Mediaweek roundup: Big Brother, Deborah Thomas, Better Homes + more

• James Warburton, Stan, Rugby Australia, Little America, Dublin Murders + Sex Education

Business of Media

Seven West Media’s James Warburton hires a new spin doctor

Less than a week out from the release of his first-half results, still relatively new Seven West Media boss James Warburton has gone out and hired himself a spin doctor, reports The Australian’s Christine Lacy.

James Warburton

While billionaire media proprietor Kerry Stokes has spent the Aussie summer skiing the slopes of Beaver Creek, Warburton has been hunting down a new communications boss to run things following the exit of Stephen Browning last October in favour of a more explosive gig at Orica.

Margin Call hears that former NSW government spinner Julia Lefort has just been persuaded to sign on the dotted line at Seven to take on a role that was made notorious by the long-serving and inimitable Simon Francis.

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Australian SVOD platform returns to the outback in new series

The BBC is teaming up once again with writing duo Harry and Jack Williams – whose Two Brothers Pictures banner produced Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s hit BBC/Amazon comedy Fleabag– on new drama The Tourist, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

The six-part mystery thriller was commissioned for BBC One and will be produced by Two Brothers in association with Australian streamer Stan – the Australian co-commissioning partner – plus Highview Productions, All3media International and the South Australian Film Corporation.

Set in the Australian outback, The Tourist centres on a British man being pursued by a vast tank truck trying to drive him off the road. An epic cat and mouse chase unfolds, and the man later wakes up in hospital, hurt, but somehow alive. Except he has no idea who he is. With merciless figures from his past pursuing him, the man’s search for answers propels him through the vast and unforgiving outback.

Nick Forward, chief content officer at Stan, said: “The Tourist is such a unique story and we’re delighted to be partnering with BBC One, Two Brothers Pictures and the SAFC on this project.”

The Tourist is a Two Brothers Pictures (an all3media company) production for the BBC, in association with Highview Productions, all3media international, the South Australian Film Corporation and Stan. Harry and Jack Williams will serve as exec producers alongside Chris Sweeney (Back To Life, Liar) for Two Brothers Pictures and Tommy Bulfin for the BBC. Lisa Scott (The Hunting, Pine Gap) will produce and Chris Sweeney will direct.

International sales will be handled by All3media International.

[Read more]

Former magazine queen Deborah Thomas’ latest career move

After leaving an iconic magazine career behind in 2015, Deborah Thomas hasn’t been one for smooth trajectories, reports The AFR’s Myriam Robin.

She first tried running theme park operator Ardent Leisure.

After two nightmarish years at Ardent, which included fronting the fallout of the Dreamworld tragedy, she left and became a partner at recruitment firm Blenheim Partners – whose self-aggrandising website features photos of successful previous placements like Sir Winston Churchill, Henry Ford and Aung San Suu Kyi.

And now, another pivot. Last month, Thomas was appointed CEO of children’s cancer charity Camp Quality.

[Read more]

Television

First pictures of the Big Brother 2020 house have been revealed

The first pictures of the 2020 Big Brother house have been leaked online, reports 7News.com.au.

The images, which appear on the Behind Big Brother website, show the house being built in Manly, North Head in Sydney.

The set of amateur photos show a warehouse-like complex with a big backyard area, a new state-of-the-art control rooms and a transmission tower.

Filming is slated to begin in March.

However, it’s not yet confirmed if the show will go to air before or after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which run from July 24 to August 9.

A Seven Network spokesperson told 7News.com.au, “Big Brother has spoken and Sonia Kruger will helm the new game. Channel Seven is very excited to have Sonia on board for a thrilling new era of Big Brother.”

[Read more]

Visit Behind Big Brother here.

Sleeper hit Sex Education nearly didn’t get made, says creator

The captivating comedy-drama Sex Education landed on Netflix in January 2019 with relatively little fanfare, reports The Age’s Debi Enker.

Shot in Wales and set in the fictional town of Moordale, the series focuses on the adventures of Otis (Asa Butterfield). The teenage son of divorced sex therapist Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson), he discovers that, despite his lack of sexual experience he has the knowledge and the temperament to counsel a classmate who’s having erection issues.

The speed of its success might suggest a production that had “hit” written all over it. But, according to creator Laurie Nunn, the road to the screen wasn’t a smooth one.

“We tried to find a home for it in the UK but we couldn’t find the right fit. I’d written the pilot script but I thought that it had died. Then it got into the hands of someone at Netflix and it came back to life.”

Born in England and moving to Melbourne when she was 14, Nunn had long had a passion for teen stories, from YA fiction, the films of John Hughes and Mean Girls to TV series such as Dawson’s Creek, Freaks and Geek sand The O.C.

