Upfronts: Media bosses weigh in on 'sleeping giant' Ten, call for 'Pilot Month'

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 2 November 2018

Whether it was the launch of All Access, revelations that the entire business would be rebranded or the subtle presence of CBS, the Ten Upfronts were littered with a plethora of new announcements and promises.

There was glitz, glamour, singing and dancing, with the latter two being done by Ten's on-air talent themselves.

The network's CEO Paul Anderson promised a more targeted approach to the under 50s, adding that Ten would now focus on premium content distribution rather than making a play for the total audience.

Chief content officer Beverley McGarvey unleashed a new content strategy that included CBS original productions, 13 new homegrown programmes and revealed the return of the US-style Pilot Week strategy - something that had not been done in this market before.

To gauge industry reaction to Ten's annual upfronts, AdNews approached Australia's media bosses to find out how the final of 'the big three' commercial TV networks performed.

Deeper into data

From the sales end of town, chief sales officer Rod Prosser doubled down on the promise for a more data-driven sales strategy, revealing new partnerships and announcing CBS Interactive, which sees Ten lean on the data stack and tech capabilities of its parent company.

Ten also spoke about dynamic ad insertion into its linear service long term, which is currently being trialled with CBS in the US. This was a bold comment, but one that highlighted the influence CBS can bring to the local market.

"The headlines on data were strong and agencies will be keen to understand the tech and approach to the audience buying," OMD chief investment officer Melissa Hey said.

"With the backing of CBS Interactive, it should fast-track them to be up to speed with the other networks."

She said the audience was very much left wanting to know more and hear in detail from the sales team about program opportunities and their data play.

PHD chief investment officer Lucy Formosa Morgan agreed, adding, "data is clearly a huge focus for Ten moving forward, however I didn’t feel like they shared that much information on this. They’ve clearly thought it through and have the support and infrastructure of CBS behind them.

"It gave me confidence that they’d been working on this all year, I’m keen to hear more about what they can offer and CBS provides the reassurance that Ten has the support for a new digital infrastructure moving forward."

Must accelerate capability

IPG Mediabrands agency Magna MD, Victor Corones, said having powerful data capabilities is a pathway for future growth so "getting it right is a business imperative" for Ten for them to remain relevant and competitive.

"It’s too soon to know how well this partnership will work but Ten has the advantage of seeing where their competitors have been getting right as well as a lot of learnings from their owners CBS," he said.

"Ten needs to accelerate this capability and educate the market on what they can do and deliver for agencies and clients."

For Amplifi GM of NSW and Queensland Louise Romeo, the key points of interest for her included Ten’s focus on evolving its digital and data offering, highlighting that it was clear that investment and backing by CBS will allow them to excel in this area.

She said the deals and partnerships that come with CBS backing will allow the stronger and more refined trading practices that are seen in the US to reach Australian advertisers.

"We are particularly interested in Ten’s partnership with Tealium and ability to trade against first-party data segments to create personalised communication, their collaboration with Nielsen in the US with CBS DNA and how they intend to localise for the Australian market, as well as their ambition, to drive dynamic ad insertion in 2020," Romeo said.

"Whilst in its early stages this is a compelling proposition so the real opportunity for us is how we can measure effectiveness for our clients and their approach to scale these products."

Bohemia media director Mark Echo said while this is a good move for Ten and something that buyers have been waiting for, Ten must also ensure that the data is used effectively and with the best consumer interest at the forefront.

"It is important to compete in data by understanding their audiences and being to monetise this in a way that doesn't compromise consumers trust in the process," he said.

"They have been behind but this is definitely a step in the right direction, however there is a lot more than they can do when the time is right."

Nicola LewisNicola Lewis

GroupM chief investment officer Nicola Lewis agreed with Echo adding that, "Ten for me is the sleeping giant in this area because while we have all sat here saying that since CBS acquired Ten nothing has really happened, it has.

"They've been working on a strategy and that's very clear. They've also been getting themselves ready to deliver a clear data strategy, as well as All Access."

The Media Store head of strategy and planning Monia Montefusco says, "The Game of Games is Content and Power Partnerships. And CBS backing showcases a great balance of local and global entertainment based content which will mean greater integration opportunities for advertisers outside of sport."

"The Tealium and Nielsen partnerships will power up their audience targeting capabilities across their entire ecosystem All Access with its unique CBS content will contribute to driving up their current 3m subscriber base."

All Access strategy

One burning question surrounded the All Access and its platform 10Play strategy, and why the business has kept the two streaming services separate, instead of integrating the two with both a free and paid subscription offering.

Zenith Australia CEO Nickie Scriven said the decision likely has more to do with two separate systems that don’t necessarily integrate well and she doesn't believe it will have an impact viewership.

"It is simply another destination in which viewers will consumer content of interest. As we have seen, consumers don’t source one destination for all of their content, she said.

