Dear Hamish, seriously….

2013-02-28_2257In what is fast becoming a series of letters to TEN CEOs, today I offer my thoughts for free to Hamish McLennan, the network’s incoming boss.

I’ve previously blogged “Dear Lachlan” and “Dear James” letters as well as a “Why I Heart Network TEN” post.

Dear Hamish

Welcome to being the fourth CEO in just over two years. Five if you count interim CEO Russel Howcroft right now.

As a viewer I’ve watched with frustration, hope and dismay at a favourite network turn into a shell of its former self. Shows have been axed, personalities have left the building, programming decisions have left me saying “What the?” more times than Rove ever did.

You remember Rove? He used to have a show on Sunday nights. It was paired pretty well with Australian Idol or So You Think You Can Dance on Sunday nights. Now I’m not saying any of those shows should necessarily be revived, but collectively they all turned Sundays into Event viewing and a great way to promote the rest of the week.

These days TEN seems to promote the same handful of shows as to become irritating, while others just don’t get a look in. I also see very little promotion of shows on multichannels on TEN. Have you seen how cool American Horror Story is? In America that thing is getting awards while TEN is peddling Hawaii Five-0.

These days Nine has cleverly aligned itself as the new TEN by nabbing shows like Big Brother, Hamish & Andy and The Voice from under your nose. The story of the chairman refusing to up a few extra mill to get the rights for The Voice is now industry folk lore. Instead we got Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive, Don’t Tell the Bride, The Shire and that other one that may never see the light of day: Come Date with Me.

A lot has been written about whether TEN should be chasing younger viewers or shooting for a broader audience. Seven and Nine are already in a tussle over the latter, so why try and take them on? Historically you have always been the cool network, the cheeky kid on the block, the network that takes risks and runs its own race. So why was Breakfast close to being a clone of the other two?

I realise that younger viewers are supposedly turning their backs on Free to Air, and there’s a lot of truth in that. But here’s the thing: even the 16-39 year olds will always want content. In fact they crave it. They just want it now and on multiple platforms -proof that they are going to great lengths for their entertainment. A way of addressing this would be to fast-track US content while generating more local content that premieres first on TEN. You should be directing all your energies to the audience watching Live television with social media as part of a national conversation. Zeebox, one of your best partnerships of 2012, lends itself perfectly to this and Can of Worms is a step in the right direction.

Why is 10:30 such a deadzone in television? While costs probably prohibit a late night Tonight show, think of ways to offer a low-cost Live conversation. I really miss The Panel. What kind of form would it take if a show of this kind were on in 2013? And if the Breakfast landscape is too crowded and too hard the other end of the day might be a viable alternative, especially when paired with The Late Show with David Letterman currently wasted in a dead zone.

We are all smarter Programmers in hindsight, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of numbers Mr & Mrs Murder would get if it had David Attenborough’s Africa as a lead in. Neighbours would also be a sensible alternative to News offerings at 6pm (and you could have had drama points for the last two years had it been there). Only play MasterChef once a year please.

Make a pact with the audience to start shows on time. Watch your numbers enjoy an immediate upswing as a result.

Replace the Seriously brand. I realise it hasn’t been used for about 6 months, but what is the current message? It needs to be about stability. It needs to communicate you are hearing the audience more than those billionaire board members.

Please go and give everybody working in the Drama department the day off. They have been a shining light through this instability. Puberty Blues, Offspring, Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Mr & Mrs Murder -they all have unique qualities. But let’s face it, sometimes they have been dragged down by decisions and accompanying programmes outside of their realm. Also ask them to commission a behind the scenes drama on the making of Number 96: The Story of how Australia lost its Virginity. It could be your own Howzat or Paper Giants. Who would play Abigail?

I don’t understand ONE. I hardly ever hear anybody talking about a show that was on it. How’s that working out for you?

Are you fairly represented in the current ratings system? Kindly investigate. How many TEN viewers no longer have a landline phone, which is mandatory to being in the survey panel? If you own a third of our current ratings provider, are you content it is doing in 2013 what it did for you in 2001?

