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James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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New Ten Network boss Hamish McLennan needs only two things: a hit show and time to make a difference

Published 25 February 2013 09:33, Updated 26 February 2013 08:51

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New Ten Network boss Hamish McLennan needs only two things: a hit show and time to make a difference

Backs to the wall ... New Ten chief Hamish McLennan needs time and some decent programming if he is going to turn the beleaguered network around. Photo: Peter Braig

Great businesses aren’t made in a year. And once great businesses certainly can’t be fixed in a year. If anyone knows that, surely it’s Gina Rinehart and James Packer. Rinehart spent years fixing the mess of a business that she inherited from her father Lang Hancock and it took Packer a few years to get back on top after the GFC rocked the foundations of his business.

But one year – 13 months to be exact – was all Packer and Rinehart were prepared to give Ten Network chief James Warburton, who was sacked late on Friday night. As Ten investors with board representation, Rinehart and Packer would have had some level of involvement in the sacking and the subsequent appointment of new CEO Hamish McLennan.

We know Australian CEO tenures have sunk to around four-and-a-half years, but 13 months is ridiculous. James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Lachlan Murdoch couldn’t have turned Ten around if they’d all worked full time at the same time (actually, that would probably be a disaster, but you know what I mean).

With a new man in the hot seat, surely Ten’s board (which also includes Jack Cowin and Bruce Gordon) must recognise that a network in the sort of mess that Ten finds itself in – and this was highlighted by the latest rating results, with Ten’s share falling to 8.1 per cent – will take years to turn around.

Clearly, the network needs some programming hits – and fast. A show like The Voice gave Nine great momentum last year, but Warburton has been mired in a series of disasters, including The Shire, Being Lara Bingle and the last few series of MasterChef.

A few winning shows (probably home-grown ones too) would give McLennan the breathing space and stability to start making other changes.

Does he want to take Ten’s target demographic older, as he has suggested in recent days? What sporting rights deals is he prepared to chase, given Ten has missed out on the AFL and NRL rights? How does Ten get the most out of its digital channels? Does Ten need online platforms to compete with Ninemsn and Yahoo!7?

These are tough questions to answer quickly and McLennan says everything is up for grabs.

But Warburton’s experience should show him that figuring out these big-picture questions is a job that can only be tackled after he does two things: finds a hit program and convinces his board and major shareholders to give him the time and room he needs.

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