Mediaweek Roundup: Bruce McAvaney, Netflix, Shaun Micallef + more

• Hollywood blockbusters, Simon Cowell, Jessica Watson, and Cursed

Business of Media

How funding will attract Hollywood blockbusters during COVID-19

Film and television productions will be lured to Australia with $400 million in cash grants in a federal plan to capitalise on the country’s low rate of coronavirus infections compared to other countries, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s David Crowe.

The Morrison government will offer the new incentive on top of existing tax breaks after attracting films such as Thor: Love and Thunder, Godzilla Versus Kong and Monster Problems.

While border controls will limit the immediate take-up of the new scheme, the government is pitching the incentive as a way to bring work to a safe location in Australia when productions have stalled in Hollywood and elsewhere.

The taxpayer aid for the entertainment business is contentious at a time when other industries are seeking help, but the government argues the support has paid off in the past with thousands of jobs.

Government modelling suggests the $400 million would attract about $3 billion in foreign expenditure in Australia and would create 8000 new jobs over the seven years of the new program.

The new offer, called the Location Incentive, adds to an existing Location Offset that gives film and television producers a tax break for big-budget productions.

The government estimates 10 productions have gained support worth $123 million from the Location Offset for productions including the Thor and Godzilla movies, as well as Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

[Read more]

Reed Hastings appoints Ted Sarandos co-CEO of Netflix

“I am excited to announce that we have appointed Ted Sarandos to be Netflix co-CEO with me, and also elected him to our board of directors,” said Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings today.

“He will continue as our chief content officer. We have also appointed Greg Peters to be our chief operating officer, in addition to his role as chief product officer.

Ted Sarandos

“Ted’s been instrumental to our success as a company. While I saw streaming coming and pushed for it, Ted drove the revolution in our content strategy, which was way ahead of its time and has been key to our continued success. It was typical of his ability to see where the industry – and consumer tastes – are headed. He’s built an extraordinary team, attracting some of the most creative and best entertainment executives from all around the world.”

“In terms of the day-to-day running of Netflix, I do not expect much to change.  Our key executive leadership groups are unchanged. So think of Ted’s well deserved promotion formalising how we already run the business today.”

Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings

Sarandos commented: “I’m excited and honoured to have been appointed co-CEO of Netflix. When Reed and I first met over 20 years ago, he described Netflix almost exactly as it now works. But at the time, I was sceptical. The Internet was still new and Netflix’s main competitor, Blockbuster, was huge and had completely disrupted the business model of my previous company. Part of Reed’s brilliance is his persistence and so I eventually said yes, back in 1999.

“My journey to co-CEO of Netflix has been as a fan of great entertainment. And that’s my commitment to Netflix members going forward: to keep pushing the boundaries of what a consumer-first company can achieve for people who love stories.”

Mediaweek podcast:
When Netflix launched in Australia in 2015, Mediaweek’s James Manning spent time with Sarandos during a launch roadshow. Listen to our podcast here.

Simon Cowell buys out Sony to take full control of X Factor, Got Talent

Music mogul Simon Cowell is taking full control of Got Talent and The X Factor prodco Syco Entertainment, after striking a deal with Sony Music Entertainment, reports TBI.

The agreement will see Cowell personally buying out Sony’s stake in the joint venture, with ownership of all of the TV formats being moved into a privately held company, also to be called Syco Entertainment.

Cowell will have sole ownership of this independent entertainment company, having maintained a buy-back option. As part of the agreement, Sony Music will retain the JV’s music assets, including its roster of current artists and back catalogue.

Cowell said: “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Rob and all of the Sony Music executives, artists and partners all over the world. It’s been a unique partnership and Sony have always backed and supported me to create television formats.”

Rob Stringer, chairman of Sony Music Group, added: “At this particular contractual crossroads, it was simply the right thing for Simon to take control of his TV assets and propel his company in a new direction.

“Sony Music has had incredible global success with so many artists that have been launched through Simon’s vision and innovation and we are proud to continue to represent the Syco music catalogue and its artists. On a personal note, it has been an amazing adventure working with him as we have shared so many exciting pop culture moments as friends and partners.”