Update: OzTAM advises they do have mobile households in the panel.

Modern Family should not be treated as your very own Big Bang Theory.

We still like your shows and your identities. We are trying hard not to slap them for your mistakes. We want you to get back to your rightful place as an aggressive third commercial network.

In television there are also times when there’s nothing inherently wrong with most of the content you are stumping up, but the strength of the competition overrides all else.

Remember that you don’t always need to be the highest rating network -you only need to be the most profitable.



ps. The Number 96 drama was for free, the rest will entail a fee!


  1. Well said!!! Ten was my fave network for many years, but its glory days seem to be behind it. Totally agree about MasterChef. It needs to go back to being on once a year. They have diluted their star performer terribly over the last couple of years. I particularly like your suggestion re a Paper Giants treatment of No 96. I am old enough to remember the furore it caused when it first went to air, it was massively controversial and the brouhaha over it lasted for a long time. Have you pitched this idea to any production houses or other networks? If you haven’t, you should.

  2. @Secret Squirrel
    Ten starts most of its programmes on the half hour, according to the TV Guide. Glee, Mr & Mrs Murder, Elementary are all doing this.

    It is Channel 9 that has played around with delaying programmes to try and match up with Channel 7, not Channel 10. Though Channel 9 have now figured out that they do better starting their top ratings shows like the TBBT and POI during MKR and Revenge and taking some viewers of Seven. And are even starting The Mentalist close to 8:30pm tonight as advertised.

    Though if you have a show that viewers are not watching because Seven is running MKR till 8:45pm though there is no point in starting it at 8:30pm when most of your viewers can’t watch it. That piss them off more than the TV differences.

  3. @kimbeth – Totally agree. I switched over last night to something called TEN Late News, and all there was for 5 mins was silly waffle between 3 presenters, someone scrolling through “funny” pages on her laptop – everything but “news”. Switched off.

  4. I love these letters! Such a personal and sincere touch to the blog.

    I totally agree about The Panel. Maybe TEN should consider a show with Santo, Sam and Ed. Their Sports Fever shows were underrated on 7 and their Podcast is hilarious, and considering they’re pretty closely related should make an adaption a lot easier.

  5. 1 more thing. Promote the living room more, i watch quite a bit of Ten and i’ve seen 1 promo for it in the past week! You need to show the highlights of the past yr and squeeze it into a great living room promo, maybe intime for it’s new slot back to 7.30??

  6. Maev....Sydney

    Well one is never too old to learn something new….you need a landline to be able to be part of ratings…..
    Apart from me and two of my friends…I cannot think of anyone else that has a landline….most I know have gone to mobile/cell phones.

  7. I think the 1st thing he should do is order the project be cut back to 30 mins! Don;t show the news headlines at the start of the project but instead at the end of the 5pm news show the big headlines. Then that way the new upcoming seasons of bl and mc can start @ 7pm where they were most successful!
    Then bring back Sandra in some capacity be it a show for herself or put her on a breakfast show

  8. David you forgot to say about F1 and MotoGP on ONE as TENs share will get more on ONE then what they got last year as it will rate 400,000 that’s only for the race and 300,000 for Pre Race on ONE if they will show it on prime time on Sundays

  9. remember when neighbours was on at 630 and the project was on at 7?

    the target audience for the project is pretty much the same target audience as neighbours. so with viewing split some choosing the project over neighbours and vice versa. wouldn’t it be a better idea to move Neighbours to 6pm followed by the project? we really don’t need the Simpson’s every night at 6.

    Sandra Sully, Hamish McDonald are two very popular and trusted journo’s yet Sandra was moved to a local news program and Hamish to late news.

    Imagine the success of breakfast if Sandra and Hamish were hosting?

  10. David, is drama the only department at Ten that hasn’t been tampered with by Lachlan and Warbs? Maybe if they’d just left the ‘television people’ alone to do their jobs Ten would be in much better shape right now.

