Ten unveils ratings recovery plan

Logie darling Lisa McCune will star in Ten's <i>Reef Doctors</i>.
Logie darling Lisa McCune will star in Ten's Reef Doctors.

The Ten Network has unveiled a 2013 program slate, including five new Australian dramas, which it hopes will lay the bedrock for a ratings recovery.

Ten has also signed internationally-renowned chef Marco-Pierre White to host Masterchef: The Professionals, a spin-off to its hit cooking franchise.

The embattled network unveiled the new slate at a breakfast attended by media buyers in Sydney. Their backing, and the advertising spend of their clients, is critical to Ten's recovery.

Warburton said 2012 had been a difficult year for Ten. "We know we've not been good enough," he said.

Warburton said Ten was re-focusing its strategy on their core audience of under-50s, who make up 70 per cent of the network's audience. "That's who we are. We're proud of that and our programming will reflect and respect that," he said.

The five new Australian dramas include a contemporary romantic comedy, Wonderland, from Packed to the Rafters creator Jo Porter, which Ten hopes will tap into the established Offspring audience.

The other four are an eight-part series based on Peter FitzSimons' book Batavia, a psychological thriller Secrets & Lies: The Track from Emmy-winning Australian production company Hoodlum and two dramas already announced, Mr & Mrs Murder and Reef Doctors.

Ten also announced a new series, The Truth Is, to be fronted by journalist Hamish Macdonald. An insider described it to the Herald as "60 Minutes on steroids." Filming for that series is already underway.

Ten used the occasion to showcase its new head of programming, Beverley McGarvey, who takes on the toughest job in television: digging Ten out of the ratings more which has seriously damaged its brand and seen it cede ground to a resurgent ABC1.

McGarvey said Ten's 2013 strategy would focus on "consistency, stability and better results."

Historically Ten has sat in third place on the ratings ladder, but that has been offset in the last two decades by its unmatched popularity with younger demographics. At one point in the last decade, Ten was the third ranked network but the most profitable in pure dollar terms. Now it is neither.

One of Ten's major weaknesses coming out of 2012 is the lack of a marquee sport. The network surrended its shared AFL rights in the hope it could more effectively bid for the NRL, but ended up with neither.

To fill that space, Ten has announced two key rugby events, the British and Irish Lions Tour and the Rugby Championship. Ten will also screen the 2013 tennis Hopman Cup.

Ten's four marquee overseas series are Ripper Street, Elementary, The Americans and Americal Idol.

The first two have the most potential. Ripper Street is a dramatisation of the Jack the Ripper story, and Elementary is a US remake of the Sherlock Holmes story.

Ten has previously screened seasons of American Idol with mixed success.

Ten also confirmed its major franchises would return, including Masterchef and The Biggest Loser. The 2013 iteration of The Biggest Loser would be subtitled The Next Generation and feature parent/child contestant pairings.

Last week, Ten reported a net loss of around $13 million, and announced a new round of cost-cutting, focusing on the network's news department and broadcast operations.

This story Ten unveils ratings recovery plan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.