What would happen if there was an auction for control of one of Australia’s most iconic media assets and no buyers turned up?
It happened this week. Control of the Ten Network passed from its owner of ten years, Canwest, to … no-one. Not one media tycoon, or would-be media tycoon, or global media outfit put up their hand to buy arguably Australia’s most successful free-to-air TV network, even though the price was a meagre $1.30 a share (it was over $4 four years ago). Instead, Canwest’s 50.06% controlling interest is being dispersed among institutional buyers.
The Ten Network auction that attracted no buyers is a watershed moment in Australian media, the moment when a thoroughbred media asset was treated by the media market like an old cart horse.
Every owner of every major newspaper, TV, radio or magazine network in Australia must now confront the reality that the most astute arbiter of value of all — the marketplace — has decreed that the era of old media being a licence to generate exceptional profits, or wield exceptional power, is over. O-V-A.