  11. Armchair Analyst

    Very well said David. I wuld just like to ad a couple of things regarding the multichannel. Firstly ONE. A former 24/7 sports channel at least it had a identity, yes it cost too much but so did the other sports channel and now its saving Foxtel from being a useless waste of spectrum. I would like ONE to truly be a male orientated channel. The content that is has on is not what i would classify as what men would want to watch. Give men what men want i have said it before BABS (Building Stuff, Action content, Babes/hot Sexy chicks, Sports (Live). Those are the things you need to do. Secondly Eleven, needs to have more diversity in Scifi content surely endless Star Trek repeats is not all you have, what about Battle Star Galactica and Stargate Universe, what about another Gene Rodenberry Scifi series called Andromeda. Also i good kids block wouldn’t hurt finally you could actually use Labby and Stav for something useful, i mean it worked with Jade and Ryan in the 90s and Go! is doing it with Kids WB. Also i would like to see more classic Spelling content screened such as the Original 90210 and Original Melrose Place. There needs to be a clear and consistent strategy in what the multichannel are there fore otherwise it is just a waste of spectrum,

  12. Oh I agree with others too… I miss Sandra Sully. I also think Can of Worms should be 930pm Wednesday’s. I still want The Goodwife on air though.

  13. Secret Squirrel

    Another well-written letter, David. I think you pretty much hit every nail on the head, without repeating what you had previously written. I actually went back and read the ones to Lachlan and James W. and they still ring true.

    It’s amazing that it is now two years (wow) since you wrote the one to Lachlan, and it’s pretty clear that, despite your many clear and cogent suggestions, that not one of them was taken on board.

    @Pertinax – starting programs on time doesn’t mean on the half-hour, it means at the time that they are advertised. Putting 8:30 in the printed guides, 8:40 on-line, and 8:42 in the EPG is false advertising but, more importantly, it pisses people off (especially when the EPG is updated an hour before the broadcast).

  14. My 2 cents… Scrap the new late news which is neither here nor there and reinstate a standard news program with sports tonight and occasional entertainment news segments. Any chance we can get Sandra back also?

  15. I used to love Ch 10, now i have totally switched off except for American Horror Story and The Project, for the life of me i can not understand how people what TT or ACA over The Project, is it because they simply hate Ch 10 and refuse to watch anything on this channel ??? Probably.

    David you have summed it up perfectly. I don’t understand how everyone in control at 10 are so clueless. I don’t have faith that the current management team will fix anything. I think that someone like Todd Sampson would have been a much better fit for the channel rather than Russel Howcroft, if it wants to maintain its cool image.

    Ch 10 please do not try and become clones of 7 and 9, people want and alternative, some cooler and hipper (for want of a better word).

    Give Masterchef a rest Please!!! I beg of you.

    I am not going to waste my breath on shows i think they should be showing, said it all before as many others have, and no one there listens or cares. But starting shows on time and do not move them around, don’t sneaking repeats mid way through a season would be a start.

    I would also love to see what season & episode of a program I am watching, just like foxtel does. Is it so hard to do that??

    I have given up on Ten the channel I once loved. Sad really what has happened to this once loved station.

  16. @ Hamish.

    I’m pretty sure one of your people will bring David’s letter to your attention. I’m also pretty sure that until you tell Lachlan to ‘bug out’ nothing of substance is going to change and to be honest I don’t really give a damn. Ten has had more than enough latitude to get it’s act together and has failed on every count. You don’t deserve another shot in a dwindling market.

    Between the internet and the increasing mobility of today’s young folks, your target audience is disappearing faster than a politician’s election promise.



    PS… don’t you go touching Sons of Anarchy… just screen it and go play with your toys.

    @ David. OzTam needs a landline??? How 90’s is that?

  17. I think Ten needs to revisit it’s whole model as going head to head with nine/seven will kill it. Like it was a few years ago, why not revel in it’s ‘third network’ position and become a BBC2/Channel4, commissioning it’s shows from smaller independents rather than the usual suspects to recapture audience it once had.

    It needs to rediscover its point of difference in both programming and presentation.

    I think it’s arrogant & rubbish programming rather than the net that has driven its audience away.

