Mediaweek Roundup: AAP sale, Quibi, Nine, HYBPA? + more

• Stuff, Mediaworks, and The Naracoorte Community News

Business of Media

Inside the impact bid to save AAP: Sale or closure planned for June

The impact investing consortium seeking to buy parts of Australian Associated Press, if successful, will look to reduce the amount of stories and photos sent out on the newswire and raise as much as $12 million to fund a purchase and transition the service into a viable business, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

The consortium is seeking to acquire the newswire service, the fact-check unit and photography as the core focus of its bid. It is also open to acquiring the directories service, MediaNet press release service, and analytics business MediaVerse.

It does not want to acquire production and subediting business Pagemasters, the racing and form news or custom editorial divisions. MediaNet has more than 2000 customers and 51 per cent of its revenue comes from annual contracts.

“AAP 2.0” would be run as a not-for-profit business and led by the existing core management team with new appointments made by the consortium.

AAP Newswire, historically a loss-making division, has more than 200 media and corporate subscribers, including the ABC, the Daily Mail, Private Media, Guardian Australia, Australian Community Media and Verizon Media.

The consortium put in a non-binding indicative bid on April 26 and is planning to put in a final bid on May 31. The AAP board, made up by News Corp and Nine executives, is expected to make a decision about sale or closure soon after. AAP newswire will be closed on June 24 if no buyer is favoured.

However, Seven West Media, which owns 8 per cent, and Antony Catalano’s Australian Community Media, 3 per cent, could use the service as subscribers if it continues.

[Read more]

The $2.7b gamble: Quibi could be the costliest flop in history

Chances are you’ve never heard of Quibi. Even if you’re young and hip with a finger raised to the wind for the zeitgeist, you may never have heard of Quibi, reports The London Telegraph.

It’s a new paid-for TV app for mobiles, a sort of Netflix for your phone, even though its makers are desperate to avoid that comparison. And it’s absolutely rolling in A-list talent – from Steven Spielberg to Jennifer Lopez to Bill Murray to Kendall Jenner. All its shows are 10 minutes or less – they’re quick bites, or quibis, hence the name, which is pronounced “kwibee” not “kweebi”. But, however you say it, Quibi looks set to be one of the most expensive flops in history.

If it does bomb, it will enter product Room 101, where dust-covered Sony Betamax machines sit beside stacked cans of New Coke, Evian’s breast-cooling Water Bra, and the charred remains of Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7.

Of course, some ideas are just bad ideas, but Quibi is an idea with a very special pedigree. It’s backed to the tune of a staggering $US1.75 billion ($2.7 billion) and it’s the baby of DreamWorks’ co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg – the former studio boss of Paramount and CEO of Disney, who, during his illustrious career in film, has overseen the production of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Lion King (1994), and Shrek (2001).

[Read more]

Stuff sets the stage for a new independent media in New Zealand

For the last few years, all the talk in New Zealand’s media has been of a need for consolidation, reports The Spinoff’s Duncan Grieve. That our big for-profit media companies – TVNZ, Sky, MediaWorks, NZME and Stuff – all needed to get bigger to survive. Literally every one of them has been linked with a merger or acquisition at some point in the last five years.

The government has proposed merging TVNZ and RNZ. Sky offered to buy Three from MediaWorks, while also trying to merge with Vodafone. Most famously NZME, publisher of the Herald and owner of around half New Zealand’s commercial radio stations, has been desperately trying to get together with Stuff for four years, a saga which finally ended in yesterday’s extraordinary scenes, when Sinead Boucher snatched Stuff in a management buyout for $1. While this apparently ends that long courtship, it’s absolutely not the end of the idea that scale is the best solution to what ails our media.

The irony is that most of our scale media entities are already the result of consolidation. NZME grew out of a merger of APN’s publishing and TRN’s radio arm. Stuff grew out of INL, who grew from one newspaper (The Dominion) to acquire more than 80. Sky started as three channels, before buying assets like Prime, Lightbox and an outside broadcasting company. MediaWorks grew from the combination of TV3 with RadioWorks.

Despite this rampant consolidation, all are in some variety of trouble.

[Read more]

New Zealand’s MediaWorks planning to cut 130 roles in restructure

Staff at New Zealand television channel Three owner MediaWorks have been told of plans to cut 130 roles as part of restructuring, reports Stuff.

They were called into a meeting with chief executive Michael Anderson at 10am Monday.

Most of the cuts will come in the radio and sales departments.

In an email to staff, Anderson said it was “truly one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my professional career”.