[Read more]

Like Broadchurch, Dublin Murders breathes life into detective genre

Crime procedurals are a low flat circle. Everything we ever saw we’re going to see over and over: the bodies of young female victims, the true detective with the fractured psyche, and the guilty with their inexplicable need to take a life, writes The Age’s Craig Mathieson.

An eight-part series, Dublin Murders is based on two books by acclaimed American-Irish crime writer Tana French, and it retains much of the intimate tension and psychological acuity that her novels have been praised for thanks to the adaptation by British screenwriter Sarah Phelps, who has previously brought Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling’s works to the screen.

Set in 2006, the first two episodes don’t just set up the storytelling strands; they suggest a world out of kilter, where no-one has a safe distance from their failings.

The storytelling is crisp and connective, but it’s always accentuated by a disconcerting mood that feels connected to the sense that everyone is being drawn into something they can’t control.

[Read more]

Little America’s immigrant tales are designed to be a human ‘playlist’

From the opening frames of the new drama anthology Little America, there is unexpectedly powerful connective tissue which binds characters and audience: their names, in large letters, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato.

Putting a name to a face, within the framework of a political issue, fundamentally empowers it, producer Lee Eisenberg says.

“We want you to kind of feel a connection to these people that you wouldn’t otherwise connect, [or] you might not initially think that you would connect to,” Eisenberg says. “I think that if the show works, and hopefully it does, it’s that the audience is connecting with someone who doesn’t look like them but is going through an experience [that is relatable].”

Little America is an American anthology television series commissioned by Apple TV+ from Eisenberg, Alan Yang and Kumail Nanjiani. The “little” America of which the title speaks are the ordinary lives of American immigrants, taken from real life but adapted into fiction.

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Jason Hodges speaks out after shock Better Homes axing

In December 2019, landscaping expert Jason Hodges’ shock axing after 16 years on Better Homes and Gardens took everyone – none more so than the beloved star himself – by complete surprise, reports Yahoo Lifestyle’s Gillian Wolski.

At the time, the shellshocked Sydney-born father-of-two made little public comment except to say he was “absolutely gutted” to be dropped from the Channel Seven mainstay before going to ground over Christmas and the new year.

Now, the man known affectionally as Hodgie to his adoring co-stars and audience, has told Yahoo Lifestyle in an exclusive chat that his unceremonial ousting from one of the country’s most iconic programs came entirely out of the blue.

“I just didn’t see it coming,” he says.

“I think that television networks don’t do the market research that they should and especially in this decision… [the Channel Seven execs are] trying to attract a younger audience that doesn’t exist [because] your average 25-year-old doesn’t watch Better Homes and Gardens,” he says.

“[Seven execs] invested 20 years in me and then got rid of me. I think they live in a television bubble where they think that ‘shiny’ replaces ‘authentic’,” he adds.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Broadcast rights stoush could leave game and Fox bruised and bloodied

When the Rugby Australia broadcast negotiations finally are settled there could be some casualties within the hierarchy of the sport and incumbent broadcaster Fox Sports, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle has a posse of death riders willing her to fail and she won’t survive unless she receives the significant uplift in TV monies she has promised Australia’s four Super Rugby franchises, as well as the other SANZAAR nations who have already committed to the next five-year deal.

RA is unyielding on having one Super Rugby match a week in prime time on free-to-air television to “grow the game”.

The match would be on Saturday nights, probably on Network 10, and involve one of the Australian franchises – the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Rebels. Each Super Rugby franchise has seven home games a year. That’s 28 matches per season, but with crossovers there could be only one game played in Australia some weekends. The Rebels versus the Stormers on FTA on a Saturday night is scarcely the saviour the sport seeks.

[Read more]

Castle expects Fox Sports to come to table for rugby rights

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castles ays she is confident Fox Sports will “step into the process” of broadcast rights negotiations while hitting back at suggestions from John O’Neill that outgoing board members should be sidelined from the talks, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Decent.

O’Neill, the former Australian Rugby Union boss, told the Herald this week he believed board members who are moving on at the annual general meeting next month should have no involvement in upcoming broadcast negotiations.

Despite reports Fox Sports had walked away from negotiations for good, Castle sounded optimistic they would come to the table.

“We went through a negotiating process with them [Fox Sports] through their exclusive negotiating period,” Castle said.

[Read more]

Rugby Australia preps broadcast package with bold club rugby plan

A new national club rugby competition with two divisions, running after the Shute Shield and Queensland Premier Rugby, could be introduced as early as next year under Rugby Australia’s new broadcast proposal, reports News Corp’sJamie Pandaram.

Shute Shield would remain as is for 2020, to be shown on Channel 7, however the new merged club championship idea would be shown by the broadcaster who wins the rights from 2021.

The two-division club tournament would have a promotion-relegation system and could open the door for the return of the Penrith Emus to the rugby scene.

The tournament would replace the National Rugby Championship, which is set to be scrapped after this year.

[Read more]

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