CBS Corp. Closes Acquisition of Australia's Ten Network

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CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves

The deal will allow CBS to "expand on our close working relationship" and pave the way for "further multiplatform distribution opportunities for CBS content," says Leslie Moonves.

CBS Corp. is now officially the owner of Australian broadcaster Ten Network after clearing the final regulatory hurdles for its acquisition, the company said Thursday.

The regional NSW Supreme Court ratified the $31 million (AUS$41 million) takeover this week after small shareholders agreed to the deal. Ten shares will be de-listed from the Australian Securities Exchange, ending months of speculation about the future of the network after shareholders Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon had Ten placed in receivership.  

"The closing of this acquisition marks the beginning of an exciting opportunity to build and expand on our close working relationship and the great legacy of Network Ten in Australia and to paving the way for further multiplatform distribution opportunities for CBS content," said CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.

"I believe our ownership helps ensure that Network Ten’s business will grow long-term, while also benefiting the Australian media sector as a whole," Moonves added. "We look forward to welcoming Ten and its employees to the CBS family."

Ten Network CEO Paul Anderson added: "We are delighted that the purchase of Ten by CBS Corporation, one of the largest and most successful media organizations in the world, has been finalized." 

He added: "CBS and Ten have had a strong relationship for many years. We look forward to expanding and strengthening that relationship, and working closely with CBS to build Ten’s presence in the Australian media industry."

Details of what CBS' impact on Ten will be, however, are yet to emerge. Ten unveiled its 2018 programming slate at its annual upfront presentation to media buyers and advertisers last week, but, because the CBS acquisition had not been finalized, how CBS programming will play out on the network was not detailed.

While the message at Ten's upfront presentation was business as usual, with its 2018 slate underpinned by returning reality shows, including I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Masterchef, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, new shows announced included Bachelor in Paradise, the addition of Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson as judges on Masterchef and four new local dramas.

Anderson said at the upfront that the new ownership gives Ten, Australia’s third-ranked free-to-air network, more “confidence.”

"This is the most successful television network in the U.S., and they have all of the same challenges we do about producing great content and monetizing it given the different ways that audiences view content these days,” Anderson told local media. "Survivor is a good example. It's a CBS show and the biggest reality show in the world and it's also one of ours. We've got to work out ways of gaining some synergies for productions with CBS, and we've got some plans already. It gives us confidence and we can tap into their expertise that they have in their market.”

One early indicator of how aggressive CBS might be in this market came last month when Ten poached journalist Lisa Wilkinson, the hugely popular host of rival Nine Network’s breakfast program, Today. Her contract negotiations with Nine fell apart, reportedly because Nine would not agree to equal the pay of her co-host Karl Stefanovic, the top-paid personality on Australian television.

Ten quickly snapped up Wilkinson, who will co-host its early evening news program The Sunday Project, as well as fulfill other yet-to-be-named on-air duties.

CBS’ acquisition of Ten includes the main Ten broadcast channel, multi-channels One and Eleven and Ten’s online catch-up and streaming service tenplay. CBS has also said it will launch subscription streaming service CBS All Access down under.