Network 10 has always been the underdog. From a sheer size and age standpoint compared to the two other major free-to-air commercial broadcasters, how could it be anything but?
Yet there’s no denying 10 is starting to grow up and find its feet, cementing itself as a formidable TV network and content house.
While it’s true 10 found itself a protector in CBS, it doesn’t detract from the significant growth the network has achieved in the last few years, namely under the direction of chief sales officer Rod Prosser who took the helm in late 2018. Prosser was instrumental in growing 10’s in-house sales team after the network exited its MCN (now Foxtel Media) contract.
Last year, 10 showed advertisers and commercial partners it had ticked all the boxes: a rebrand, in-housing sales, and new data partnerships. It delivered on what it had committed to.
Now, Prosser chats with B&T about why 2020 is 10’s year to pounce, a summer schedule without sport, why the Olympics is good for all broadcasters and what to expect from the ViacomCBS merger.
No sports rights? No worries
In April 2018, Seven and Foxtel seized the cricket rights from Nine and 10 in a $1 billion contract spanning across six years.
With 10 losing the rights to the Big Bash League, it was left with a gaping hole in its summer schedule. The perhaps unorthodox solution? Bring hit reality show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! forward to 13 January (previously premiering at the end of January). It was certainly a risk, but it appeared to pay off.
Prosser said it was important 10 had a powerhouse show in its summer slot because the “risk of not having anything” was too great.
“Not having anything in January means a lot less eyeballs to watch what you’re about to promote as you’re going into rating season.”
This year, 10 took another gamble and brought I’m a Celeb… forward even earlier, premiering on 5 January. And it worked, as 980,000 metro viewers tuned in for the ‘Opening Night’ segment of the program and 873,000 for ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. Though this was a slight decline from 2019, at the time, 10’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey said the network was happy with the performance.
Prosser said the risk paid off because I’m a Celeb… has “changed the landscape” of what Australia’s used to, and it’s proved to be a winning move.
“We’re conditioned in this country to be watching sports and/or repeats, or American shows that are coming through possibly the next season.
“We’ve now proved that not every single Australian wants to watch sport. It goes to show that particularly as the new generation comes, they’re not as cricket or sport mad.”
But what does airing I’m a Celeb… outside of OzTAM’s rating period mean for advertising? Prosser said it doesn’t matter because advertisers “don’t care”.
“Is there a traditional ratings period? That’s the big question because certainly from an advertiser’s point of view, they don’t care. A lot of them are on 52 weeks of the year and they’re still trying to sell product and in fact, that period is so critical to so many of them. You’ve got back to school, business retail, boxing day sales … advertisers and agencies are now looking at full year.”
Prosser said when he used to work client-side, ratings periods was the only important period. He said that’s “nonsense”, however, because “you should be looking at the entire year to judge the performance.”
And then the big question. Has I’m a Celeb… translated into more ad dollars than the BBL? Prosser was brutally honest.
“The answer to that is no. Ad revenue was higher when we had BBL. Equally, we paid some significant rights fees, so the cost of the BBL was high. But the audience that we were delivering in the big bash was actually a lot higher than that’s being delivered on FTA now, but that’s probably because they’ve [Seven] split it up.
“But I’d also argue that we’re doing the same if not better than what we were doing when we had the Big Bash, so we should be getting the revenue that we used to over the January period.”
Nine is formidable, Seven is struggling – is now 10’s time to pounce?
The commercial FTA playing field is in an interesting place. Though Nine is stronger than ever, Seven is struggling to find its feet. Is now the time for 10 to pounce? Prosser says he believes this will indeed be 10’s year.
“We’ve got a really good strong schedule to sell off the back of. We’ve taken some risks and 10 will continue to take a risk because it’s what our audience expects.
“We will test and try things. But the core of what scheduled this year is tested and tried.”
While Prosser says The Project is the “cornerstone” of 10, he’s confident in its 7.30pm to 9.30pm slate and its potential for monetisation.
“All of the shows apart from some new dramas and bits and pieces that are coming have been on-air and people have been tuning in to them. I feel like we’ve got a safe and tested schedule, so for us now, it’s about accelerating the monetization of that schedule.
“I feel really confident going into this year. We’ve got great opportunities so I think this is our year. I really do.”
Bouncing back in a struggling market
Ad spend is down. The industry is struggling. The whole economy is struggling. Yet Prosser is optimistic it will bounce back, but also conceded that a sluggish economy is something no one can control and it impacts everyone.
