Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
In a sign of the malaise affecting the Australian free-to-air TV broadcasters, Network Ten is raising $A200 million in a share offer to invest in new Australian programming and strengthen its balance sheet. The company headed by executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch has been hit by a sharp downturn in ratings and advertising revenue. That’s due in part to the soaring popularity of rival Nine Network’s local version of The Voice, and amid a sluggish economy and consumers’ fears about the impact of the European financial crisis. Ten said TV revenue for the nine months ending in May was down 12% year-over-year and advertising markets “continue to be soft with very little near-term visibility on revenue for July and August.” Murdoch, who with James Packer, former Paramount International TV president Bruce Gordon and mining tycoon Gina Rinehart own 43% of Ten’s shares, said the network is due to repay $US125 million in debt in March 2013. Revenue for Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters fell by 4.4% to $2.06 billion in the last half of 2011, and analysts say the overall market is down by 2%-3% so far this year.