“As you know, Covid-19 has simultaneously changed the world and impacted our business in ways that we could not predict or prepare for.

“It has also completely changed the market that we operate in and this means that we must adapt to ensure our survival and sustainability in the coming months.

“As of today, we must begin reducing the size of our business and we are now entering a restructuring process across our sales, out-of-home and radio divisions.

“It’s proposed that in the region of 130 of our friends and colleagues will have to leave our business.

“Because the sale process for TV is ongoing, there will only be a handful of changes to this area of our business and corporate at this stage.”

The television and radio business, which is majority owned by United States private equity firm Oaktree, asked all its staff to take a pay cut of at least 15 per cent in April, when Anderson told staff that the business was in a “fight for survival”.

[Read more]

News Brands

Channel 9 claims Wagners were ‘doubly compensated’ for defamation

Channel 9 has told a court the wealthy Queensland Wagner family, who they were ordered to pay almost $4 million to in defamation damages, were “doubly compensated”. But the Wagners’ barrister has fired back, reports The Toowoomba Chronicle’s Danielle Buckley.

Toowoomba’s four Wagner brothers were each awarded $600,000 in defamation damages from Channel 9, plus $63,000 in interest, after being defamed on a 60 Minutes program.

The program falsely linked their quarry wall’s collapse to the catastrophic Grantham floods.

Journalist Nick Cater was also ordered to pay Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner $300,000 damages each, plus $31,500 in interest.

Channel 9’s barrister Sandy Dawson said that the Wagners were effectively awarded “double compensation”.

Dawson said Cater and Nine were jointly liable for the imputations made by the 60 Minutes program about the Wagners, but the brothers were “compensated for Cater’s words twice”.

Nine also appealed on the grounds that the Wagners should not have been awarded aggravated damages because of the defendants’ failure to correct, retract or apologise.

Dawson said there was no evidence that the Wagners’ hurt was aggravated by Nine not giving an apology.

The Wagners’ barrister Tom Blackburn said Nine also had the opportunity to apologise after the brothers’ “vindication” in the lawsuit against broadcaster Alan Jones.

In 2018, Jones, his employer Harbour Radio Pty Ltd and Radio 4BC were ordered to pay the Wagners’ defamation damages.

[Read more]

Good news for Naracoorte as new publication rises from crisis

ABC’s Landline last weekend featured a story on the launch of the new regional newspaper The Naracoorte Community News which has replaced ACM’s Naracoorte Herald.

Earlier this month InDaily’s Kate Hill reported on the newspaper’s launch:

Frustrated at the decision by Australian Community Media to suspend publication of the town’s 145-year-old newspaper, former Naracoorte resident Michael Waite stepped in with a bold new start-up.

From idea to print in just three weeks, Michael and a small team worked around the clock to produce the first weekly edition of The Naracoorte Community News.

The first issue went on sale in the first week of May, selling out its print run of 1,700 copies within 36 hours.

The issue sold for $2 a copy, compared with the $1.75 charged for the Naracoorte Herald.

As to why he made the decision to launch a country newspaper in the midst of a pandemic, Michael acknowledges it’s a personal mission.

“A town the size of Naracoorte does not deserve to be without a newspaper,” he said, simply.

Australian Community Media, which publishes more than 160 newspapers across the country, suspended operations at many of its regional sites until the end of the financial year, laying off hundreds of staff.

The 145-year-old Naracoorte Herald, which continued printing through two world wars and the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, was one of those affected.

[Read the original]

Television

No more working from home: HYBPA? is in the building

Have You Been Paying Attention? panellists are no longer zooming from home, as nimble producers find new ways to work within COVID-19 restrictions while still keeping everybody safe, reports TV Tonight.

When the 10 show returned earlier this month, stars including Ed Kavalee and Sam Pang were at home while Tom Gleisner was in the studio. Viewers praised Working Dog for subtle touches such as identical backgrounds and buzzers for the panel.

But as restrictions begin to ease there are also new ways of making the show, with 10’s Como base in South Yarra now proving a versatile space across multiple floors.

While Gleisner remains in the studio, Kavalee, Pang and Melbourne talent are cleverly dotted around various suites and offices on three levels. Producers are mindful to keep cast and crew safe, but it also means there are dedicated links for broadcast quality, and avoiding reliance on the NBN.

Production sources confirmed there are a few exceptions. Hayley Sproull was in New Zealand this week, while Amanda Keller was in Sydney last week. Guest quizmasters are now beaming in from across the globe – an added bonus in the current situation.

[Read more]

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