The board of Ten Network Holdings has today terminated the services of CEO Grant Blackley (pictured) only two months after he was promoted to the role as a sign of executive stability.
Lachlan Murdoch, who bought into the company last year, now takes over as acting CEO while the board finds a permanent replacement.
Ten Network Holdings includes the Ten television network (including digital channels One HD and Eleven) and advertising company Eye Corp.
Mr Blackley, who had been CEO of the Network Ten business since 2005, had taken on the role of group CEO in December from Nick Falloon, whose departure followed the arrival of James Packer as a significant shareholder.
While in charge of Ten, Mr Blackley headed the network’s multi-channel and revamped news strategies. In 2009 Ten launched its dedicated sports channel One HD, and last year Mr Blackley announced the launch of youth-focused entertainment channel Eleven and a significant investment in expanding Ten’s news portfolio, in particular the launch of a national current affairs program at 6.00pm and state-based news bulletins at 6.30pm. The news strategy also led to the reinstatement of state-based weekend news bulletins across the five major capital cities.
The expansion of news programming and personnel, which required an investment of around $20 million, has reportedly come under criticism from within the Ten board which in the last few months has added Packer, Murdoch and mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who have all invested in the network in recent months – although only one shareholder, WIN Corporation owner Bruce Gordon, who owns 14 per cent of Ten, had publicly questioned the strategy.
The removal of Mr Blackley from the company is seen to put a dark cloud over the news expansion in particular but may also impact on the current multi-channel strategy. While the news revamp was never expected to pay short terms dividends, in the month since it launched the new lineup, including 6PM With George Negus and the 6.30 Evening News, has failed to grab a decent audience. The shifting of the weekend news bulletins from 5.00pm to 6.00pm has also delivered dire results, highlighted even more by rival Nine Network’s cheeky move to install a weekend 5.00pm bulletin to fill the gap left by Ten News vacating the timeslot.
Lachlan Murdoch’s father Rupert Murdoch is a former owner of the Ten Network, having taken the ailing network through a period of ratings strength in the 1980s.