Mediaweek round up: MAFS, Stateless, George Calombaris + more

• Seven, AFLW, Sport TV rights, Eddie McGuire, ACCC + Prime Media

Business of Media

Seven halts kid’s TV production in Australian content quota protest

Seven West Media is threatening to halt production of children’s content and is scrapping plans for any new Australian dramas amid a push from commercial television networks for the Morrison government to abandon local content quotas, report Nine publishing’s Zoe Samios and Fergus Hunter.

The Kerry Stokes controlled media company advised Communications Minister Paul Fletcher of the decision in a letter last week after posting a $66 million half year loss. It comes as commercial television networks confront a weak advertising market and rising competition from online streaming services.

Seven chief executive James Warburton told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the government needed to take “immediate action” and stop reviewing and delaying the quotas. The network will still meet its children’s content requirements in 2020 but could be in breach from next year.

“We’ve been clear for a long time that the children’s content quota was not a sustainable one for us and the wider commercial television industry in Australia,” Warburton said. “The substantial cost in producing this content, which in some instances is watched by such a low number of viewers that it falls under ratings measurement thresholds, further handicaps us against unregulated, foreign digital platforms.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said he would meet with Warburton to discuss the situation.

[Read more]

ACCC takes fight to digital giants with multiple investigations

The competition watchdog is conducting more than 10 investigations as a result of its long-running review into digital platforms and is hoping to introduce more general laws to deal with unfair practices by the tech giants, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

Setting out his agenda for 2020 at a Sydney business lunch on Tuesday, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said he was confident the watchdog would produce “multiple” enforcement actions against the likes of Google and Facebook in both competition and consumer protection, with user data at the centre of its concerns.

“We are looking at both competition and consumer issues in relation to digital platforms – those two areas are pretty closely linked. With digital platforms it’s really all about the data that can be misleading to consumers in terms of what’s collected and how it’s collected.

“But it can also be a competitive advantage in stopping others getting the data, which can cause a competition problem,” Sims said.

He added that the number of investigations into the platforms had doubled in the six months since releasing its landmark report into the effect of digital platforms on traditional media.

[Read more]

Prime Media profit halves in ‘difficult period’ for regional media

Prime Media Group’s profit has fallen by 56 per cent to $4.46 million in the first half of the financial year, as chief executive Ian Audsley warned regional advertising market conditions had not improved since the start of the bushfire season, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

The result, which came after the broadcaster’s failed merger with affiliate partner Seven West Media, showed a 7 per cent decline in revenue to $90.8 million, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 47.4 per cent to $11.5 million.

Prime led revenue share for the period with 41.2 per cent of the regional broadcast market. Audsley said earnings were affected by conditions, including the impact of the bushfires, and competition for local advertisers from global technology giants Google and Facebook.

“As widely reported, it has been a difficult time in regional Australia over the past six months. Regional television advertising markets were challenged by a confluence of events as early as October 2019, when we reported the Tamworth fires in northern NSW,” Audsley said.

[Read more]

George Calombaris’ food empire owes creditors over $22m

Celebrity chef George Calombaris’ food empire collapsed owing its secured creditors $22.3m and having racked up a merry-go-round of intercompany loans totalling $17.8m, new documents reveal, reports The Australian’s Christine Lacy.

Calombaris’s Made Establishment, which comprised 12 restaurants and food outlets, went bust on February 11, with just $389 left in the bank, according to reports filed to the failed hospitality group’s administrator KordaMentha.

The statement of Made’s activities and property reveals that the Commonwealth Bank is owed $8.5m, comprising $7.1m via a finance facility and $1.46m via bank guarantees.

CBA is expected to get only about $1m of its money back.

Calombaris’s partner in the failed enterprise, Swisse vitamins millionaire Radek Sali, claims to be owed $13.7m from the corporate collapse.

[Read more]

Seven West’s debt-cut diet puts Perth property on the block

Seven West Media is adding to the list of assets it is placing on the market, with the latest soon to go under the hammer being the real estate sites housing its West Australian publications, reports The Australian’s Bridget Carter.

The hope for the company is that it will mean a cash call to equity investors will not be on the cards any time soon as it moves to drive down debt.

Seven West Media is committed to reducing its loan pile to about $300m, according to sources, with its net debt currently at $541m.

The West Australian-based publishing arm is located at 50 Hasler Road at Osborne Park on the outskirts of the Perth central business district.

The thinking is that Seven could reap about $70m for the property.

[Read more]

Television

Married At First Sight advertising for next season’s singles

Nine Entertainment’s popular television reality dating show Married At First Sight appears set to return next year, with a call going out to people over 25 looking for love for season eight, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

A day before Nine reports its first-half financial results, a post has been published on the website of its broadcast video-on-demand service 9Now about how to apply for the eighth season of MAFS.

