I want to start by saying that part of Ten’s problem is its target demographic: The youth audience. That same fickle youth audience driving disintermediation. Given its focus on youth, Ten has been exposed to the threat of disintermediation to a much greater degree than its competitors in free-to-air commercial television. Despite all this they’ve neglected to undergo internetisation to the same degree as Nine and Seven, who’ve both taken on affiliates in IT: Microsoft and Yahoo respectively. Just compare their websites to Ten’s homepage. Welcome to amateur hour!!!! Where ninemsn and Yahoo!7 offer lotto results, weather, polls, magazines, discounts and gossip, Ten offers online ‘enhancements’ (Nightingale and Dwyer, 2006, cited in Nightingale and Dwyer 2007: 25) of existing shows: Cast bios, recipes off cooking shows, streaming content, a handful of tie-in competitions. A token attempt at transmedia storytelling, providing meagre enhancements to richness and reach – just another platform for monologuing. Put simply, Ten is failing to meet the demands of disintermediation, deconstructing its content, but not its platform.
In addition to this, Network Ten’s media strategy is frankly directionless. They’ve failed to embrace the brand they’ve always been – the hip, youth-oriented alternative to the conservative Nine & Seven. This is the essence of transmedia storytelling: Successful branding. It’s the brand that ties it all together – otherwise you’re just an assemblage of content. Ask yourself what Ten means to you. What sets them apart? I’ve always known them as the channel which got all the big shows from America; high production values and innovation. They had Australian Idol, The Simpsons, Supernatural, Big Brother, Master Chef, NCIS, The X-Files. They lived on the bleeding edge of pop culture! Even more recently they’ve had Modern Family and Puberty Blues, but there’s nothing that really suggests a brand anymore. They’ve sold innovation for cheap controversy in their panic – Paul Henry, Can of Worms, The Bolt Report. They’ve failed to read their own brand – they were controversial because they were innovative. Of course much of this is down to poor management on the part of Lachlan Murdoch and News Ltd. – their right-wing agenda isn’t gelling with Ten’s heritage and they refuse to keep any of their executives around long enough to learn from their mistakes.
Ultimately, Ten needs to undergo a process of radical rebranding. If it wants to succeed it must purge itself of all conservative content – no more Bolt Report, no more Paul Henry, no more Biggest Loser rehash. I would suggest a strategy in two parts: Firstly, find an online affiliate. A tie-in with Fairfax would in my opinion make the most sense. Secondly, take advantage of the affective economies granted by cult media and good reality television: Buy the rights to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, do a new Australian Idol.