Australian broadcaster Network Ten went from bankruptcy proceedings in 2017 to a rebirth last year after CBS swooped in to acquire the network.
CBS Global Distribution Group leader Armando Nuñez Jr. spearheaded the deal. He was well-versed in Network Ten’s history, having sold American television shows to the broadcaster for more than 25 years.
Nuñez knew that Ten could overcome the strategic missteps and ownership changes that led the company to pile on debt and wind up in what the Aussies call “administration,” aka a Chapter 11 reorganization. CBS was Ten’s largest unsecured creditor, which put it in pole position to buy the company in November 2017 at a bargain-basement price of about $160 million.
Nuñez persuaded CBS top brass that Ten’s profile as a young-skewing network would be a perfect platform for CBS to set up shop in an important English-language territory. It was a much better scenario than having to slog through the bankruptcy process in the hopes of receiving cents on the Australian dollar for the more than $200 million that Ten owed to the Eye.
“There are more commonalities between the U.S. and Australian markets than there are big differences,” Nuñez says. “We are just scratching the surface of the things that CBS and Network Ten can do together.”
During the past year, Network Ten has unveiled a rebranding of its three broadcast channels: the mothership Ten, 10 Bold and 10 Peach. (CBS had already been a minority partner with Ten in the 10 Bold channel, previously known as Eleven).
“Our target market is viewers under 50,” says Paul Anderson, a longtime Ten executive who has been CEO since 2015. “For the first time in 27 years we have a new look and feel to all of our channels.”
Ten has also hired some 200 staffers as the company brought its advertising sales operations in-house, after outsourcing the function to an outside company for the previous three years.
But the single greatest resource that CBS has brought to Ten is stability, Anderson says.
“The support we have had from CBS — from [acting CEO] Joe Ianniello to Armando has been second to none right from day one,” Anderson says. “They’ve been very supportive of us developing our own strategy. But we’re basically aligning what we’re doing with what CBS is trying to do in the U.S. and on a global scale. It is not lost on us that we are now part of the most successful free-to-air broadcaster in the U.S.”
A good example of the perks that CBS can offer: CBS and Ten brought representatives from four of Australia’s largest TV advertisers to Atlanta in February to take in the Super Bowl. On the flip side, CBS rolled out an Australian edition of its CBS All Access streaming service on the back of Ten’s established digital infrastructure. In Oz, the service is marketed as 10 All Access.
Nuñez oversees Ten’s operations for CBS. The focus has been on coordinating big-picture strategy and shoring up trouble spots. But programming matters are left to Anderson and his team.
“I made it clear to the management and to the staff down there that this wasn’t going to be a case of an American company coming in and telling a bunch of Australians how to run an Australian broadcast network,” Nuñez says.
Ten’s programming mix is a blend of locally produced shows, Australian editions of popular unscripted formats (think “Survivor,” “The Bachelor,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Shark Tank”) and imports from the U.S. ranging from “Judge Judy” to “Blue Bloods.” One of its recent success stories has been “Gogglebox,” an adaptation of a U.K. format that captures the reactions of everyday people as they watch a wide range of television programming.
The goal is that CBS and Ten will bolster each other in the never-ending global search for the next great TV show idea. “We can potentially be a test market for ideas coming out of the U.S.,” Anderson says. “If we find the right content there’s potential for some of our shows to sit on CBS All Access.”
Seeing the cross-pollination of programming operations that are half a world apart is gratifying for Nuñez, given his long career in international TV sales. Ten platform’s value to CBS has skyrocketed just in the past few months as the largest U.S. media players try to stake their claim in the global streaming market pioneered by Netflix.
“All U.S. media companies want to become more global,” Nuñez observes. “To have the benefit of a platform like Network Ten to utilize for our direct-to-consumer ambitions is important for us.”