“A new season of MAFS will be in the works later this year, so if you want to get married on national television, chow down on more cheese platters, and maybe just meet the love of your life – now’s the time,” the post said.

[Read more]

Asher Keddie on meaningful TV and why Stateless made her cry

Asher Keddie was so overwhelmed shooting the ABC drama Stateless that her very first scene reduced her to tears, reports News Corp’s James Wigney.

Already nervous at the enormity of the task ahead, the physical hardships of shooting in the South Australian desert and the harrowing, hot-button subject matter of refugees, the seven-time Logie winner was in a heightened state before the cameras even rolled on her.

But walking with director Emma Freeman on to the custom-built detention centre set for the first time, populated with extras who had been in such facilities in real life, pushed her over the edge.

“The first image I saw was one of the extras, a little boy, whose family had been in detention and he was playing around a swing set with no swing because everything had to be taken down for safety,” says Keddie who plays Claire Kowitz, a pragmatic, policy-focused Canberra bureaucrat.

[Read more]

Netflix acquires Cate Blanchett’s drama Stateless for rest of world

Netflix has taken worldwide rights – outside of Australia – to the six-part refugee-focused drama Stateless, co-created by and starring double Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

The news was announced from Berlin ahead of the show’s premiere in the Berlinale Series. From Dirty Films and NBCUniversal International Studios’ Matchbox Pictures, Statelessis set to launch on ABC in Australia on March 1 and premiere on Netflix across the rest of the world later this year.

Stateless was created by Blanchett alongside Elise McCredie and Tony Ayres and produced by Matchbox Pictures and Blanchett and Andrew Upton’s Dirty Films for the ABC.

“Stateless has been a labour of love for many years, and we could not be more thrilled that it will reach an international audience on Netflix,” said Blanchett, McCredie and Ayres. “The issues addressed in the series have universal resonance but have been cloaked in silence and muddied by fear and misinformation. Our hope is that Stateless will generate a global conversation around our systems of border protection and how our humanity has been affected by them.”

Added Matchbox Pictures managing director Alastair McKinnon: “Stateless is a drama series that thrillingly taps into one of the biggest socio-political issues of our time, and Netflix, with its unparalleled global reach, is the perfect platform to take this brilliant series to the world.”

[Read more]

Sports Media

Magpies say no to president Eddie’s pitch for Amazon Prime

Collingwood’s football department has rejected a push from club president Eddie McGuire’s media company to be part of an AFL documentary series to be streamed on Amazon, reports The Age’s Sam McClure.

The Magpies were one of several clubs targeted by Amazon executives who are making the streaming giant’s first foray into Australian football content, in a move that could foreshadow a future bid for AFL broadcast rights.

McGuire and club chief Mark Anderson approached the football department about the $10 million project but the idea was not well received, particularly after it was canvassed by the players.

The football department felt that inviting cameras into its inner sanctum was unnecessary, particularly after they created and released their own film last year, Side by Side.

Other clubs such as reigning premiers Richmond, Carlton, Geelong, West Coast and expansion clubs GWS and Gold Coast have all been in conversations with the AFL, which is helping to get the deal done.

[Read more]

A sports VC for a corporate CV: TV rights are everything for CEOs

Football chiefs in Australia appear obsessed with broadcast rights, as if it is their prime responsibility: a record TV deal being a career badge, a sports VC to head a corporate CV, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle had a successful time in netball, was the only female boss of an NRL club and survived the public flogging of the Israel Folau saga. Yet she has allowed RA’s next broadcasting rights contract to define her career.

She has taken the RA five-year broadcast rights to tender, spurning an offer from the powerful News Corporation to roll over the current contract, with the hope Channel 10, Optus Sport and merged telco TPG Vodafone will bid in order to create competitive tension with the 25-year-old incumbent, Fox Sports.

[Read more]

Gender parity needs to stretch past the AFLW field to media

A recent AFLW game between the Tigers and the Suns featured, quite inexplicably, an all-male commentary team, comments News Corp columnist Darren Levin.

“Do we need a pathway program for women’s footy voices in QLD?” tweeted Emma Race from the ABC’s Outer Sanctumpodcast during the game.

Another eye roll came from Melbourne podcaster Gemma Bastiani who co-founded the Siren collective with other sports fans and content creators to challenge the footy broadcasting status quo.

Bastiani says the AFLW coverage is improving year on year, but there’s still points of frustration such as all-male commentary teams or a fixation with the amount of children AFLW players have.

There’s no doubt massive inroads have been made since Kelli Underwood became the first woman to call a televised AFL game in 2009.

Since then we’ve seen the emergence of Kath Loughnan, Neroli Meadows, Daisy Pearce and Bec Goddard, but the Suns versus Tigers game proved more diverse voices are still needed. There’s no shortage of them either, Bastiani says.

“There are countless women and diverse voices around the country with really in-depth knowledge of the game.”

[Read more]

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