For the second time in a year Seven West Media has changed CEOs: Tim Worner, the head of the company’s TV business, will Don Voelte who replaced David Leckie a year ago. The latest change was announced in a statement from Seven West to the ASX.

The move comes as Seven’s grasp on the ratings leadership in Australian TV is being questioned after a couple of high-profile reality-style programs have bombed at great expense. Worner takes over the top job from July 1; Voelte remains on the board and will become deputy chairman. Worner will probably be replaced at Seven by Brad Lyons. In the statement, chairman and controlling shareholder Kerry Stokes said:

“He’s the right man for the job. He is an outstanding executive and has played a key role in Seven’s success. Tim’s intimate knowledge of the creation of content provides him with the experience to ensure Seven West Media’s continuing success as the company evolves, grows and meets the challenges of a changing

“Twelve months ago, on behalf of our board, I asked Don Voelte, as one of our non-executive directors, to take on a most challenging role for our business. As Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Seven West Media, he has made an outstanding contribution implementing some fundamental changes to ensure our company meets the demands of a rapidly changing media landscape.

“Don has always been quite clear that his management role at Seven West Media was only for the short-term and that his job was to put in place the structures and people that allowed the company to meet the challenges of the future. He was honest. He was right on his timings. He has delivered. Don is an outstanding business executive and on behalf of the board, our people, and our shareholders, I thank him. Don will remain closely involved with Seven West Media and I look forward to his continuing role with the company.”

Not mentioned is the current ratings blip Seven has encountered with the dud property renovation program, House Rules, plus weak ratings nationally for the 6pm news (especially in Sydney and Melbourne) and Today Tonight. Worner’s appointment is likely to decide one way or another if Seven continues with TT in 2014, or whether it is folded into an hour-long news and current affairs program between 6-7pm — which Seven ran as a test in January.

Celebrity Splash was another low-rating flop for Seven in the past month. It and House Rules have gotten people in TV land wondering if Seven’s seven years at the top of the TV ratings pile is under threat. Seven would deny it, but there are a number of holes in the schedule. Sunrise in the morning has weakened, along with stalwarts like Revenge and Packed To the Rafters.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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