“What we’ve got to do is really talk up the power of advertising, because we all know that it works. And collectively the media are doing that with the [Advertise or Die] campaign that’s been rolling through.”
While Prosser said it’s early days, he also said there are some signs of improvement.
“The TV market’s working really well together through Think TV, so now we’re just trying to market our position as a major reach player that’s brand-safe.”
Prosser says the strategy for 10 is knowing it can only control what it can control, but also knowing what it brings to the table.
“We are highly competitive, we’re easy to trade, we’ve got some great assets with our digital assets. We’re going from strength to strength and what we’re thinking about now is how we enhance our playground, diversify and grow revenue.”
Might Tokyo 2020 be the answer?
With Seven owning the broadcasting rights for Tokyo 2020, one would forgive 10 and Nine for being nervous.
However, Prosser said the Olympics “does great things for TV, full stop.”
“The market tends to grow when the Olympics are on, but not only does the market grow but our ratings grow too. The Olympics is a great thing. We’re not negative about it. We hope that we’re in an Olympic cycle where there’s more buoyancy in the market.
“Seven will do a great job. They have for a long time on broadcasting that. Hopefully, more money comes into the industry.”
As Prosser explained, the Olympics brings more viewers to TV, so despite the fact Seven is the only FTA station in Australia broadcasting the Olympics, the sporting event does “great things for everyone”.
He also said 10 has previously experienced double-digit growth, despite going head-to-head with some big sporting events, which he puts down to 10’s audience tuning in, and rarely tuning out.
“We don’t have a lot of audiences that leave 10 because people want an alternative [to sport]. We tend to hold on to the audience, and in fact, grow it.”
Grabbing a bigger slice of the advertising pie
When it comes to standing out against SVODs, cinema, and other video content mediums, Prosser says it’s all about being noisy.
“If we lay down and don’t put something noisy there, then we open up the opportunity for viewers to go onto their SVOD services or other mediums. So for us, we have to give audiences something that they want to watch.
“The SVOD services now deliver all that content. If there’s not something engaging on FTA, audiences go somewhere else.”
Prosser said creating noise and giving audiences the entertainment content they crave is important because it creates “the great halo”.
“If you’ve got a really noisy programme, then your news lifts, your other programmes life and everything else start to lift around it.”
Moving audiences around the 10 ‘playground’
10 has always called itself the under 50s network, yet it can’t be ignored that the younger audiences are watching less live FTA TV, or turning off TV in general in favour of SVOD services.
Prosser says the strategy to attract and retain its target demographic is moving viewers around the 10 ecosystems or ‘playground’.
“Part of our strategy is our BVOD strategy, which we’ve also supplemented with 10daily. Part of that is how do we move our viewers around our playground?
“How do we serve up a piece of I’m a Celeb… content on 10daily, which then prompts the user to go watch tonight’s episode? We’re trying to learn a lot through AI and our data on viewing behaviours to move them around the playground.”
The ViacomCBS merger opportunities
While Prosser was unable to say much on the ViacomCBS opportunities, considering its relative newness, he did say it’s a space to watch closely.
“We know our CEO [Paul Anderson] is leading the charge. The next step is looking at how all those assets co-exist. ViacomCBS content is skewed young, so that’s fabulous for us because it’s so complementary.
“We anticipate there’s going to be ways for us to really engage the audience.”
At the same time, Prosser said the network is still getting to understand the businesses.
“We now sit in a cluster that’s the UK and Australia, so rather than going through to the domestic USA, we sit underneath the international division. It’s great for us because there’s a lot of similarities and there will be a lot of opportunities that come off the back of that, whether that’s content sharing – so just watch this space, all of that work’s being done.”
Buy 10 You … coming soon
At last year’s upfronts, 10 launched Buy 10 You, a self-serve ad-buying platform.
The Buy 10 platform allows dynamic advertising across 10’s entire ecosystem, including 10 Bold, 10 Peach, 10 Play, 10 Daily and 10 Speaks, as well as its primary TV channel.
The aim of the platform is to simplify the buying experience with 10, and the goal of Buy 10 You is to allow small to medium businesses to self-serve and buy advertising on 10.
And while it’s not been switched on yet – the network is still doing some testing – Prosser says he’s hopeful it will go to market soon.
“It’s early days but we definitely want to offer that up soon.”
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