Despite a sharp improvement in its ratings performance this year, especially in the past two months or so, The Ten Network’s TV business lost heavily in the third quarter and the news won’t be of any help to its 56% owner, the struggling Canwest group of Canada which faces another debt deadline next Tuesday.

There had been speculation that Ten would announce another attempt to raise more capital today to pay down debt, but there was no statement. It failed with an attempt earlier this year to raise money at 75 cents a share. Ten shares traded around $1.11 this morning.

Ten though did its best to avoid any comparisons or reference to the big story in its 2009-10 third quarter figures out at Midday. There were few comparisons with the 2008-09 financial year and previous quarters this year, but there was a lot of talk of a ratings rebound now underway paying off later in the year and in 2010, but no mention of the “L” word in the release.

No wonder, a rough calculation based on reports for the third quarter and last year showed the company suffered a nasty 76% drop in earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation in the quarter ended May 2009. And it was all that was down to the slump in the company’s TV network, off the back of a 15% (around $26 million) fall in TV revenue.

You had to dig into the company’s online archives back to the third quarter report for 2008 to find that the country’s third biggest TV Network had suffered the sharp third quarter downturn, which in turn helped produce a 36% plunge in earnings in the first nine months of the 2009 year.

In the past two months Ten has been the most successful TV channel in ratings terms and over this year so far, is outperforming Seven and Nine in growth in ratings across all demographics. But with ad revenues down (15% fall in the third quarter), it’s tough and not even out performance can find its reward.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey