Mediaweek Roundup: Bauer NZ, SCA, News Corp, Bloom, NRL + more

• Murdochs, Ray Hadley, TV Deals + Wrestlemania

Business of Media

Jacinda Ardern says Bauer rejected wage subsidy ahead of NZ closure

Major media publisher Bauer NZ is shutting its doors, but the NZ Prime Minister says she doesn’t think it’s because of the coronavirus outbreak, reports 1News.

Under the Alert Level 4 lockdown, it hasn’t been able to publish its magazines, which CEO Brendon Hill told staff “put our business in an untenable position”.

Bauer has told its 237 staff funding will be provided to enable everyone to be paid their full redundancy and leave entitlements.

However, Jacinda Ardern rejects Bauer’s claim that the shutdown was because of the coronavirus outbreak and Government restrictions.

“They didn’t want to use the Government support to keep their doors open. In my view, they should’ve taken it up and they should’ve kept going,” she told media.

Ardern says she’s “extraordinarily disappointed” in the closure, adding that the Government “actively sought to assist Bauer during this time”.

“We asked if they could take up the wage subsidy, they refused. In my view this appears to have been a decision that has been made at the same time as Covid-19, but not because of it,” Ardern says.

“The wage subsidy could and should have made a difference…and we were very keen that Bauer take it up.

[Read more]

Southern Cross rebuffs private equity approaches

Southern Cross Media is understood to have rebuffed private equity funds making approaches to recapitalise the business, as its earnings outlook as a broadcaster remains uncertain amid disruptions linked to COVID-19, reports The Australian’s Bridget Carter.

Now the expectation is that the regional radio and television business will tap the market for a small amount of equity and lobby its lenders for a reprieve from paying its loans back until normal trading conditions resume.

Various other companies in distress, including Webjet and oOh!media are understood to have received opportunistic private equity approaches, but have rebuffed the offers after finding support from their investors that are providing the funds they need to weather the current financial storm.

Southern Cross has been among the listed media groups hardest hit by investors, with its market value last worth about $127m, down from its 2020 high of about $726.7m.

[Read more]

Murdochs support crucial vaccine trials to protect health workers

Hundreds of medical workers in hospitals across the country have received doses of the BCG vaccine as part of a multi-centre clinical trial targeting the deadly coronavirus pandemic, reports The Australian’s Steve Jackson.

The BRACE trial, announced last week, is designed to test whether the vaccine – originally developed to beat tuberculosis, and still given to more than 130 million babies annually – can safeguard healthcare workers exposed to SARS-CoV-2 against developing severe symptoms.

More than 300 selected medical staff at hospitals, including the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, have been vaccinated with BCG this week as part of the study, which will eventually extend to 4000 workers nationally.

Sarah and Lachlan Murdoch, who donated $700,000 to the trial, said it was vital to support both the frontline staff tasked with caring for infected patients and those trying to develop a vaccine to beat the deadly pathogen.

[Read more]

News Corp journalist tells of family’s COVID-19 hell

After being diagnosed with coronavirus in New York, News Corp’s US correspondent Sarah Blake has revealed how unreliable testing has left her family fearful and uncertain:

When suddenly I couldn’t smell the Vicks VapoRub and Tiger Balm I was using to help myself get a deep breath last week, I lost my last doubts about what was going on.

I had coronavirus.

After experiencing every published symptom apart from a dry cough, it was confirmation that we had done the right thing to lock ourselves down and act as though we were all infected.

The problem is, we still have no way of really knowing.

Our doctor says he has no doubt the virus washed through my family over the past few weeks, but the test, when I finally had it after seven days of being knocked down by what felt like the worst flu I have ever had, was inconclusive.

[Read more]

Radio

Dogs, kids, lawnmowers: noisy new reality as hosts work at home

“You can often tell from a politician’s facial reaction if they’re uncomfortable with a question,” says 2GB morning host Ray Hadley, reports The Age’s Michael Lallo. “If they bring an adviser into the studio and the politician says something they weren’t supposed to, you can practically see the colour draining from the adviser’s face.”

Like many broadcasters, Hadley is now working remotely and conducting all interviews over the phone as the population acts to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

“I’ve been doing outside broadcasts [as a live sports caller] for 35 years, so it’s not foreign to me,” says Hadley, who is operating from a suburban Sydney hotel until necessary equipment is installed inside his house. “I miss having guests in the studio and even though we tell our listeners we’re in another location, they probably can’t hear the difference.”

Most presenters at ABC Radio Melbourne, in contrast, are still working from the broadcaster’s Southbank headquarters.

“Because ABC is officially deemed an essential service, we knew we’d have to keep doing our jobs no matter what,” says station manager Dina Rosendorff. “We’ve had an unprecedented volume of talkback calls which [requires studio facilities] to keep the quality high.”

All programs now alternate between two studios, allowing cleaners to disinfect each one between shifts. External guests are banned and meetings can only be held on phone or video platforms.

[Read more]

Television

Bloom creator ups the stakes in S2 as Bella Heathcote joins cast

It was one of the first original series commissioned by Australian streamer Stan, attracting a stellar cast – including Aussie acting royalty Jackie Weaver and Bryan Brown – and wide-spread critical praise. Now the Logie Award-winning Bloom is back for season two, picking up three months on from the events of the first series, which saw a number of inhabitants of the small town of Mullan in rural Victoria, mysteriously regain their youth. They morphed into younger versions of themselves after consuming berries from a plant that grew after a devastating inland flood killed five of the town’s inhabitants.

“Season One was a gothic fairy tale about an inexplicable miracle in the wake of a natural tragedy,” says the show’s creator, Glen Dolman. “It offered a taste of youth; a return to your physical prime (or – arguably – the age when a deep regret was formed) for a few days.

“This season we offer an even bigger ‘gift’ – the promise of eternal life from our ‘second-generation’ berries – but it soon appears like a greater ‘curse’.”

[Read more]

Sports Media

End of mega TV deals leaves footy codes facing a reset for fans

Coronavirus may have signalled the death of the multi-billion-dollar TV sports rights deal, reports Jessica Halloran in The Australian.

As sporting codes deal with enormous financial losses because of the pandemic, with little to no TV rights money coming in without games being played, Global Media & Sports director Colin Smith said the AFL and NRL should not expect a bigger deal from Australian broad­casters in the future.

Smith also said all the football codes needed to up their fan engagement, noting the industry before COVID-19 already needed to “adapt and create” its products to attract and keep the next generation of supporters.

Smith said the coronavirus pandemic had triggered a “reset button”.

“It’s going to be a complete reset,” he said. “It puts into question the multi-billion-dollar deals. Future deals have got to come back to true economics either of subscribers or TV viewership.

“Those deals are going to have to stand on what will provide a commercial return for the broadcaster.

In 2015, the AFL struck a huge six-year, $2.508bn broadcast rights agreement with the Seven Network, Foxtel and Telstra. The deal runs from 2017 to 2022.

The NRL secured a $1.8bn deal with the Nine Network, News Corp Australia, Foxtel and Telstra for five years from 2018.

[Read more]

NRL’s secret mission for early season re-launch date

Project Apollo – headed by ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce – was launched on Wednesday with the instruction to do what seems impossible. That is get the competition going earlier than anyone had anticipated. Part of the romance behind channelling US president John F Kennedy’s ambition to get a man of the moon is the timeframe.

There have been countless suggestions bandied about on how best to start the competition. Conferences are high on the agenda with teams divided into four pools. While resuming the season with State of Origin has also been floated.

“The concepts they are coming up with including the word bubble will ensure the players and the communities safety will be accommodated,” said ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.

“(A return on) July 1 is more than achievable. There is a chance it will be earlier.”

[Read more]

Adelaide wrestler Rhea Ripley to compete at WrestleMania

When she signed her WWE contract in July 2017, all Glenelg-born athlete Rhea Ripley was promised was a wage, a place to train and a chance to make herself famous, reports News Corp’s Sean Fewster.

Less than three years have passed and, in that time, Ripley has made professional wrestling history time and time again, and is now poised to appear on the grandest stage of them all.

This weekend, the 23-year-old will defend her NXT Women’s Championship at WrestleMania – the $1.5 billion industry’s premier event.

In doing so, Ripley will become the first Australian in the event’s 36-year history to compete in a one-on-one match for a championship.

Thanks to COVID-19, WrestleMania will be broadcast not from the 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida but from WWE’s 7925sq m training facility in Orlando.

WrestleMania screens on Foxtel’s Main Event channel and the WWE Network – available online – on Sunday, April 5 and Monday, April 6, 8.30am SA time/9am AEST.

[Read more]

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