US broadcaster CBS to buy Australia's embattled Ten Network

The deal saves Ten Network from collapse, after the New York-based media giant CBS pledged immediate financial support to keep it running

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 12:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 10:45pm

American broadcaster CBS has secured a deal to buy Australia’s third-largest television network, Ten, squeezing out a potential bid by News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch.

The Ten Network was placed in voluntary administration in June after two billionaire backers refused to continue guaranteeing a key loan of some A$200 million (US$159 million).

CBS – one of Ten’s key content providers – would fund the purchase by refinancing existing secured debt arrangements in full, the administrators said in a statement.

The agreement came after CBS in July claimed debts of A$843 million from Ten in a submission to the network’s administrators, Fairfax Media reported.

The Sydney-based broadcaster was valued at just A$59 million ($47 million) before its stock was suspended from trading in June. No value for the deal with CBS was provided.

“Network Ten has played a significant role in Australia’s media landscape over many decades, and the sale of the business to CBS will allow the iconic broadcaster to move into a new chapter on a strong and stable footing,” Ten receiver and PPB Advisory Partner Christopher Hill said in a statement.

The deal includes Channel Ten, digital channel One, digital platform Tenplay, and digital channel Eleven – of which CBS already owns a 33 per cent stake.

CBS said it would also launch its digital on-demand service CBS All Access in the Australian market.

“We have been able to acquire (Network Ten) at a valuation that gives us confidence we will grow this asset by applying our programming expertise in a market with which we are already familiar,” CBS chairman and chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.

The announcement came just days after Ten’s former billionaire backers – Lachlan Murdoch, the son of media titan Rupert, and Bruce Gordon, who owns regional network WIN – secured regulatory approval to bid for the network.

But any takeover by Murdoch’s investment company Illyria and Gordon’s Birketu, which would have given them each a 50 per cent share, was dependent on the government changing media laws to allow ownership across multiple platforms.

Ten, one of Australia’s three commercial channels and which broadcasts shows such as “I’m a Celebrity”, has been on air since 1964.

The station, like many media groups, has been hammered by slumping advertising revenues and posted a net loss in September-February of A$232 million.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg