Ten ready to 'set the pace' with first year back as Melbourne Cup broadcaster

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 5 November 2019

Ten has set high expectations for itself ahead of its first year back as the broadcast partner for the Lexus Melbourne Cup and the four-day carnival that surrounds it.

Winning the rights for the race that stops the nation last year, Ten has gone all out in 2019, bringing back a network marquee in The Birdcage, the key location of the event and home to many of the sponsors' activations, after 15 years without one.

Ten, for the first time, also has a custom-built broadcast studio inside the area which will be home to up to 65 hours of coverage across the carnival and will play host to other Ten programs including news and current affairs outside of horse racing.

Speaking to AdNews, Ten head of sport Matt White says the network isn't going to shy away from the important role this will play in "setting the pace" for its partners' expectations of the event, as well as the network's own.

"Our expectations for this first year are exactly what our sponsors and everyone else in the industry is currently anticipating, which is something pretty big that not only ticks the required boxes and gives audiences something different but delivers on what we've promised,"

"That being said we're also looking to make sure that we get the basics of any broadcast we do right, which is simply to entertain, have fun with it and set the tone for years to come."

On the ground, there is also a presence of more youth-focused brands such as dating app Bumble, which has its marquee right alongside well-known sponsors such as Lexus, Lion and TAB.

White says this is part of the broader strategy with Victorian Racing Club (VRC) to introduce a changing audience to not only the Melbourne Cup race day itself but the entire carnival and the sport of horse racing.

"That's where we go back to having a refreshed partnership with the VRC. it would have been very different had we just gone back and scooped up the rights and said 'this is how we want to do it'," White says.

"It wasn't the way it worked during negotiations, the way it panned out as we sat down and discussed what the VRC was trying to achieve as an industry and how they want to do that with their broadcast partner."

Ten believes the event will tap into the under 50s audience the network touts as it continues to evolve, while White adds that the culmination of a shifting fan base and partner interest will also shape the future demographic interested in the carnival.

White says the investment made by Ten into The Cup also highlights the possibilities for Ten to make plays for the rights of other sporting codes outside of its current portfolio.

"In terms of sport going forward, our play in this space has shown the industry that we are absolutely committed to sport and open to anything," White says.

"What I always say though, it that you can only play what is in front of you. Can we sit here and talk over and over about football rights, whichever code you want to pick? Sure. However, the fact remains, they aren't up yet.

"Until things start to present themselves, we will look to deliver on what we have promised with our big event sporting strategy and keep looking and hopefully through that success it will also mean people keep looking at us."


This year, the Melbourne Cup has come up against serious controversy in the overall horse racing industry following a report by the ABC, revealing the poor manner in which some horses are slaughtered, with a focus on Queensland racing.

As with many years prior, there is always a strong argument against the sport of horse racing around the time of The Cup, however, in 2019, that has certainly been amplified.

White says as a broadcast partner it would be easy to put the controversy to the side as "a separate issue", however, Ten is taking its partnership with the VRC seriously and won't be ignoring its duty to be a part of the conversation.

He says the network won't hide from the issue as it is now part of the industry and will look to take the same approach as many of horse racing's governing bodies already have, which is getting on the front foot and addressing it immediately.

"You can't lie to people and you certainly can't ignore something like this. As a network, we are pretty upfront about a lot of things, and this is no different, so we will be heavily involved with the conversation and working to a solution with the industry," White says.

Despite this, White says Ten will remain "laser-sharp" in its focus on delivering a strong broadcast in its first year and will not be deterred from providing that for both audiences and partners alike.

"That focus can't be strayed, and for good reason, regardless of what you throw at it. We still have a duty here as a network to ensure we do the job we set out to do when we first entered this partnership," he says.

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