Only fourteen months after stepping into the role of Network Ten CEO, James Warburton (pictured) has been stood down by Ten’s Board of Directors, effective immediately.
Warburton was a senior executive at the Seven Network before being recruited in 2011 by Ten Network chairman, and acting CEO, Lachlan Murdoch.
Warburton’s transition from Seven to Ten was marred by legal action by Seven, leading to him having to delay his start date at Ten to January 2012.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Murdoch offered Warburton Ten’s best wishes:
“The Board would like to thank James Warburton for his hard work and contribution during what has been a difficult period for the Company and for the broader media sector. He steps down with Ten’s best wishes.”
Although Warburton was stepping into an already-troubled business, both on and off screen, his first year on the job at Ten did not end on a high note.
In October he faced shareholders to inform them that the company had lost almost $13 million over the previous twelve month period, and in November had to employ a brutal redundancy program, leading to the departure of an estimated 100 staffers including high-profile news presenters Helen Kapalos, Bill Woods and Ron Wilson.
In December the company had put its hand out to investors for $200 million in a capital-raising venture, and for much of the last quarter of the 2012 ratings year Ten was ranked in fourth place behind ABC.
During the year the network struggled under the weight of a hefty contract for Breakfast host Paul Henry (recruited by Murdoch during 2011) while the program failed to gain even a modest rating with viewers up against Sunrise, Today and ABC News Breakfast.
Ten also struggled with new programs Being Lara Bingle, I Will Survive, Everybody Dance Now, Don’t Tell The Bride and The Shire — although some of these ratings and critical flops were put in motion before Warburton’s arrival.
Former programming chief David Mott walked away from the network in August after sixteen years.
While Warburton and Ten put on a brave face going into the 2013 ratings year it is already apparent that the network is likely to find 2013 as tough as 2012. MasterChef: The Professionals is proving no match for Seven’s reality hit My Kitchen Rules and Nine’s The Block: All Stars. Light entertainment programs Can Of Worms and The Living Room are continuing to rate poorly and The Simpsons‘ shift back to Ten from digital channel Eleven has reaped little reward.
Ten is basically off the viewers’ radar in mornings with axed programs Breakfast and The Circle (pictured) replaced by US talk shows and repeats of cooking and lifestyle programs.
However the network can gain some consolation that Ten News At Five has managed to weather the public dissent over its staff cutbacks without too much ratings damage, and that new drama series Mr And Mrs Murder has got off to a promising start, as has Ten’s new ‘Super Sunday’ line-up, including US series Elementary and UK talk show The Graham Norton Show — but these were seemingly not enough to keep Warburton in the top job.
Ten has already appointed a new CEO to take over from Warburton. Hamish McLennan, a former global CEO for advertising group Young & Rubicam, is due to start at Ten in March. Russel Howcroft, advertising executive and panelist on the ABC’s Gruen programs and a Melbourne-based senior executive for Ten since the start of this year, will step in as acting CEO in the meantime.
Shares in Ten Network Holdings closed on Friday at 29 cents but were as high as $1.30 in 2010.