Two years ago the Ten Network took on a brave gamble when it launched Australia’s first full-scale digital commercial channel, the sports-themed One HD. It was a niche channel that while it rated well against the pay-TV sports channels, it had to also take on the broadly-themed commercial networks, a situation made even more difficult when Seven and Nine started rolling out general entertainment channels such as 7TWO, 7mate, GO! and GEM to enhance their broadcast offerings.
While Ten, under its previous management, insisted that One HD was embracing a program genre that would be immune to the pressures of internet downloads and that it was paying a dividend to the network, the unfortunate reality is that the channel was not a match for the many other free-to-air channels in the ratings. Last week One HD was the lowest ranked of all the commercial channels across the five capital cities – scoring 1.2% market share following Seven (23.7%), Nine (19.3%), Ten (15.5%), 7TWO (4.6%), GO! (4.1%), Eleven (3.6%), 7mate (3.5%) and GEM (2.9%). (Of the national broadcasters, ABC1 (13.7%), SBS1 (4.5%), ABC2 (2.1%), SBS2 (0.7%), ABC News 24 (0.7%) and ABC3 (0.5%).)
On many nights One HD failed to rate higher than a whole percentage point.
The performance of One HD and Ten’s high-cost news and current affairs expansion has come under scrutiny from the network’s new management following the departure of CEO Grant Blackley. And in half year financial results announced today, Ten Network Holdings reported a profit of $49.3 million, a 16 per cent drop when compared to the same half year period last year.
Ten has already moved to attempt to save its news line-up from ratings collapse – with 6PM With George Negus (pictured) moving to the 6.30pm timeslot and the expansion of the 5.00pm news bulletin to 90 minutes, and re-instating the weekend 5.00pm bulletin. The changes made have seen some short-term ratings gains, though with daylight saving ending this week it is hard to tell if that increase wouldn’t have happened anyway.
Following a recent period of experimentation in playing general entertainment programming in prime-time on One HD, today it has been announced that Ten will be revamping the channel from Sunday 8 May with a move towards general entertainment, movies and non-sport special interest programs on weeknights to supplement its existing sports programming on weekends. The new-look One HD has a ratings target of 2.5 per cent of the market, targeting 25-54 year old males. (Ten has a target audience of 18-49 year-old viewers, while Eleven is aimed at the 13-29 age group.)
In announcing the channel’s revamp, Ten’s interim CEO Lachlan Murdoch said the channel was at a ‘dead end’:
“One was underperforming from a ratings point of view; rating below a single share point was simply unsustainable and unable to contribute to our earnings. We were at a dead end with One as it stood.”
While Mr Murdoch is interim CEO and an owner of nine per cent of the Ten Network business, he is also a director of the giant News Corporation which has significant interests in pay-TV operator Foxtel and in its Fox Sports channels.
Some of the programs to appear on the new-look One HD include Extreme Fishing, Ice Road Truckers, Everest Beyond The Limit, An Idiot Abroad, COPS, Sons Of Anarchy, Breakout King, Terriers and Lights Out. The channel will also feature a movie line-up of titles such as Pitch Black, Doom, Jarhead, The Last King Of Scotland, 28 Weeks Later and Babylon AD.
In other programming changes, the network has also announced a new addition to Ten’s schedule with the upcoming launch of The Bolt Report, a Sunday morning news commentary program headed by newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt. The new program is set to debut on 8 May in the 10.00am Sunday timeslot, with Ten’s long-running Meet The Press moving to 10.30am.