After 17 years at Network 10, departing CEO Paul Anderson has seen a number of his bosses and other media industry executives leave under various circumstances.
Those departures are sometimes accompanied by a release saying things like “time for a new challenge, spend time with the family” and “working out what to do with the rest of one’s life”.
The announcement from Network 10 and Paul Anderson announcing his departure on Wednesday morning touched on those areas too, and his phone soon started filling with messages from friends, colleagues, customers and competitors wondering what really happened.
There has been no shortage of searches for a “smoking gun” and the person who might have had a hand on the trigger. But talking to Mediaweek on Wednesday afternoon, Anderson said: “Most seem to understand that I have resigned of my own volition, but there are also a lot of sceptics who think I might have been pushed which is not true.”
Some have drawn a link between Anderson’s recent promotion as executive vice president, ViacomCBS Networks Australia and New Zealand and his departure. “There really is no link between the two. That change of title, or promotion, call it what you like, should have come when the merger happened in November. Because of other changes it didn’t happen until two months ago. It was really about integrating Viacom people into 10.”
Anderson can understand the scepticism some may have about his decision to end his time at the television business.
“I have been thinking about this for some time,” he told Mediaweek. But he only actioned it recently.
10 released the announcement of his departure early in the day just as the management team found out and before he and the new chief content officer and EVP, ViacomCBS Australia and New Zealand Beverley McGarvey addressed Network 10 staff on station in the building atrium space on the newsroom floor and via video link to all arms of the expanded ViacomCBS business around Australia.
Anderson later flew to Melbourne to do his bit as soon-to-depart boss at functions associated with duties as Australian rights holder for the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.
To further prodding about his decision Anderson added. “I am really happy to have done this and to be part of the transition period under what is a really good structure.”
He said some people seem to be having a hard time getting their head around his departure. “As to why would someone give up a job like this and resign? My kids are growing up, and I would like to have a little bit of time to do things with the family and to travel. But I do have a lot left in me in terms of my career.”
Anderson laughed when we asked if his family would think having him around the house more would be a good thing. “You’d have to ask them about that. I have one son who has just finished school and is going travelling to Europe and a daughter that is doing Year 12.”
Anderson and McGarvey were both in London together just three weeks ago, but the departing TV boss is adamant that had nothing to do with his departure. “That week in London was two-fold. We went to the showcases for the production companies and we also took meetings with the Viacom team. The London visit was completely unconnected with my departure.”
Anderson was also quick to scotch any idea that plans ViacomCBS have for Australia motivated his departure. “To be honest the last 10 years has seen an awful lot of change at our business which at the end of the day takes its toll. But I’ve had an awful lot of experience going through all that and I am extremely grateful for that opportunity.”
Several times during his interview he emphasised how hard it was for him to make the decision to quit. “I have had one of the best jobs in media. But 17 years is a long time as well.”
Anderson said during the dark days at 10 he had never seriously considered chucking it in. “I took the attitude that those were the times when you actually learn something.”
As to where Anderson might pop up, it won’t be another media company anytime soon given he has a non-compete period he has to serve out. “I have been asked by some today if I have another job in mind and that is an absolute ‘no’.”
Anderson originally qualified as a chartered accountant and has crossed over to general management when the opportunity at 10 arose first as COO and then later CEO.
Anderson’s decision to was so recent that it wasn’t discussed when he was in London mid-February, nor when new president of VCNI’s operations in Australia and the UK, Maria Kyriacou, visited Australia a week later meeting the team and visiting the MasterChef Australia set in Melbourne.
Anderson has led Network 10 to a place where it has a strong 7.30 schedule with breakout hits later in the night across the week too. “At the moment we have had seven months of consecutive audience growth.” Competitors might say that was off a very low base. Anderson added the business has also had five consecutive months of revenue growth.
“The investment we have had in our content for the past two years is really starting to pay off. All of the things we said at the Upfronts are coming true. We have arguably the best of our content still to come this year. Once we complete the integration between Viacom and CBS, which is not far away, we become part of the second biggest content producer in the world. There is no other media company in Australia that can replicate that.”
As to how long Anderson might be staying on, he couldn’t put a timeframe on helping oversee the company’s transition to new management. He will be working fulltime, but unsure if it could be three months, maybe six. “I honestly don’t know. As long as it takes and we will know when the time is right. The main aim is to make sure the momentum we have at the moment continues.”