The only way is Upfronts
It's a big week for TEN with the network due to reveal its 2014 Upfronts in Sydney on Tuesday night.
Expect to hear plenty of talk about upcoming sports events, Big Bash League and the Winter Olympics. These are key sporting events that TEN will utilise to promote its upcoming content, a strategy that has served Seven well with the Australian Open (let’s hope no sports commentators try to tell us about how fabulous their Reality shows are, like Seven does). It also has the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.
Other highlights we can expect to hear about are Offspring, Puberty Blues, MasterChef, So You Think You Can Dance, Secrets and Lies and presumably a second season for The Bachelor Australia given it is finishing pretty well. The Biggest Loser has wrapped in Ararat with Australia’s most overweight community.
Wonderland had 9 new episodes still to air, with no decision expected on going back before the cameras. The network would most likely want to see how these perform before making that decision.
There’s the new drama with Asher Keddie and Roger Corser, Party Tricks. And TEN usually has another new Drama up its sleeve.
There will surely be some new shows to grab our attention and get us talking. If it wants to shift seriously into 25-54 market then expect some surprising announcements that might sound like they belong on other networks: more lifestyle and factuals perhaps? Where is TEN’s own property show? What about history?
There will be more from The Living Room, The Project, Bondi Vet, Wake Up, Studio 10, Neighbours, Wanted.
International highlights should include more Modern Family, NCIS, NCIS: LA, Elementary, Under the Dome, The Good Wife, Sleepy Hollow, Law and Order: SVU, plus Reign, Crisis, Friends with Better Lives. Some more UK dramas would attract older viewers.
In February Peter Meakin takes charge of News and Current Affairs.
It will be fascinating to hear if Batavia is ever going to go before the cameras. This big budget drama was announced a year ago.
There are also question marks about a number of shows and whether they will return: Can of Worms, Revealed, A League of their Own, This Week Live, Recipe to Riches, Bondi Rescue while Mr & Mrs Murder is already off the list.
The pressures on TEN are significant. Board members Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer and Bruce Gordon are backing another $200m investment into programming, with Gina Rinehart not participating but understood to vote in favour. Last week CEO Hamish McLennan confirmed to Fairfax Media that he implemented a “Cost Out Program” six weeks ago to “run this as leanly as possible.”
An AGM in December will be under incredible scrutiny, especially after the sluggish start to its new morning lime-up. In 2011 Chairman Lachlan Murdoch told shareholders “We’d forgotten who we were…. a youthful, bold, irreverent, risk-taking brand.” But this month Hamish McLennan has said chasing young viewers is the wrong methodology. “We were chasing the wrong demographic and we had the wrong shows – hence the wrong strategy,” he said.
In this climate of fragmentation the network is regularly trailing the ABC in Total People, yet there are also industry whispers over TEN’s claims it has supposedly lifted in 25-54 demographics.
So there is a lot at stake in the next few weeks. But from where I stand it’s pretty clear everybody wants TEN to get back to a position of being a competitive third network: viewers, industry, media, advertisers. We all lose when it’s not firing on all cylinders.