CBS to buy Australia's Ten Network

AFP . Sydney | Update:

American broadcaster CBS has secured a deal to buy Australia's third-largest television network, Ten, the embattled station's administrators said Monday.

The Ten Network was placed in voluntary administration in June after two billionaire backers refused to continue guaranteeing a key loan of Aus$200 million (US$159 million).

CBS -- one of Ten's key content providers -- will fund the purchase by refinancing existing secured debt arrangements in full, the administrators said in a statement.

The agreement came after CBS in July claimed debts of Aus$843 million from Ten in a submission to the network's administrators, Fairfax Media reported.

"Network Ten has played a significant role in Australia's media landscape over many decades, and the sale of the business to CBS will allow the iconic broadcaster to move into a new chapter on a strong and stable footing," Ten receiver and PPB Advisory Partner Christopher Hill said in a statement.

The deal includes Channel Ten, digital channel One, digital platform Tenplay, and digital channel Eleven -- of which CBS already owns a 33 percent stake.

CBS said it would also launch its digital on-demand service CBS All Access in the Australian market.

"We have been able to acquire (Network Ten) at a valuation that gives us confidence we will grow this asset by applying our programming expertise in a market with which we are already familiar," CBS chairman and chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.

The deal needs approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

Media analyst Peter Cox said CBS' challenge would be to try to keep a third commercial network in Australia viable, adding that a third broadcaster in Britain and New Zealand had not worked.

He added that local programming would be key to Ten's success as the top rating shows were all Australian.

"The question is can CBS understand the Australian market and be able to pick the programmes that are going to work, particularly the reality programmes, and whether they can become competitors with (the other commercial broadcasters) Seven and Nine," Cox told AFP.

The announcement came just days after Ten's former billionaire backers -- Lachlan Murdoch, the son of media titan Rupert, and Bruce Gordon, who owns regional network WIN -- secured regulatory approval to bid for the network.

But any takeover by Murdoch's investment company Illyria and Gordon's Birketu, which would have given them each a 50 percent share, was dependent on the government changing media laws to allow ownership across multiple platforms.

Ten, one of Australia's three commercial channels and which broadcasts shows such as "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!", has been on air since 1964.

The station, like many media groups, has been hammered by slumping advertising revenues and posted a net loss in September-February of Aus$232 million.

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