Ten's link to News under fire
THE growing influence of media giant News Corp on broadcaster Ten Network is expected to come under scrutiny among investors, after the appointment of top News executive and former advertising agency executive Hamish McLennan to take charge of the under-pressure broadcaster.
James Warburton was sacked late Friday after little more than a year in the role of Ten chief executive, rounding off a volatile period for the network that saw deep job cuts to the news division while weak ratings led to a $13 million loss for the year.
Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch is understood to have flown to New York just 10 days ago to personally meet Mr McLennan about taking on the chief executive role.
Analysts warned that Mr Warburton's sudden exit could also suggest further pressure on Ten's earnings amid a tough advertising market.
"It points to a pretty poor set of numbers," one media analyst said.
Laurence Freedman, one of a group of investors who rescued Ten from receivership in the 1990s, said it appeared the network's board "has agreed that ex-News Corp people will have a large say in the running of Channel Ten".
"From an appearances point of view, there is a strong apparent influence on Channel Ten," Mr Freedman said. "People who have a history at News Corp have a dominant position at Channel Ten."
Lachlan Murdoch owns an 9 per cent stake in Ten through his private company. He is also a director of News Corp.
Since joining News Corp. in 2011, Mr McLennan has effectively worked closely as a special adviser to Rupert Murdoch, running the media giant's office of chairman.
Before joining News Corp, he was global chairman and chief executive of advertising agency Young & Rubicam. Mr McLennan is also chairman of the News Corp-controlled online real estate interest REA Group, a position he will retain.
While Mr McLennan declined a request for an interview on Sunday, he played down links between News Corp after his appointment. "I am resigning from News Corp and will become a employee of Ten. They are completely different businesses," he said over the weekend, adding its "not an issue".
The shake-up at Ten followed a string of programming flops and persistent poor ratings for the network that counts billionaires James Packer, Bruce Gordon and Gina Rinehart as investors.
Even former ratings juggernaut MasterChef is now trailing Seven's offering My Kitchen Rules.
Ten's reliance on some big US shows has failed to provide momentum. It also has relatively limited sports content after losing the AFL and its relatively weaker news content, particularly after the latest cost cutting.
Influential media buyer Harold Mitchell said Ten needed to go back to its roots and aim for a younger market.
"In its hey day it (Ten) totally concentrated on a particular market, which was generally the under-40s. It tended to lose its way when it broadened and it tried to appeal to an older market and therefore it lost its appeal," he said.
As a company it broadened into outdoor advertising and moved away from its core business.