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Ten Network Holdings Limited records worst ratings ever

The start of 2014 brought excitement for investors in Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX: TEN), as historically large audiences turned to the television network’s broadcast of the Big Bash League, giving optimism that the company could return to profitability this year. In fact, in January alone its shares soared nearly 27% from 28c to 35.5c while its broadcast of the Sochi Olympic Games in February also attracted strong audiences.

Unfortunately, that optimism was short-lived with shares now trading just above their 52-week low of 24c. Last week, the network endured a record low weekly audience for prime time with just a 13.8% share between 6pm and midnight. This was behind ABC’s 17.9%, Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd (ASX: NEC) 31% share and Seven West Media Ltd’s (ASX: SWM) 33% share.

What was an even poorer result was Ten’s ratings on Sunday night. It attracted a terrible 5.9% audience share.

It’s obvious that things are a mess for the network. It’s just not attracting the audiences that it used to. Perhaps this is in large part due to a younger target audience than that of its rivals, whereby younger adults are increasingly turning to other digital sources such as Facebook or YouTube.

To make matters even worse, it was announced last week that chairman Lachlan Murdoch was stepping down from the role to accept positions as co-chair of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (ASX: FOX) and News Corp (ASX: NWS), although he did retain his 8.8% shareholding of the network.

Foolish takeaway

While it is currently purely speculative, recent reports have suggested that the Coalition government could relax cross-media ownership laws which would open up the possibility of a rival network making a takeover bid for Ten. However, such speculation is not tempting enough to hit the “buy” button anytime soon. It’s becoming more and more obvious how far behind the competition Ten Network is, particularly as more companies are now choosing to advertise online.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.

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