Australia's Ten Network struggles for survival

 

The Ten Network, one of Australia's three commercial channels and which broadcasts shows such as "I'm a Celebrity...", on Thursday warned of grave concerns about its future after posting dire half-year losses.

The station, which has been on air since 1964 but like many media groups in Australia, is being hammered by slumping advertising revenues, posted a net loss in September-February of Aus$232 million (US$174 million).

It is now pinning hopes on increasing Aus$200 million in debt financing guaranteed by three key shareholders -- News Corporation (Frankfurt: A1W048 - news) co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch, businessman Bruce Gordon and Crown Resorts majority owner James Packer.

It is due to expire in December with Ten -- whose top shows include "Big Bash League" cricket, "Australian Survivor" and "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here" -- seeking an amended or new borrowing facility of Aus$250 million.

"The Group understands from discussions with shareholder guarantors that it needs to demonstrate the potential for improved future earnings in order for a new facility to be guaranteed," it said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

Australia's third-ranked commercial free-to-air broadcaster, behind the Nine and Seven networks, warned that any failure to secure new financing could have serious consequences.

"As a result of the matters disclosed, there is a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the Group's ability to continue as a going concern and, therefore, that it may be unable to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business."

Management said they had identified cost and revenue initiatives and would renegotiate major programming contracts, while pushing for a reduction in federal government TV licence fees.

Ten's warning spooked investors with its share price down more than 15 percent at 37 cents in afternoon trade, having already slumped dramatically from more than $34 in 2005.

As well as the three commercial networks, Australia has two national public broadcasters -- the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and SBS (Shenzhen: 002098.SZ - news) .

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