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Oz’s Ten net lures Masters

Was best known for commissioning 'Seachange,' 'Babies'

SYDNEY — In a major shift of strategy, CanWest-backed Network Ten struck a body blow to coin-challenged Australian pubcaster ABC Tuesday, poaching its commissioning editor for drama Sue Masters amid promises to boost its drama slate.

After six years at ABC, Masters is best known for commissioning Granada’s drama “Seachange,” now the pubcaster’s highest rated program of all time, as well as acclaimed miniseries “Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies” and quirky dramedy “Grass Roots.”

Before joining the ABC staff, she produced long-running ABC medical series “GP” and acclaimed mini-series “Brides of Christ” with Britain’s Channel 4 and Ireland’s RTE.

Ten on the scale

Once on the verge of bankruptcy before being rescued by CanWest about 10 years ago, Ten is now profitable after pursuing a low-cost programming strategy targeting younger audiences. Ten’s luring of Masters with promises to increase spending on drama signals a change of direction.

Masters’ defection is a huge blow to ABC, which is still reeling from a 12% funding cut imposed after the 1996 conservative federal government and a management clean-out after the March appointment of former Thames TV deputy chief executive Jonathan Shier as topper.

“The drama budget has not been what we would have wanted in recent years,” admitted Shier. “She clearly got a very attractive offer from Ten, which we were unable to match.”

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