Mediaweek Roundup: AAP, Seven, Ben Fordham, Alan Jones, NRL + more

• ViacomCBS, oOh!media, Seven Studios, and Neil Breen

Business of Media

Former News Corp executive Peter Tonagh in fight to save AAP

Former News Corp executive Peter Tonagh is leading a large group of investors and philanthropists in the fight to save Australian Associated Press, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Samuel Terry Asset Management managing director Fred Woollard and Australian Impact Investments managing director Kylie Charlton are among a group of more than 10 high profile philanthropists and investors looking to buy the newswire and fact-checking divisions of AAP.

Publishing sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the consortium had been working closely with consultancy TMT Partners and discussions over the price of AAP had already occurred, but that no deal has been made.

The price of the newswire, which was considered loss-making by major shareholders Nine Entertainment Co (owner of this masthead) and News Corp, is estimated in the low millions. The consortium considers most of the value of the investment is to be derived from restructuring the operation, which will not operate with the $10 million it currently receives from Nine and News Corp annually.

Tonagh said the consortium wanted to preserve media diversity and protect journalism jobs.

“Although a number of the consortium members are philanthropists our common goal is to evolve and create an entity that will be self-sustainable as that is critical to ensuring the long term protection of the jobs, journalism and media diversity that is so important to all of us,” Tonagh told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

[Read more]

Mission Bay tapped by ViacomCBS to find new joint head of 10

ViacomCBS has tapped executive search firm Mission Bay to find a chief operations and commercial officer for Network 10, a newly created role following the announced departure of chief executive Paul Anderson in March.

Anderson, who had been 10 chief executive for nearly five years and spent 17 years at the free-to-air network, is not being directly replaced. Instead, ViacomCBS will run its Australian operations with dual heads.

The US entertainment giant promoted Beverly McGarvey to chief content officer and executive vice-president across Australia and New Zealand in March, and the new chief operations and commercial officer (COCO) will run the other side of the business outside of content.

McGarvey and the new COCO will report to Maria Kyriacou, president of ViacomCBS Networks International’s operations in Australia and the UK, who recently moved to the US giant from ITV studios.

[Read more]

Big tech and pandemic forecast to crush niche websites

More news and pop-culture websites, aimed at younger audiences, are expected to disappear from the Australian media scene following the demise of BuzzFeed’s local news site and 10 Daily, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

The bosses of well-known pop-culture and news site Junkee expect further changes across digital media this year, including consolidation and the possible retreat or major retraction of international publishers.

oOh!media chief executive Brendon Cook says Junkee boss Neil Ackland’s prediction that publishers without a “clearly differentiated proposition and audience” would come under pressure this year had proved right on the mark. “Gravity is starting to affect the big venture-backed US digital media players and they are quickly realising their significant investments in Australia are not going to deliver a return,” Cook said.

“To have a fighting chance of surviving you either need huge scale or great depth of expertise around your niche audience that’s valuable to advertisers. Where you don’t want to be is somewhere in the middle.”

[Read more]

Ad slash aimed to boost Seven Network audience

The Seven Network is overhauling its commercial offering by cutting ads and shortening breaks during television shows by an average of 30 per cent in a bid to boost its appeal to viewers, who have more entertainment choice than ever before, and cash-strapped advertisers, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

The free-to-air television broadcaster, which is part of Kerry Stokes’s embattled Seven West Media, plans to introduce the changes during the long-awaited launch of its new-look reality television show, Big Brother, next month.

Seven’s chief revenue officer, Kurt Burnette, says the changes will improve the experience of watching programs on its TV channels and video-on-demand platform, 7Plus, amid changes to content consumption, driven by the explosion of streaming services. “Research has proven reduced ad loads can deliver more than 25 per cent increased brand recall. We’re acting on that powerful insight after months of planning and analysis,” Burnette said.

Reduced advertising has also been trialled in Seven’s top-rating news services.

“We trialled 1:20 breaks in the news and we saw an increase in audiences,” Burnette said.

[Read more]

Seven in talks to offload production assets amid cost-cutting drive

Seven West Media is in negotiations to offload parts of the in-house production business that makes Home and Away and My Kitchen Rules to Beyond Productions, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

The company already runs a joint venture with Seven Studios, known as 7Beyond, in the US. Television sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Seven was trying to offload Seven Studios UK, Slim TV in London, GSTV in New Zealand and the 50 per cent stake in its US joint venture, to Beyond. But the local production house that produces Home and Away, Better Homes and Gardens and House Rules and sales distribution parts of the business will remain with Seven. It is unclear whether Beyond was hoping to acquire the local production division or whether the offer will be substantial enough for Seven to accept.

