CBS’s Armando Nuñez on 10’s outlook + content & distribution models

“Two years later CBS is very proud of the way 10 has evolved”

A regular onlooker at the Network 10 Upfront since CBS took over the network in 2017 is president & CEO at CBS Global Distribution Group, Armando Nuñez.

This week in Sydney Nuñez recalled how CBS became the owner of Network 10, explaining that 10 and CBS have had a long relationship going back many years. With the local broadcaster in financial deep water, CBS had an investment it was not going to walk away from.

“When the ownership issue came up our thinking was quite evolutionary as we tried to understand the issue and what our options were,” Nuñez told Mediaweek.

There was a realisation within CBS there was an opportunity in Australia for CBS to acquire a significant Australian media asset. We then put the full force of CBS into action to acquire the network.”

Nuñez said there were more similarities than differences between the US and Australian media markets, although they needed to understand the idiosyncrasies with the local market.

It was an incredible opportunity and I am very proud of the management team at 10, which was going through a very challenging time. Being in administration is not a fun thing. I am also proud of my CBS colleagues who supported the move and of ongoing support that has taken us to where we are now.

“There seemed to be some thought that when CBS arrived we would just flip a switch and 10 would change the next day.

“We are going through a process, an evolution and the 2020 Upfront is part of that.

“10’s 2020 presentation shows off the depth and breadth of the content, most of which is returning, showing the success with consistency and building a schedule that fits the brand.

“We did take a few swings and misses this year and we knew the first half of 2019 was going to be difficult without the Big Bash League. We also new we had existing strong franchises plus new ones like The Masked Singer we were going to introduce.”

CBS hasn’t changed any of the 10 management team since taking control. “At the time of the acquisition we thought the management team deserved the opportunity to do what we knew they could do. We were incredibly fortunate to have Paul Anderson leading 10 as he came out of an incredibly challenging situation in administration.

“Leading the network through that was a big test of leadership capabilities. We supported the management team and they have done an extraordinary job. Two years later CBS is very proud of the way 10 has evolved.”

Calendar year 2019 saw a big investment in content from CBS.

“We are in the business to make a profit, but we are definitely not sitting around thinking of ways to spend more,” said Nuñez. “We knew we had to invest though. As a company CBS spends US$7b [annually] on content. Not all of the content we invest in is successful, but hopefully there is more success than failure.

“There is a limit to what we will invest in Network 10 as we are a fiscally disciplined company. We work closely with 10 and Paul and I speak at least every other day. We review the budgets and are financially in sync with each other.”

Nuñez was recently in Canada opening a new CBS production facility. When asked if something like that could ultimately be undertaken in Australia, Nuñez said: “That is possible. The model is changing and the model is not just about creating the content in the US. If the right opportunity came up [in Australia] of doing something similar we would look at it.”

Nuñez wouldn’t speak as to how that might happen, but he said: “There is no cookie cutter approach to this. There are a lot of different ways to do that.”

Also part of the CBS operation in Australia is a Sydney office under Nicole Sinclair, VP & MD, Asia Pacific and Stephen White, MD & SVP client relations Asia Pacific. “They look after Australia as we also manage our offices in Beijing and Singapore from here.

In terms of distribution we also have a very important relationship with Stan for Showtime content. Our CBS colleagues here also look after CBS All Access with 10.”

Commenting on the explosion of on demand services and the models to supply them, Nuñez said: “There are a number of different roads media companies are going down. Some companies are deciding not to licence any of their content and keep it for their own platforms.

Some companies are using a hybrid model and picking and choosing what content they want to put on what platform – whether it is their own platform or licensing it to third parties. That is where we are, sort of.

“As the direct-to-consumer model evolves the question for many media companies is, what works best? Disney is going global with a direct-to-consumer model, which is a very bold and ambitious move, but they have great IP.

“Some companies are deciding territory by territory, but there is no cookie cutter model, which is the beauty of the environment where there is the great demand for content.”

As to the outlook for Network 10 into 2020, Nuñez said he was “as confident as one could be” he said with a grin.

In this business having healthy angst is a good thing. We don’t take anything for granted. The team works very hard on every single show we put to air. We feel very good about the line-up and we feel very confident.”

Armando Nuñez with 10’s Rod Prosser (left), Beverley McGarvey and Paul Anderson

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