Pirates Cost Australia’s Ten Network “Hundreds of Millions of Dollars”

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Australian TV broadcaster Ten Network went into voluntary administration this week after major shareholders withdrew a $250 million credit guarantee. Unsurprisingly the blame is being attributed to pirates, who "brought down" the broadcaster after depriving it of "hundreds of millions" in advertising revenue.

In 2016, Australia’s Ten Network posted losses of AUS$157 million. This April, the broadcaster showed signs of continuing distress when it posted a half-year loss of AUS$232 million.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Ten said it was trying to secure new terms for a AUS$200 million debt financing guarantee. According to ABC, the company had lost more than 60% of its value in the preceding 12 months and almost 98% over the previous five years.

More bad news arrived this week when Ten’s board decided to put the company into voluntary administration after failing to secure a guarantee for a AUS$250 million loan that could’ve kept the ship afloat into the new year. As moves get underway to secure the company’s future, fingers of blame are being raised.

According to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke, Internet pirates cost Ten “hundreds of millions of dollars” in advertising revenue due to their tendency to obtain movies and TV shows from the web rather than via legitimate means.

Burke told The Australian (paywall) that movies supplied to Ten by 21st Century Fox (including The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie which were both leaked) had received lower broadcast ratings due to people viewing them online in advance.

“Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined,” Burke told the publication.

“Movies from Fox arrive with several million people having seen them through piracy. If it wasn’t for piracy, the ratings would be stronger and the product would not be arriving clapped out.”

But leaked or not, content doesn’t come cheap. As part of efforts to remain afloat, Ten Network recently tried to re-negotiate content supply deals with Fox and CBS. Together they reportedly cost the broadcaster more than AUS$900 million over the previous six years.

Despite this massive price tag and numerous other problems engulfing the troubled company, Burke suggests it is pirates that are to blame for Ten’s demise.

“A large part of Ten’s expenditure is on movies and they are being seen by millions of people ­illegitimately on websites supported by rogue ­advertising for drugs, prostitution and even legitimate advertising. The cumulative effect of all the ­pirated product out there has brought down Ten,” Burke said.

While piracy has certainly been blamed for a lot of things over the years, it is extremely rare for a senior industry figure to link it so closely with the potential demise of a major broadcaster.

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