Channel 10 Execs Meet Shareholder Ron Lauder in Alleged Bid for Cash

American Jewish cosmetics heir injected around NIS 80 million into channel at start of 2013 to save the company, but even with that it failed to reach its operating break-even point.

Top executives from Israel's Channel 10 television flew to London on Monday to meet with the Jewish-American billionaire Ronald Lauder, in what may have been an attempt to raise more funds for the beleaguered channel. Station executives claimed that the meeting focused on the channel's news division, its recent move to Jerusalem and opportunities for international cooperation, among other issues.

But according to industry sources who declined to be identified, the real purpose of the parley was to ask Channel 10’s most active shareholder to pump more money into the company, just as they did only two months ago in New York to secure another NIS 60 million-NIS 70 million from the billionaire. To date the Lauder has invested about $100 million in the losing channel, which today is entirely dependent on him for financing after other shareholders, such as Israeli businessman Yosef Maiman, refused to continue pouring money into it.

Channel 10's financial straits have only worsened since the executives’ last meeting with Lauder; the station has failed to increase audience share and revenues amid competition from Channel 2. While Channel 10's losses for 2012 were estimated to be in the range of NIS 50 million, the company's losses in 2013 are expected to be double that, due to massive spending on content.

Lauder injected around NIS 80 million into the channel at the beginning of the year to save the company, but even with that the company failed to reach its operating break-even point.

According to industry sources Lauder agreed in New York to put in more money but changed his mind later after seeing the channel's disappointing ratings. The sources say Channel 10 based its 2013 budget on the assumption of obtaining an average of 11.5% of the prime-time Jewish viewing audience. Executives also assumed the news division would capture at least 12% of Jewish viewers.

But the actual ratings for the year to date have been significantly lower, at just 7.1% of the prime-time (8 P.M. to 11 P.M.) Jewish viewing audience and just 8.7% of the Jewish viewing audience for the news division.

The commercial station suffered a serious blow to its morale earlier this week, when the prime-time news show Mabat, on the government station Channel 1, received higher ratings than Channel 10 news. Mabat captured 6.9% of Jewish viewers, versus 6.5% for Channel 10 news.

Tomer Appelbaum