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CBS Builds Australian Foothold With Network Ten Buy

Is it time for “NCIS:Sydney”?

CBS Corp. broadened its international footprint Sunday by announcing it had purchased Network Ten, one of three broadcast networks in Australia. The terms of the deal could not be learned immediately, but Network Ten had recently been placed into receivership, an alternative to bankruptcy.

Network Ten’s creditors had included Lachlan Murdoch, executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox and News Corp., and Australian media magnate Bruce Gordon. The two executives had been said to have considered making a bid of their own.

The acquisition will likely spur the export of CBS programming franchises to the Australian market. In many recent talks with investors, CBS Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves and Chief Financial Officer Joseph Ianiello have talked up the importance of international distribution to CBS’ operations. “Speaking of international, this pillar is growing consistently because we continue to expand our content pipeline,” Ianiello said in an early-August call with analysts following the release of the company’s second quarter results.

As advertising revenue – the traditional fuel for media companies – narrows as consumers migrate to new ways of getting their video information and content, overseas holdings have taken on greater importance at several U.S. TV kingpins. Viacom Inc. recently made its former head of international operations, Bob Bakish, its new chief executive. Discovery Communications has placed more emphasis on its ownership of Eurosport, a European sports broadcaster, as well as the rights it recently obtained to broadcast the Olympics in European markets.

Under terms of the pact, CBS gains the digital terrestrial television channel Eleven, in which it already owned a 33% stake, as well as Tenplay, a digital outlet. CBS said it would use its new purchase to launch “CBS All Access,” its subscription video-on-demand service, in the Australian market. CBS recently announced plans to make “All Access” available in Canada next year

“Network Ten is a prime broadcasting asset with over half a century of experience and brand equity in Australia,” said Moonves, in a statement. “We have been able to acquire it at a valuation that gives us confidence we will grow this asset by applying our programming expertise in a market with which we are already familiar.”

CBS said the transaction is subject to certain regulatory approvals and will be completed in accordance with the Australian voluntary administration process.

Network Ten’s origins go back to the 1960s, when the Australian government saw a need to open more TV outlets in order to dilute the overwhelming dominance of TV programming from overseas and build up availability of local content. Ten came into its own in 1972 with the soap opera “Number 96,” a racy serial that introduced the nation to sex scenes and nudity on TV as well as comedic characters. Ten was the first to broadcast “Baywatch” and “The Simpsons” in Australia, and in recent years, has broadcast popular CBS programs such as “Madam Secretary” and “Scorpion.” The network has also aired “Australian Survivor,” the Down Under version of the durable CBS reality competition.

 

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