"They consume what they want, where they want and when they want it. It won’t impact brand interest for advertising either as brands will advertise where there is the right strategic fit, audience and brand alignment."

Lewis agreed, stating that the two need to remain separate to ensure there is an effective addressable solution across 10Play, which she said will continue to attract a different viewership to All Access.

"Ten All Access and 10Play should be separate platforms. One is catch-up and one is clearly a SVOD service and both come with their own advertising and subscription targets," Lewis said.

Zenith Australia CEO Nickie ScrivenNickie Scriven

"It's a SVOD service with deep content, whereas 10Play is a high traffic catch-up service. They're different and there needs to be the delineation between the two, as much as there is with 9Now and Stan."

Echo argues differently, stating that it's only a matter of time before the two a merge, but adds that this won't become a focus for Ten until it can prove that both can generate a strong enough subscriber base.

"The merger will eventually happen but at the moment there are other elements Ten are focusing on that will drive greater viewership and commercial success," Echo said.

"It will not impact viewership negatively but it will take longer to build. Get the right content to drive the audience to sell at scale to compete."

Wavemaker investment and activation director Mat Linnett said assuming at launch that All Access is only ad-free, CBS and Ten will need a very considered approach in terms of the exclusive content that it will house and how they can keep up with the demand for new content each month as Netflix does.

"There is a risk of some audience cannibalisation between All Access and 10Play, although CBS/Ten will have appropriate strategies in place to leverage the right content on the platform to maximise overall revenue," Linnett said.

"We predict prime time local productions like Bachelor will be exclusive to Ten Play for an expiry period and All Access housing exclusives such as tonight’s hero’d property Tell Me A Story."

StarCom CEO Toby Barbour says this as an evolving strategy that is leveraging existing assets to create value now while not limiting the opportunity in future to integrate and scale.

"It's is the right strategy provided all assets work well together as a connected experience across all screens and content in a way that naturally engages brands with the target audience," he says.

"The strategy and intent is clear, and with global investment and support, it’s a good sign for TV in Australia."

Pilot Week, why not Pilot Month?

In August Ten revealed plans to launch Pilot Week, a strategy which featured eight original pilots of domestically-produced television programmes.

Ten chief content officer Beverly McGarvey previously explained that the success of the shows wouldn't be based solely on ratings, but social media buzz, catch-up views and votes made on 10Play.

The strategy was met with controversy and criticism a lack of male diversity.

"To improve advertiser engagement in the future, Ten need to allow for a longer period of duration," Hyland founder Virginia Hyland said.

Virginia HylandVirginia Hyland

"A pilot month of activity gives brands more time to measure and evaluate a partnership and the outcome. I liken Pilot Week to a pop-up store. It takes time for audiences to realise that it’s happening, that they need to check it out. One week doesn’t allow audiences to shift behaviour to a great degree that is measurable."

Scriven agrees, adding that while Pilot Week is an interesting concept and the greatest challenge is only showing a program on one night, when it often takes a couple of episodes for new programs to establish themselves.

"I’d like to see Ten expand this to two or three weeks and also really market it to make an 'event' out of it in the minds of viewers so they tune in at this time of year, as I think that will give them a better opportunity to see which shows really have viewer appeal."

Linnett said that for the right product, Pilot Week can present a strong opportunity to align with an overall theme of being fresh and unpredictable, which he sees as a better approach for advertisers to execute deeper network integration across the week rather than buying into one or two individual shows.

"Pilot Week was a bold initiative, one that has been commended in the marketplace for Ten’s guts," he said.

"It was never going to break ground in the ratings but it got people talking about Ten in a fresh way, cutting through the dominance of Bachelor watercooler chat."

Romeo labeled the initiative as "unique strategy" in market and an "ambitious undertaking", where there is such a focus on delivering a consistent audience for advertisers.

"Ten’s investment into creating content featuring well-known personalities including Kyle and Rove may not deliver mass-audiences, but what they do is create hype, drive rich social conversation and have the potential to attract new viewers to their platforms," Romeo said.

Corones said taking risks in the content space is something he doesn’t usually see with network broadcasters, which is why he sees a lot of potential in the strategy.

"Broadcast needs greater content innovation and less reliance on derivative programming or clone programming," he said.

"It’s a good starting point that I can only see growth in the years to come which hopefully uncovers new and exciting content for Australians.

"We love the concept that consumers are determining future content plays for this market, as it highlights a strong level of engagement."

Want more from Ten, Seven and Nine upfronts see:

A solid content spine or missing a vital data backbone? Industry reacts to Seven Allfronts

Seven remains firm on sign-in strategy, refuses to 'chase numbers'

Nine upfronts: Ninja moves to Melbourne, addressability and better buying

'Slick, confident and consistent': Industry reacts to Nine's upfronts

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