Lachlan Murdoch’s Ten Network Loses its Programming Chief

Lachlan Murdoch - H 2008
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David Mott resigns following a string of low rating programs at the number three ranked Australian TV network.

SYDNEY - David Mott, Network Ten Australia’s chief programming officer, resigned Friday after 16 years with the number three ranked commercial TV network.

Mott, who oversaw the commissioning of major Ten hits including the Masterchef format, Big Brother, Australian Idol, The Biggest Loser and a string of successful local dramas in the last decade said : “It's a sad day when you say goodbye to friends and colleagues, and leave a place you hold so dear. But it’s a great day when you take stock on what has been achieved over 16 fantastic years.

Mott appears to be taking the fall for a recent number of poor performing programs which have failed to arrest a ratings and revenue decline at the network that’s been ongoing now for nearly two years.  

Indeed many media commentators here have noted that the decisions to commission the programming, that Ten is currently struggling with were made during chairman Lachlan Murdoch’s tenure as interim CEO last year, and more recently under his CEO-designate former Seven Network ad sales chief James Warburton, who joined Ten in January.

The network’s programming woes accelerated in the two weeks since the Olympics with a string of flops headlined by big ticket reality dance show, Everybody Dance Now, an original format fronted by Sarah Murdoch, Lachlan’s wife and former host and executive producer  of Australia’s Next Top Model, and Kelly Rowland and Jason Derulo. It launched with a meager 598,000 capital city viewers, was cut back to one hour a week then axed on Monday after just three episodes. Any free-to-air program that airs to over 1 million metropolitan viewers here is deemed a success.

At the time Warburton said the show failed to strike a chord with viewers.

"As part of the renewal of Network Ten's creative content, we are trying new formats and creating more programming options," Warburton said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get the Everybody Dance Now format right. Although we worked with FremantleMedia to reset the program, clearly it has not struck a chord with viewers."

Faring not much better is Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert-inspired talent search show I Will Survive, which drew 427,000 viewers Wednesday, while locally produced “dramality” shows, Being Lara Bingle and The Shire have not been successes, and new breakfast show, Breakfast, fronted by New Zealand shock jock Paul Henry, which is floundering with just 30,000 viewers a day.

Despite those failures Mott’s successes over the years has seen him lauded as a brave programmer, backing show that the more conservative Seven and Nine networks would not.

“I am proud of the bold programming decisions we have made at Ten over that time, because without risk there is less chance of success, he said.

“In a job where you live and die by the numbers, perhaps I've been luckier than most,” he added.  

Ten’s ratings share has slumped below 20 percent this year,. On a three channel network basis, Ten finished the first half of the ratings year with a 19.9 percent share to Seven Network’s 30.4 percent and Nine’s 27.9 percent.

Its share of Australia’s $4 billion TV ad revenue has fared worse. In the first six months of 2011 it posted a 28.9 percent revenue share – this year it’s fallen to 25.5 percent.

Mott's deputy, Beverley McGarvey, will replace him as acting head of programming until a replacement is found.

Widely tipped for he the job is the Seven Network’s former head of daytime television, Adam Boland, who was credited with helping turn the fortunes of that network around a decade ago with his revamp of breakfast program Sunrise.