Mediaweek roundup: Bauer, Bob Iger, Johnny Depp + more

• The AFR, AFL, Amazon, Olympics, Rugby, Outlander, Kay Stammers + Hugh Marks

Business of Media

Bob Iger hands Disney’s reins to parks chief in surprise succession

Walt Disney Co. shares slid after chief executive officer Bob Iger abruptly stepped aside and handed the reins to theme-parks head Bob Chapek, ending years of speculation over who would succeed him atop the world’s largest entertainment company, reports Bloomberg.

Chapek, 60, who led Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses, takes over immediately, the company said Tuesday. Iger will stay to direct the company’s creative endeavours as executive chairman through 2021.

With the appointment, Chapek lands one of the most coveted jobs in entertainment. He’s a 27-year company veteran who led Disney’s home-video business during the DVD era, before transitioning to consumer products. In that role, he reorganized the business to cut costs and focus on franchises, including the Frozentoy craze.

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Bloomberg’ Tara Lachapelle commented:

It was the last thing shareholders saw coming. The company’s choice wasn’t even who most people expected. Bob Chapek, the head of Disney’s theme parks business, is taking over, effective immediately. Iger will remain chairman through to the end of 2021.

It’s the most significant change to happen to the entertainment giant in more than a decade. Iger had become almost as much the face of the company as Walt Disney was himself, and was responsible for building it into the globally admired brand and content powerhouse that it is now. While Iger, at 69 years old, had been inching closer to retirement, it wasn’t supposed to come until next year. Shares of Disney fell 6% in after-hours trading, as investors tried to pick their jaws up off the floor.

Anyone who read Iger’s memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, which was released last year, might have been led to believe that another top Disney executive, Kevin Mayer, was next in line for the keys to the Magic Kingdom. Mayer oversees Disney’s new streaming-TV operations – the very business at the centre of the new Disney.

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News Brands

Growing subscription revenue secures future of The AFR

A jump in subscription revenue at The Australian Financial Review is helping diversify the national business and politics publication away from the whims of the advertising market, reports the news brand’s Max Mason.

Subscriptions now account for 48 per cent of the Financial Review‘s revenue, up from 44 per cent a year ago, according to data released at Nine’s half-year results on Wednesday.

The Financial Review grew its subscriber base by 14 per cent from a year ago and 87 per cent of its base were digital-only subs.

Digital made up more than 75 per cent of the Financial Review‘s subscription revenue in the half. Digital subscription revenue grew 13 per cent while print subscription revenue fell 10 per cent.

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Star in court in libel case against Sun over ‘domestic abuse’ article

Hollywood actor Johnny Depp has appeared at the High Court in London for a hearing in his libel case against The Sun, reports Press Gazette.

The movie star is suing the publisher of The Sun and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article which alleged he had been abusive to his former wife Amber Heard.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star, wearing a suit and blue-tinted glasses, sat in court behind his lawyers at a pre-trial review hearing today.

Depp, 56, denies the allegations of domestic abuse and has accused Heard of being the “aggressor” in their relationship, which ended in May 2016.

The libel claim, against News Group Newspapers and Wootton, arises out of publication of an article in The Sun in April 2018 under the headline “Gone Potty How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”

The court heard the words “wife-beater” were later removed from the article online.

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Why did the Press Council take on Bauer Media’s Woman’s Day?

It’s an open secret in the gossip magazine industry that many of the stories are made up, or at least highly exaggerated, reports Guardian Australia’s Amanda Meade.

Celebrities are increasingly vocal about the practice, with some, such as Rebel Wilson, taking legal action and others, such as the Sunrise co-host Samantha Armytage, calling them out for falsehoods.

With standards such as these it came as a shock when Woman’s Day was rapped over the knuckles by the media watchdog last week for publishing a headline about Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, which it said was “blatantly incorrect”.

So why did the press council, which usually takes aim at articles in the Herald Sun or the Sydney Morning Herald, sit in judgment of a Woman’s Day cover story which said the royal family had confirmed Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s marriage was over?

The short answer is someone – not the royal family – complained about the article, and the council saw merit in the complaint and investigated because the magazine’s owner, Bauer Media, is a member of the press council.

According to the latest annual report, only 10 out of a total of 669 complaints to the Australian Press Council related to magazines.

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Broadcasters, producers at loggerheads over children’s content quotas

Broadcasters and producers are at loggerheads over Australian children’s content on commercial television, with Nine CEO Hugh Marks lending his support to rival James Warburton, CEO of Seven, over calls to scrap quotas making it compulsory to commission and broadcast such content, report Nine publishing’s Karl Quinn and Zoe Samios.

“We need action and we need it now, and Seven’s actions are very much targeted at forcing that action,” Marks said.

“I’ll have to consider the same thing because to continue to expend our money and taxpayers’ money on making content for which there is no audience makes no sense.”

But Jenny Buckland, CEO of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, hit back at the broadcasters.

“They have been so belligerent about what they want, which is no obligations at all,” she said, referring to the networks’ position as presented to a series of parliamentary inquiries since 2016, and on which the government is yet to act.