    Good point about Tv later at night – why is it such a desert?

  18. carolemorrissey

    Well said David, now lets just hope someone listens. I miss the Panel too, it was a great show, so was Good News Week, what happened to that? Channel 10 has treated great shows like White Collar & Blue Bloods abominably, which are huge hits in the US, and would be here too if they were given a decent go. And last year they took off Hawaii Five-0 mid season, then waited till the end of the year to show the rest of it.

  19. I agree with you David. Can I also add, can they please get new shows for Couch Time on 11. My kids have stopped watching it (Maybe a good thing as they now go out and play). After watching the same episodesover and over, it gets very boring.

  20. It was an extra $6m for the Voice plus Urban and Seal making $23m. And if Nine, who were desperately gambling to avoid bankruptcy, had though that Channel 10 was going to bid $23m then they would have bid $25m.

    This also happened before Ten’s share sank and they found out how badly they would do if Nine got The Voice.

    Of course all this is hindsight, nothing McLennan can do about it.

    American Horror Story is a niche cable drama. It would never get large ratings on FTA. It would have to screen after 9:30pm and would get a couple of hundred thousand viewers at most.

    The first series was brilliant. The second less so. The S2 final got $2.3m viewers in the States. S1 averaged 5m and S2 started at 4.3m.

    Channel 10 is only promoting a couple of shows because with viewers watching 4 episodes of MKR and 5 episodes of the Block a week they are only watching a handful of other shows. Mostly those following MKR.

    Shows like The Mentalist and NCIS which were getting 1.5m every week are now struggling to get 600k.

    Ten only cancels shows because they are rating really, really, badly. They stuck with Glee this time until its ratings fell to 239k. Leaving failed shows on will destroy the network quicker, not save it.

    One’s share has gone from 1.3% as a sport only channel to 2.3% last week. You could put good shows on One but they would rate less than half what they would on Ten. If Ten had any good rating shows they have plenty of slots on Channel 10 that desperately need some, not One.

    Ten would not treat MF like TBBT if they had a better option. And Nine wouldn’t be using the TBBT to fill up half of Nine and Go! either if they had a better option.

    Channel 10 did start all their shows on time a couple of months. And the staggered programming of 7 and 9 is killing them. So they have been forced to push them back to when 7 and 9 start programmes. And this has seen their ratings rise a bit not fall.

  21. If Ten got one of the big US dramas that are out, I’d watch them.

    There are so many shows that are only on Foxtel… if Ten manned up and paid the big bucks to HBO for a show like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Girls, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men…they’d finally have a big flagship program like the other networks have built their schedules on. Lost, Heroes and Downton Abbey did it for Seven, and Survivor was huge when it first premiered on Nine.

    If Ten paid the money and brought Game of Thrones to free to air, I’d be a very grateful viewer, and probably more receptive to their other programming.

    Alas, no one wants to pay the kind of money required to break the Foxtel/HBO partnership, even though pirating records show that Australians pirate those programs the most. 300,000 Aussies downloaded the program last year…imagine how many more would watch it fast tracked on free to air?

  22. David, correct me if i am wrong. but are you saying OZ TAM is an out dated system that is not giving us a true number of what people are really watching? ( most of us beleive that to be true)

  23. While I was ready this I kept saying Yes, Yes, (started to sound a bit like Meg Ryan in “that” scene from When Harry Met Sally) extremely well said David.

    TasTVcameraman; I am also watching ONE on Wednesday nights great block of shows, White Collar, Burn Notice (finally) and Blue Bloods. Also loving Elementary and New Modern Family.

    Like I have said in the past if you build it they will watch. Get the message TEN you can do it.

  24. I think Channel Ten needs a new morning lineup quicksmart to help promote its other shows.

    6AM Breakfast show – Melbourne based newsy show with Waleed Aly and Gorgi Coghlan.

    9AM Morning show – Sydney based health show with Andrew Rochford and Michelle Bridges.

    11AM Morning News – Based wherever, get it hosted by a fresh face.

    Launch it straight after Easter!

