Channel 10’s decision to swing the axe as brutally as it has should clear one of the common misconceptions the public – and the stars themselves – have about a career in commercial television.
That is if you’re a household name, the kind of star who’s stopped for selfies at Westfield, your job is as safe as, well, the nightly news.
Because the harsh reality is that in 2020, even the nightly news bulletin probably isn’t safe anymore.
Not in a post-COVID-19 world, with advertising dollars fleeing ‘old’ media, and viewers increasingly choosing streaming services such as Stan and Netflix over network options peppered with annoying advertising and rigid schedules.
PICTURED: Studio 10 has made Kerry-Anne Kennerley (centre left) redundant and Joe Hildebrand (centre right) is currently in contract negotiations
PICTURED: Wake up was a short-lived Channel 10 breakfast show that premiered in 2013 with newsreader Natarsha Belling (far right) one of the household names axed by executives on Tuesday
Rob McKnight said The Circle’s Chrissie Swan (far left), Denise Drysdale (centre left), Gorgi Coghlan (centre right) and Yumi Stynes (far right) had a committed audience but the show was still cut after three years due to internal politics and budget issues
Australians have choice, so everyone is now a prisoner of ratings.
And Channel 10’s were abysmal.
The network has suffered blow after below in 2020. Shows have been cut; its digital news website, 10Daily, closed.
But arguably the biggest hit came in March, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when it was revealed Studio 10 had just 50,000 viewers.
The common business logic to network television is breakfast, mornings and the evening news to drive your day.
To put those viewer numbers in context, Sunrise has seen audiences surge beyond 550,000, while Nine’s Today show has hit 350,000 and the ABC hit a respectable national average of 367,000 as Australians desperately sought news during these unprecedented times.
So while Kerri-Anne Kennerley may always remain an icon of Australian television, that status was never going to save her with the station’s ratings and subsequent financial losses.
PICTURED: Weatherman Tim Bailey has also been made redundant despite his large fan base and will be missed
PICTURED: Television icon Kerri-Anne Kennerley (KAK) has lost her job as co-host on Studio 10 as ratings hovered around the 55,000 mark compared with record-breaking figures for ABC Breakfast
Tim Bailey may well be the most famous weatherman in Australia, with fans tuning in each night to see which beach he’s doing the weather from.
And Natarsha Belling may have been one of the industry’s biggest stars, widely praised for her consummate on-air professionalism since joining in 2007.
None of that matters when the station you are part of is losing $227 million a year, as it did in 2019.
You’d hate to think how bad they are going to be in 2020. Or 2021.
What shouldn’t be forgotten is it wasn’t just the big names who were axed on Tuesday. Another 25 professionals will also lose their jobs as the production is centralised in Sydney and Melbourne.
PICTURED: Newsreader and presenter Natarsha Belling had been with the network since 2007 and will be sorely missed
South Australia’s Rebecca Morse loses her job presenting the news – and the state a local flavour to its news coverage.
Rather than the latest on a fire in Glenelg, viewers in Adelaide will likely be forced to watch a stabbing in western Sydney.
The move is almost taunting viewers in smaller states to go to another network for local coverage – or turn off the television completely.
Which many undoubtedly will.
PICTURED: Adelaide newsreader Rebecca Morse has been made redundant under the cuts as production is moved to Sydney and Melbourne
Even the weather didn’t survive unscathed, often a touchy point for regional viewers who rely on a state service to provide updates – and correctly pronounce the name of their town or suburb.
Former Channel 10 studio producer Rob McKnight said it was sad to see his old colleagues leave the network.
PICTURED: Former Studio 10 executive Rob McKnight now runs TV BlackBox and said ratings for the show have been in the 40,000 and 50,000 viewer mark since last year
He said Studio 10 had an audience of 120,000 just four years ago – and can do so again.
But the truth is 10 has been struggling to find its groove in breakfast and mornings for nearly a decade.
Breakfast with Paul Henry and Kathryn Robinson started in 2012 and somehow made it to November that year before being axed.
They then launched Wake Up the following the year – but that only lasted six months.
Ten tried The Circle for three years from 2010, and despite the show’s two Logies and even a gold nomination for host Chrissie Swan, it was unceremoniously dumped.
McKnight commented on the short-lived predecessors of Studio 10 and said Breakfast and Wake up weren’t great shows.
‘The Circle had a committed audience but their were other political and budget factors at play and that’s why it was cancelled,’ he said.
Strong-performing breakfast shows are vital for TV advertising as they lead the day for viewers and bring in big dollars.
Insiders say Studio 10 is one of the cheapest morning shows to produce, making it lucrative from an advertising point of view, but the abysmal ratings means the show still can’t make a profit.
Ten isn’t the only station being slammed with cuts.
Seven News announced 50 jobs were cut in May and channel Nine cut at least a dozen jobs and shortened regional news bulletins.
Even the ABC, flush with $1billion in funding from the taxpayer, has faced a steady flow of redundancies in the last few years, with at least 250 roles lost in 2020.
As the advertising market continues to shrink and viewers look for their news online, executives are faced with a lose-lose situation.
McKnight said days like Tuesday were hard on everyone in the industry.
‘I’ve seen the effects redundancies can have on people. It’s never an easy time. The people making the decisions, they are tough decisions for them to make too.’
Pictured: Studio 10 hosts including Natarsha Belling (far left), Kerry-Anne Kennerley (centre left) and Joe Hildebrand (far right)