Ten’s Rod Prosser on 2020: From anxiety to recovery

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 4 August 2020

Ten has been navigating the coronavirus crisis, which forced the network to adjust its content lineup, while shaking up its sales team and preparing to launch a new multichannel it hopes will bring some brands back to TV.

The network, acquired by ViacomCBS in 2017, finished the half year with 18.7% of the audience share, behind Nine and Seven who held a 27.83% and 26.5% share, respectively. The network has already wrapped up big shows such as I’m a Celebrity… and MasterChef Australia, which reached 1.5 million metro viewers for its finale.

Ten’s June revenue share was just over 25%, its biggest since January 2018. Speaking to AdNews, Ten chief sales officer Rod Prosser says the network is in its 11th month of consecutive revenue share growth, and while the market is smaller due to a “significant dive” in advertising during the first lockdown, he’s optimistic about the year ahead.

“We were quite anxious about what the rest of the year would look like, but I'm really pleased to say what's happened, particularly for TV, is that we've seen really good signs of recovery,” Prosser says.

“And it's not just through conversations, we're actually seeing it in our numbers and we're seeing it in our forwards.

“For us at 10 we took on the approach of really leaning into, one, our significant audience increases, and two, our advertisers and clients and tried to offer them something different and be really flexible where we could over that period. That obviously saw benefits for us in terms of winning business but equally to set us up well for the rest of the year.

“Don't get me wrong, we're still going to see a market that's rebuilding from that COVID period. So we're not going to see a huge growth in the second half, I think what we're going to see is a flattening out of the decline.”

Prosser says most brands, except for those in industries put on pause during the crisis, have started to return, particularly retail and finance, and he’s seeing planning start to stretch out.

“For the last couple of months we were still processing bookings and campaigns within the week, so they'd be on air that week,” he says.

“We're now starting to see what would have been sort of a two to four week market really stretch out to sort of a six to eight week market. So that's a really good indicator that people are planning and there's more confidence in the market.”

Ten has been rejigging its sales team in recent months as it finalises its merger with ViacomCBS. In June it expanded its sales team and established a new independent agencies and direct sales division. The teams, as with many across the industry, have had to provide more flexibility during the pandemic to ease clients’ “anxiety” around cancellation deadlines.

“Clients were reluctant to lock down schedules unless they had flexibility in their cancellation deadline,” Prosser says.

“So that's one major piece that largely I think the television industry really moved quickly on, not just us at 10.

“We also spoke to a lot of our clients around sponsorships and partnerships, which are a really important part of our programming, and another flexibility initiative that we went to clients with was that if they lock down a sponsorship or a partnership over that period, they’d equally be able to change or pivot on what that sponsorship execution looked like depending on their messaging. We’d also provide them with the resources that came out of our business if they needed to change tact with the creative so we could do that all internally at 10.”

Despite high-ratings shows wrapped up at Ten, Prosser says with The Bachelor in Paradise currently running, pulling in 507,000 metro viewers for its launch, as well as The Masked Singer and The Bachelorette still to come, he’s confident Ten can continue the momentum into the rest of the year. Ten is also forging ahead with The Amazing Race, which will now be filmed across Australia to overcome travel bans.

Prosser is also upbeat about Spring Carnival Week going ahead later this year, with horse racing one sport not stopped due to social distancing even in Melbourne’s stage four lockdowns.

Also launching is Ten’s fourth multichannel 10 Shake, expected by the end of September. 10 Shake will use content from ViacomCBS’ library including Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. to target kids and teens during the day and shift programming after 6pm to attract under 40s.

Prosser says the channel has had a broader appeal to advertisers beyond the gaming and tech, retail and home delivery categories the network anticipated to target, with brands across FMCG showing interest, particularly in the evening slots.

“We're really excited about it because it gives us an opportunity to talk to advertisers that have either steered away from free-to-air and spent some of their dollars in the social video world and also bring new advertisers into the free-to-air platform just because the content is really quite different, really quite young,” he says.

“So, we're going to have a lot of fun with it, we're going to change our ad loads for shorter duration breaks.

“There's really quite a wide range of brands and categories we're talking to, which took us by surprise. Once we launched and took it to market, the interest has been really high, which is really great. So we're trying to get it up on air as soon as possible but clients have really engaged, which is good.”

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