With strong audiences for I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! following its early start on January 5 this year, Network 10’s chief sales officer Rod Prosser feels the broadcaster has consolidated its position across the summer.
Prosser remembered back to the day 10 learned it had lost the rights to Big Bash League. “We were all a bit shaken by it,” Prosser told Mediaweek. As senior executives talked about what might happen to their summer plans, a colleague said “It’s not the end of the world. We will do something great.”
Prosser said he wanted a high-quality production that was highly integratable. That turned out to be the plan to move forward Celebrity. One week earlier last year, an extra week earlier this year.
“It was a risk – audiences had been used to either sport or repeats across much of the summer. To go head-to-head with sports with a noisy entertainment format, and to be better, is a major achievement.”
Prosser said 10 has helped change Australian viewing habits over summer because they now have an option.
How has the market adapted to 10’s new normal – starting its 2020 TV season on the first Sunday of the new year?
“I don’t think agencies thought that I’m A Celebrity would do as well this year as it did in 2019. Seven would have been writing more money for its Big Bash League. But after their performance and ours people are now questioning that.”
Prosser expects a major re-examination of how brands are supporting the cricket. “We have been the #1 network in 25-54 in early January and we will continue to be seriously close [up against the start of the tennis]. Brands will need to readjust their thinking and look at their investment.
“The amount of money brands are paying to be part of the Big Bash League would be huge.”
While Prosser is happy about Celebrity v BBL, he’s not about to underestimate the power of Nine’s tennis. “It has been doing a great job. But I am sure people will look again at January for next year and question whether money should be going to Seven or 10.”
While there is much focus on 10’s performance with its key 7.30pm franchises, Prosser is keen to point out the network is a lot more than that. “The argument that we might be just doing well for an hour and a half is not correct. Our commercial audience share is higher than its been for some time so far in 2020.”
Network 10 has been spending big on formats and rights. One of the key acquisitions in 2019 was rights to the Melbourne Cup. Prosser and his newish 10 sales team worked hard at selling the event beforehand and then partied with clients just as enthusiastically across the Spring Carnival four days.
“It gave us the opportunity to talk to clients we hadn’t talked to before that were invested in the sport. The Spring Carnival was a success in terms of audience and revenue – we lifted both.”
A big challenge for Prosser’s team in 2020 is selling new faces on MasterChef to brands who had long relationships with the former hosts. The sales chief said he thought the brand is bigger than the personalities.
“It was 10’s team that was brokering most of the arrangements for the [former] judges and we will do exactly the same for the new judges.”
Prosser said reports back from production on the new season early in the piece describe the new team as “sensational”.
Another key 10 franchise for brands in 2020 will be year two of The Masked Singer. “The clients are lining up,” said Prosser.
“During 2020 negotiations there has been much demand for that as there has been for Australian Survivor: All Stars.”
Key to interest in The Masked Singer is “family friendly” which makes it a safe haven for audiences and advertisers. “It is a show you can watch with your kids and advertisers are looking for more and more of that.”
As to an outlook for the market this year. Prosser is confident 10 will be up year-on-year despite an overall market plunge at the end of 2019.
“I can say that our January revenue will be up as well as our revenue share which you would expect after the success of I’m A Celebrity last year. But I can say I believe it should be better than what it is.
“We have proven ourselves and we should be getting more and I think that will come.”
Prosser is expecting a sluggish market start overall to 2020, but he added 10 forward bookings are starting to fill out for later in the year.
Network 10 sales is happy about the programming decision to extend the 5pm news through until The Project starts, improving the audience flow which was being disrupted somewhat by unsuccessful game shows at 6pm.
“It is very early days, but we are seeing some encouraging results. The market knows how critical that slot is for us.”
Prosser is more positive about 10’s schedule than ever. “Full credit to Beverley McGarvey [chief content officer] and her team for this year. In the 10 years I have been at 10 I’ve never seen anything this strong. Everything is tried and tested. It is a really strong slate.”
Prosser said it was too early to forecast what he has planned for the 2021 Upfronts after his starring role in Carpool Karaoke last year. “There will be no more singing,” he laughed, recalling his performance alongside James Corden.