heart of that. It’s a panel of 10,000 Foxtel users – due to expand to 100,000 next month – and every button they press is captured.

Love explains: “We have become much better at helping agencies provide rationale to clients. As our tools have become more advanced, we can say ‘this is why we are spending this much, and this is how much should be on TV versus digital’.”

Digital became a much larger part of MCN’s work when it partnered with Telstra last year to represent the telco’s online assets (including AFL.com.au, NRL.com.au, BigPond and T-Box).

Nick Young, national online sales director, explains: “Taking on Telstra was a significant change to our business. We went from 20 people to 60 overnight, and we felt like we had the opportunity to behave, as a business, like a real challenger in terms of creating something different.”

The culture

Embracing change, keeping promises, winning – and keeping fit – is what shapes MCN as a company.

“We look to change the business ahead of the curve,” says Fitzgerald. “In the 10 years I’ve been here, we’ve restructured the company no less than six or seven times. If you don’t embrace change, someone will come along and eat your lunch.”

The company’s mantra is ‘MCN Delivers’. “It might sound like a favourite USP – to deliver what we sell – but it’s important,” Fitzgerald adds. 

Five core brand values were also set out by MCN this year: integrity, knowledge, passion, personal growth and innovation. Employees who demonstrate these get nominated into the Core Values Hall of Fame.

And every MCN employee works towards the central company remuneration – one common goal.

Young says: “The culture here is one of over-achieving and celebrating that success. Having senior management stay for so long – 10 years and more – is unheard of in media. That’s all credited to the way they feel challenged to succeed.”

Healthy living and lunchtime workouts are also a big part of MCN’s culture.

Fitzgerald, who is frequently spotted heading out for a lunchtime run with Frain, explains: “I genuinely believe that to create a team of people that strive to be successful, being fit and healthy as part of your culture works well. It’s motivational and it absolutely adds to that winning culture.”

Frain adds: “When you see the CEO going out at lunchtime for a run, it proves what’s possible for everyone else.”

The future

Fitzgerald sums up his vision for the future: “We have a commercial audience share of about 21-22%, but a revenue share of about 11-12%. Even though we run fewer ad breaks than the free-to-air networks, we still have room for growth. If we continue to get our proposition right, I believe we can continue to out-perform the market.”

Data and multi-platform offerings will be central to that growth.

Love outlines: “Our long term plan is to do other interesting things with data, such as using an advertiser’s database alongside MCN’s data to better target advertising.”

And Young concludes: “Our clear direction is around multi-platform solutions and providing the data and insights to back those solutions up. We will move from a TV and digital business to a truly multi-platform offering.”