Network Ten head programmer David Mott has quit to take the blame for the run of turkeys that have failed the network, especially in the past couple of weeks.
Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive, Breakfast and Don’t Tell The Bride were all flops, with the Sarah Murdoch-hosted dance program the most high-profile failure. In typical TV fashion, they praised him as he went. Also in true TV fashion, Mott is being solely blamed for errors that others higher up the food chain had a big hand in.
As Ten said in a statement issued just after 10am:
“David has had an extraordinary career at Ten over the past 16 years,” Network Ten Chief Executive, James Warburton, said.
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“He has been a fantastic asset for the network and we are sorry to see him go. David’s legacy at Ten includes landmark television programs such as MasterChef, Australian Idol, Rove Live, The Biggest Loser, Thank God You’re Here, The Project, Big Brother and — more recently — Offspring, Puberty Blues, MasterChef All Stars and Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms.”
Mr Mott said: “It’s a sad day when you say goodbye to friends and colleagues, and leave a place you hold so dear. But it’s a great day when you take stock on what has been achieved over 16 fantastic years.
“I am proud of the bold programming decisions we have made at Ten over that time, because without risk there is less chance of success.
“In a job where you live and die by the numbers, perhaps I’ve been luckier than most. It’s been a great ride, and I’ve loved every second of it. I leave behind a focused and committed creative team and I wish them all the best for the future.”
“Beverley McGarvey continues as Network Ten’s Network Head of Programming and assumes Mr Mott’s responsibilities on an acting basis.”
Ten could do a very smart thing and put McGarvey in charge. She and Mott had a good team, but there were reports late last year and early this year that she had been marginalised in the new regime at the top of Ten.
But will it? It’s traditionally been a bloke’s job with only a handful of women at best filling such a senior role (Vicki Jones at Nine years ago and Sandra Levi at the ABC, who rose to run ABC TV).
Clearly the run of strong hits commissioned by Mott and mentioned in the statement wasn’t enough to save him. But chairman Lachlan Murdoch and CEO James Warburton are also complicit in the flops, especially Murdoch who was interim CEO during 2011 when many of the flops were greenlighted, especially Breakfast. Murdoch hired the Kiwi co-host Paul Henry who has failed.
He also hired Warburton, who hasn’t had a strong start to his new career as a network CEO.
The biggest flop was Everybody Dance Now. Ten made it more high profile than it should have been by selecting Murdoch to be host. That meant the chairman’s wife was fronting a program about dancing, and Ten had already flirted with a local dancing program (So You Think You Can Dance Australia) a couple of years ago and canned it after it failed. Mott should have been in a strong enough position to object to the new program idea for that reason. But when the chairman’s wife is the host and she has moved from Foxtel to free-to-air TV, its a tough ask for an employee (even one as senior as head of programming) to say “no”.
Since Messrs Murdoch and Warburton have been running Ten, it is clear that from what they programmed, their talk of going back to 16 to 39 viewers — and adding in 18 to 49s for a bonus — was a lot of hot air. They have had no experience in programming a network strategically or tactically to try and maximise returns. Puberty Blue and Offspring provide the clues about how to grab and hold viewers in the 16 to 49 age group.
Mott, along with McGarvey, were the most talented TV executives Ten had. Now the network is down to one.