No going back to youth market
Returning Channel Ten to its roots as a youth-focused TV station would be certain death, its chief executive says.
Ten Network boss Hamish McLennan said the "train has left the station" on Ten's new focus on 25-to-54-year-olds, and the new year looked good for the commercial broadcaster.
"There's been this ... desire to push this demographic older for some time," Mr McLennan told an industry function in Melbourne.
"We've been quite overt in terms of saying, 'It is now 25-to-54-year-olds'. We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars against that demographic, and going out buying things like the cricket are proof points that we're committed to it.
"So we won't have a business if we were to revert back to where we were; we would absolutely go out of business and that would not be good for this audience or this industry,"
"We're actually starting to see some good growth ... we think that with the cricket starting over summer ... a lot of the shows that are coming out, the first half of next year should be quite exciting for us. We're not changing, the train has left the station."
Mr McLennan, formerly with News Corp and advertising company Young & Rubicam, took on the top job at Ten early this year. The previous chief executive, James Warburton, had continued the network's push into the youth market, to little success.
"The best way I can summarise it was we had the wrong strategy for the business and we were chasing an ever-declining part of the market ... young kids ... the 16-to-39 demographic that we built our name on in the last 10 years ... just doesn't really exist as a viable opportunity for us any more.
"So we went to the board and said in simple terms we've got to do an older demographic. It's easy to say but harder to execute."
He expressed optimism about the free-to-air market, and Ten's place in it, despite it lagging commercial rivals Seven and Nine. Ten also lags the ABC on ratings, making it fourth-placed.
"The reality is, as an industry ... we're one of three that share a $2.8 billion pie," he said. "There is genuinely a good business to be had ... and you look around the world, all the free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters are still doing well and making good money."
Ten's shareholders have recently been asked to approve a deal that could hand security over all of the media group's assets to three of its billionaire shareholders, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon, in return for the three guaranteeing a new $200 million loan.
Ten also revealed this week it will dump The Simpsons at 6pm and introduce a new family entertainment show as it seeks to recapture viewers lost to the news on Nine and Seven. The Simpsons will move to the Eleven channel.