10 Upfronts 2021: Beverley McGarvey and Rod Prosser on content strategy

Plans for major shows, 10 News and Sport, content spend, commercial opportunities.

Mediaweek asks the questions as 10’s Beverley McGarvey, chief content officer and executive vice president of ViacomCBS Australia and New Zealand, and Rod Prosser, chief sales officer, provide the answers.

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Measuring success in 2020

Prosser told Mediaweek: “While we can’t control the market or what we have gone though this year, what we can control is our revenue share. This year we have had 11 months of revenue share growth and I’m predicting that will be 12 months fairly soon.

“In that respect we have had a really great year. Given everything that has happened in the last year and I am thrilled with what’s been achieved.”

Prosser noted things that have kept sales on their toes included data, Buy 10, growing the sales team after the split with MCN, integrating the Viacom sales team and growing the content portfolio with 10 Shake.

“You are only ever as good as your product and the reality is we have had a really consistent, solid programming slate which has really helped with a better revenue share.”

Controlling the content spend

Beverley McGarvey

McGarvey told Mediaweek the network has been looking at ways to spend less, but maintain its quality.

“Everyone has probably done that this year, given the environment we are in. We have tried to be very efficient in how we chose to spend our money. Our audience share so far is 11% up and we want to maintain the growth, yet not be irresponsible with the investment. We have shaved bits here and there, but we are trying to keep the content the audience sees as intact as possible.”

Whatever happed to 10 News?

Despite the recent fairly dramatic cutbacks, McGarvey stressed that news remains important to the network. “Not just at 5pm, but also at 6.30 with The Project. What we have done is set ourselves up so we can continue to service local news in all markets. To a degree we have centralised newsreading to come out of Sydney and Melbourne. We still have news gathering in all states which allows us to maintain the same volume of local stories for our local audiences. It is much more efficient for us not to be running five presentation studios. However we still do have newsrooms in all markets with journalists and camera operators.

“News is important to us and is something that has always been important to 10.”

Feeding the 7.30 timeslot

McGarvey: “We had a major franchise planned for every single week this year, but we had production challenges with Survivor and other things. Next year we do have a very consistent run that starts on the third of January with I’m A Celebrity and then continues through until December with a strong slate.

Consistency is critical. Once you lose momentum, and that has happened a little this year, it is so hard to get it back. For our audiences and our clients we need to be strong all year. To still be up 11% given the challenges is a good result. Next year, in a more stable environment, we think we can do even better.”

Prosser added: “While 7.30pm is obviously very important, our schedule is much broader, starting at 5pm and then also running later in the evening with things like Gogglebox and Have You Been Paying Attention? What advertisers want is a strong schedule from daytime to night time.”

McGarvey: “When you get 7.30pm right everything else lifts that bit more. Despite the fact people don’t watch a particular channel like they used to, lead-ins and scheduling still has an impact to some degree.”

New content for 2020 and what’s missing

Dancing with the Stars is a major franchise not returning to the schedule. Also having a rest is Bachelor in Paradise. “Otherwise all our major shows are returning,” said McGarvey. “We love Dancing with the Stars, but we can’t do absolutely everything.”

Of the three new formats, McGarvey said Making It Australia is the biggest of the commissions. “It is a multi-night franchise and sits tonally in the space occupied by things like MasterChef, Bake-Off, Lego Masters. It’s a competitive reality show that sits in the world of crafting. It could range from a family making a Halloween costume to someone making a piece of art. It was created by Amy Poehler in the US and is into its third season on NBC.

“It is very different to everything else that is on air. It has family appeal and will be hosted by comedians. It is important to have franchises at all stages of their life cycles. MasterChef and The Bachelor are more mature brands, as is I’m a Celebrity and Survivor. The Masked Singer has only had two seasons as has The Amazing Race. It is always important to have something new coming through as well as those legacy brands like MasterChef.”

McGarvey said 10 was happy with the UK version of The Dog House this year about people adopting pets. “An Australian version will help us grow our audience at the back of the week at certain times of the year.”

The First Inventors sits in the space also inhabited by factual formats like Todd Sampson’s Body Hack. “Things that add a bit of texture to the schedule, things that are a bit different to what our competitors would do.”

While Todd Sampson’s Body Hack won’t be back in 2021, McGarvey said there will be something new featuring Sampson.

The Amazing Race Queensland

Industry speculation that the adventure travel competition might be based in one state is incorrect said McGarvey. The show has spent its first two weeks of filming in Queensland, but there will also be stops in other states. “The only place we are not going to is Victoria. Not only are we going to many of the iconic and beautiful parts of Australia, we are also going on a road less travelled too.”

Australian Survivor returning, but where?

McGarvey told Mediaweek 10 has two locations ready for the next season of Australian Survivor. “We just haven’t made the final decision yet. We may shoot in Australia. We are shooting I’m A Celebrity and The Amazing Race in Australia, but there is no final decision yet on Survivor.”

10 won’t be considering rolling out two seasons of any of its major franchises in 2021. “To be frank, giving all the complexities with production at the moment, one each of those shows is enough.”

Exploring commercial opportunities

The commercial team at Network 10 doesn’t wait until a new franchise has been acquired to explore sponsorship partners. “We start that work actually ahead of any acquisition,” Prosser said. “We have a robust discussion with Bev and her team about the commercial opportunities before any show gets commissioned. I am always looking for shows that are easy to integrate into that also come with an appeal to a good audience.

The new formats next year give us a real opportunity to get clients bedded into the shows.

“Because our major franchises are tried and tested, we have a lot of renewals that happen organically.”

10 has taken several new opportunities to market this year, including a new channel. “The take up of opportunities at 10 Shake from premium partners with clients wanting to get involved targeting a younger audience has been enormous.”

10 Shake: Growing the audience

As to spreading the word about new channel 10 Shake, McGravey said: “It had something of a soft launch, but the daytime audience doubled in the first couple of weeks. We are targeting a very specific audience so we need to make sure those people find it. We have a long-term plan, although it is already hitting its initial targets in terms of kids. We know want more people to sample the primetime offering.”

Monetising 10 Play

Rod Prosser

Prosser: “The BVOD market has been a real growth pillar for us and FTA TV this year, even through Covid. We have been making more money out of it. What has helped accelerate the monetisation has been our Premium Pause offering which has really taken off. We will soon launch the evolution of that, the Content Carousel, which allows advertisers to put their brands front and centre in the BVOD environment.”

Prosser also mentioned that by early next year 100% of 10’s platforms will be addressable. “This year we have added Flybuys which is a nice premium partner that compliments the existing ones we have got. It gives us access to about 8.6m spenders.”

10’s sport strategy

Although 10 is losing Supercars and the future of Rugby Union is yet to be decided, McGarvey said 10 remains a sports broadcaster. “We have said for a number of years our position on sport is tactical. We will look at everything and if it makes sense for our brand, ratings and revenue then we will be interested. We have the Melbourne Cup coming soon and for a few more years, the Bledisloe Cup rugby is on air at present and next year we still have the Australian F1 Grand Prix. Rod and I will look at every opportunity.”

Regarding the loss of Supercars, McGarvey noted it was an off-peak sport. “It was a great partnership while we had it, but it just didn’t make sense for us any longer.”

Prosser added: “Supercars became trickier and trickier for us to monetise, partly because it’s off-peak and on weekends.”

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