[Read more]

News Brands

Alan Jones’ legal threat against Nine over ‘sexual violence’ accusation

A furious Alan Jones is understood to be considering taking legal action against his employers at Nine over an editorial in Friday’s The Sydney Morning Herald, reports News Corp’s Matthew Benns.

Bosses at Nine are believed to be furious at the misstep in the week before Jones signs off from his record ratings breakfast slot on the Nine-owned 2GB.

The editorial in today’s newspaper by editor Lisa Davies accused him of encouraging “sexual violence”.

The Nine newspaper has now changed that to encouraging “violence against women” in the online version of the editorial and issued a correction.

“A previous version of this story referred to encouragement of sexual violence,” the correction said.

“This was intended to refer to “violence against women”, examples of which were stated in the story. There is no suggestion that Alan Jones encouraged violence in a sexual context.”

But that may not be enough to appease Jones.

[Read more]

Radio

Thank you to the listeners: Ben Fordham says goodbye to Drive

As he left 2GB drive spot for the final time, Ben Fordham paid thanks to the long list of people who have made his journey through radio so far possible.

“I just want to say a few thank yous before I say goodbye, because a lot of people have helped me in the nine and a half years I have been doing this shift, and a lot of people are helping me make the transition to breakfast.”

Fordham thanked the bosses who backed him over the years, and the important people in his life, including his family.

“My wife Jodie, I couldn’t do it without you.”

But most importantly, he thanked the listeners.

“Thank you for giving me a go, thanks for supporting me, thank you for everything… thank you, thank you.”

[Listen here to Fordham’s farewell]

Ben Fordham yet to sign 2GB breakfast radio contract

News of Ben Fordham’s surprise signing to the 2GB breakfast slot made headlines a week ago but it seems the negotiations for the drive presenter to replace outgoing presenter Alan Jones are far from finalised, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Somehow in the rush to promote Fordham to breakfast – those talks taking place during a flurry of phone calls over one weekend earlier this month – it seems a new contract with Nine Radio has not yet materialised nor been signed off on.

Yesterday Nine Radio boss Tom Malone, a St Ignatius school mate of Fordham’s, refused to comment on internal talk that has it Fordham’s requested pay bump took Nine’s executive and board by surprise in cash-strapped times when Nine’s revenue continues to fall – down $30 million for April with a sharper decline expected for May.

It has left little in the kitty for a pay rise for Fordham at the current time.

He is believed to be earning about $500,000-a-year on that contract – a deal negotiated before 2GB was annexed into the Nine stable. He also has a separate five-year contract with Nine that was negotiated with the TV broadcasting arm after he stepped back from the Today show and wound back his TV commitments in favour of a radio career in 2014.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Neil Breen signs off: After 30 years in print, final story the biggest of all

I write all this as, after 30 years in journalism and a connection to newspapers, this is my last column for The Sun-Herald for the time being. I am relocating to my home town of Brisbane to host breakfast radio on 4BC in the slot left open by the retirement of Alan Jones, writes Neil Breen as he farewell his readers.

In those 30 years, a lot of extraordinary things have happened – but nothing like this.

When you try and put everything on a global scale into perspective, it makes it more remarkable we are on the brink of an NRL relaunch.

During the past eight weeks, I spent day after day outside NRL headquarters at Moore Park and Racing NSW HQ in Druitt Street trying to keep track of the ever-evolving madness.

It was a remarkable passing parade.

The NRL was on. Then it was off. Players and officials from throughout the game scattered into lockdown. Staff were laid off, or stood down, at the NRL and clubs. It was revealed the NRL would go broke if the season was abandoned altogether. Clubs were rapidly running out of money and facing the very real prospect of insolvency. The NRL’s broadcast partner, Nine, publisher of this masthead, blasted the governing body for the money it said was being wasted. NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg was gone. Others followed.

It has been a pleasure to write this column each week and engage with you, the readers. Stay well. Enjoy the reboot of sport. I will. See ya down the road.

[Read more]

Why rugby league will beat the AFL in television’s silent war

Rugby league has outhussled the AFL in the race to start again and now it has a key weapon in television’s Battle of The Empty Stands, comments News Corp’s Robert Craddock.

It’s simply that league looks better – or should we say, less worse – on television without crowds.

League cameramen are already plotting ways to take the vacant stands out of play and in the brief showing of the two football codes earlier this year league looked a more spirited product than AFL when the stands were bare.

There is no hiding the fact the AFL’s greatest moments – when goals are kicked – are what they are because of crowd involvement such as the masses of streamer-waving fans behind the posts.

To show the goals on television you simply have to show the vacant terraces. It’s a desperately deflating look.

The AFL get bigger crowds than league so they will miss them more and for some reason the fact that league is played on a rectangular field seems to make it a better fit on a rectangular television screen.

[Read more]

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