  25. Thanks David for being our voice. I have always favoured 10 over 7 and 9 as it is/was more cool and irreverent and I “seriously’ want to feel like that again.

    I feel old and mainstream when I watch 7 and 9. The ABC doesn’t make me feel like that interestingly.

    Come on 10 you can do it.

  26. Dear Hamish

    I know a few years back TEN was working through some pilots for Aussie version of Saturday night takeaway. Something fun and not to serious like Don’t forget your toothbrush but updated for a Sunday night would be great. Also how about and Australian version of of I’m a Celebrity, I know its expensive and the word “celebrity” is questionable but it is something that could give secondary content to digital channels

  27. All of what you said is spot on. I’ve said the same thing about neighbours for years. I don’t watch it but it should be on Ten at 6pm.
    I’ve also said Ten need to set itself apart from the networks and start shows on time and advertise the fact they are doing. This will win viewers. I’ve turned off so many US shows on Ten because I’m sick of late start shows, the lack of fast tracking and the moving around. I watched the entire series of Monk in a few weeks after borrowing the box set. Ten axed it in SA in season 3 and hasn’t been seen since. They just played Hawaii Five 0 out of order. NCIS is behind.
    I simply don’t trust Ten anymore.
    Only thing they have going for them is the Aussie dramas you mentioned.
    Again what on earth were they thinking with those shows last year. How could anyone think The Shire and Bingle would be a good idea? Ten lost me then.

  28. Dear Hamish, please look at the editing happening on The Bold and the Beautiful (includes morning repeat and online catch up). Please reinstate the opening and closing credits which have been removed since February 2012. Thank you

  29. ONE was all about sports. Simple. It worked. They they stuffed it up. Now it’s trying to be 7mate for ‘men and boys’ with occasionally NBL, NASCAR and F1 a day late of course!

  30. ONE was all about sports. Simple. It worked. They they stuffed it up. Now it’s trying to be 7mate for ‘men and boys’ with occasionally NBL, NASCAR and F1 (a day late of course!)

  31. Well said, David. i agree with almost everything you’ve said there and would probably just add that the Ten logo probably needs refreshing too so it doesn’t look like something from last century.

  32. Nice try David, but Hamish McLennan will probably only see it, if one of Ten’s interns accidentally drops his own copy hopefully near Hamish’s office door, but if he drops it any where near the boardroom door, it will probably just get walked on, as none of those who enter the B/room seem to have their eyes on the ball.. Or do they, and is it more like, they are just playing a different game.

    I can not help thinking whilst looking at your pic.of Hamish in such a striking pose, and see him as the Captain of the Costa Concordia, and then think of Cuddly Captain Russel more akin to the Love Boat, where unfortunately both may be using historical charts from SS Titanic.( I wonder if Clive Palmer has more modern charts)

    I also wonder when it will suddenly dawn on Hamish, that internal conflict and not programming may be his biggest problem, simply because the right wing element slowly strangling any breath of long term recovery for Ten, simply because their target demo, is the younger short attention span of must have it now selfish generation and all they is to sow the seeds of discontent.

    Where Hamish says he wants to target us oldies, with our failing short term memories, but with nearly photographic long term memories, and have long since learnt, no matter what side of politics you vote for, you always still only end up getting a politician.

  33. It’s really easy….
    1 – Make a programming decision? Stick to it.
    2 – Air shows when your EPG says it will.
    (and no, fiddling with the EPG half an hour to air doesn’t count)

    Anyone who is a fan of Californication, Burn Notice, Monk, or Psych can give you a very long list of why they will never again trust or watch network Ten.

    Matters only get worse if you wander off into how Ten treats Sci-Fi – Ironic given that’s one genre where it could easily shine and is immediately popular with the gaming generation.

  34. ghghgh20_211

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Finally someone has said everything i’ve been thinking!!

    Please oh please listen to David!! He still hearts channel 10

  35. jezza the first original one

    Alternatively Mr CEO, you could just continue to run the network into the ground, like your predecessors, as I am sure the billionaires won’t notice

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