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TV reporter and news anchor Kay Stammers dies aged 72

One of Australia’s pioneering female television journalists and late night news anchors, Kay Stammers, has died in Sydney, reports News Corp’s Matthew Benns.

Stammers, 72, was a familiar face on Australian TV screens in the 1970s and 1980s as the only female journalist on Sydney’s Channel 9 news team and the presenter on Channel 7’s late night show News World.

“Kay was one of the pioneers,” former colleague and head of ABC Television Gail Jarvis said. “She broke into an area that had previously been a bastion of male reporters.”

She was discovered and coaxed into television from a teaching career after a photograph of her sunbathing in a bikini on Sandringham beach in Melbourne appeared on page three of The Sun newspaper.

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Outlander goes beyond novels with new season storyline

It’s not uncommon for a TV show to kindle its audience’s passions, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato. But even by the standards of genre TV, the enthusiasm that follows the love affair at the centre of the epic, time-travel romance Outlander is rare.

At the heart of the series bubbles the great romance between the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and World War II nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), who has been transported back in time, to Scotland in the late 1700s, where she meets him.

A fifth season of Outlander has premiered, and a sixth has been confirmed, which will air in 2021. Significantly, in the new season, the series departs from the novels by adding a major storyline that is not part of Gabaldon’s printed narrative.

The new season also marks a shift in the creative input Heughan and Balfe have in the series; both are now credited as co-producers on the series. “It’s important to have a say,” Balfe says. “We’ve built these characters from day one, and I think we feel, especially when so many of our core writers are not on the show any more and we’ve got new writers coming in, it’s [important] to retain that through-line.”

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Sports Media

Rugby up for sale: raiders move in looking to expand investment

The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby could end up partially in private hands as SANZAAR conducts due diligence on these and other options as private equity ventures circle the southern hemisphere rugby giants ahead of a vital meeting in London next week, reports The Australian’s Wayne Smith.

Private equity giant CVC Capital is close to buying stakes in the Six Nations and Europe’s Pro14 club competition as part of a global competition restructure that now, seemingly, is on the brink of including the southern hemisphere nations of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle on Wednesday would not confirm that her organisation had met with any private equity firm, but she did indicate that Australia has been seriously investigating what a potential deal might look like.

It is understood that CVC Capital is only one of several private equity firms believing there is an awful lot of money to be made in southern hemisphere rugby, but given its interest in both the Six Nations and Pro14, it is the one attracting most attention.

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‘We have cancelled Games in the past’: Olympics confronts new reality

The preparations of many Australian athletes and teams for Tokyo 2020 have been thrown into disarray by the spread of the coronavirus, which is now threatening to result in an Olympic Games being cancelled for the first time since World War II, report Nine publishing’s Chris Barrett and Sam Phillips.

Tokyo organisers maintain that contingency plans are not being drawn up in the event this year’s Olympics, due to be held between July 24 and August 9, are unable to go ahead in Japan due to the global health crisis, and veteran International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound has indicated they would most likely be cancelled rather than postponed in that scenario.

While Pound said a decision would need to be made by May, Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates, who is heading the IOC’s coordination committee for the 2020 Games, stressed “there is no call at the moment”.

Seven West Media paid a reported $200 million for the Australian broadcast rights to the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo and the winter Games in Pyeongchang but they would be partly refunded by the IOC if this year’s Olympics did not take place.

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Amazon want all AFL clubs in documentary series

Amazon wants all 18 clubs to be part of a football documentary series in a deal with the AFL and McGuire Media, report The Age’s Sam McClure and Jake Niall.

The move comes as premiership coach Adam Simpson confirmed that West Coast had been in talks with the tech giants, with ruckman Nic Naitanui the focus.

The global streaming company are still negotiating the deal – which is yet to be signed – that they are hoping will involve all 18 clubs over three seasons.

The project will be a carbon copy of the documentary series Six Dreams, which takes you inside the four walls of clubs in Spanish soccer’s top-flight La Liga.

The Age has been told by industry sources a number of club representatives have been all but confirmed for the AFL version, while others remain up in the air.

Port Adelaide chairman David Koch confirmed that Port Adelaide were interested in getting involved.

“I think it’s fabulous. Yeah, I don’t think we’d be asked. But we’re not really a glamour club. If we were (asked), we would definitely be involved,” he said.

Koch said he had become interested in formula one via Netflix’s series Inside Formula One and the Amazon series on Manchester City “was incredible as well.”

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AFL Games, Grand Prix ‘could be cancelled’ over virus outbreak

The federal government would consider cancelling events with big crowds such as AFL matches if Australia experienced a major outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed, reports News Corp’s Ellen Whinnett and Peter Rolfe.

But it would come only as a last resort.

The government is bracing for the World Health Organisation to declare within days that the coronavirus crisis has reached pandemic stage, meaning ongoing outbreaks in multiple countries.

While the virus is currently contained in Australia and there has been no person-to-person transmission here, the government has activated its pandemic plans, including the potential to stop people congregating in large numbers.

AFL and Australian Grand Prix chiefs are expected to plough ahead with plans to host major events in Melbourne in coming weeks, unless told otherwise.

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