Sony purchased Cowell’s share of Syco Music and Syco Television in 2005. Four years later, The X Factor host launched a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment whereby the JV owned the rights to several formats including Got Talent and X Factor.

The Got Talent brand currently has 76 local versions produced around the world, while The X Factor airs in more than 130 territories.

[Read more]

Television

Sydney’s Sunstar Entertainment making Jessica Watson biopic for Netflix

Jessica Watson had the whole of Australia behind her when she sailed back into Sydney after her 210 day solo, non-stop voyage around the world. It was a moment in history most Aussies will probably never forget.

A feature film is now being developed for Netflix based on her #1 best-selling memoir, True Spirit.

The writers are Cathy Randall and Sarah Spillane. Spillane will also direct the film.

Sydney’s Sunstar Entertainment will produce True Spirit, with US producer Debra Martin Chase.

Sunstar’s directors, Shahen Mekertichian and Andrew Fraser, have worked together on this project for many years and were elated that it will finally be made into a feature film.

“The hallmark of Sunstar Entertainment has been to bring to the world audience true, inspirational, Australian-centric stories. We feel privileged to have finally found the right partner in Netflix to articulate Jessica’s incredible story authentically and without compromise. We’re really pleased to make this exciting announcement today,” said Mekertichian.

True Spirit has been Sunstar’s passion project. We have waited a long time for the stars to align and for us to feel comfortable that the right ingredients were present to do justice to Jessica’s achievement. Our partnership with Netflix will ensure Jessica’s epic story is shared with a global audience, as it deserves to. We’re really happy for Jessica too,” said Fraser.

Jessica, who is also represented by Sunstar, said: “It’s quite humbling to have Netflix bring my story to life. I hope that the film inspires people around the world to try sailing and to also pursue their own adventures. I’m thrilled that it will be directed by Sarah and supported by such a strong production team. I look forward to working with them all as a technical consultant.”

True Spirit information

Writers: Sarah Spillane and Cathy Randall
Director: Sarah Spillane (Around the Block, This Life)
Producers: Debra Martin Chase (Harriet, The Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) for Martin Chase Productions and Andrew Fraser (Lion) for Sunstar Entertainment
Executive Producers: Shahen Mekertichian (Lion) for Sunstar Entertainment, Sarah Spillane

Three Australian actors star in new Netflix fantasy-drama Cursed

For the three leads in the new, epic fantasy-drama Cursed, the biggest danger wasn’t wizards, demons, bloody sword battles or religious fanatics. Rather, it was the fact they might slip back into their natural Australian accents, reports News Corp’s James Wigney.

Against all the odds for Netflix’s big budget retelling of that most British of tales, the King Arthur legend, three of its main actors learned their craft in Perth, literally a world away from the mythical Camelot.

Katherine Langford, who plays the magical Nimue, was born and raised in Perth, going on to get her break in the controversial 2017 drama, 13 Reasons Why.

Devon Terrell, who plays Arthur and is best known for his role as Barack Obama in the 2016 biopic Barry, was born in the US but moved to Australia at the age of five.

And Shalom Brune-Franklin, who plays the feisty nun Igraine, relocated from England at 15 and studied drama at the Western Australia Academy of the Performing Arts.

[Read more]

TV preview: Shaun Micallef’s very own drinking problem

Shaun Micallef isn’t that big on functions and parties, but when he does socialise his beverage of choice is mineral water, reports TV Tonight.

He hasn’t partaken of alcohol since his university days, nearly 30 years ago. But being an abstainer comes with its own pitfalls.

“I often feel like I’m an observer, although there are increasingly more things I go to where people aren’t drinking to excess. But in the early days, it was like I was not really there. I was just kind of observing something else going on. So that’s the downside to it, because you just feel a bit ‘other.’ You don’t feel like you’re really part of the community that you’re living in,” he tells TV Tonight.

“If you’re offered a drink and you say ‘No thanks,’ the response can be ‘Why?

“It’s kind of taken as a judgment of them,” he explains.

“It’s taken as such a personal rebuff of a gesture of friendship.

In his latest ABC series Shaun Micallef’s On the Sauce, he travels around the nation to discover the new face of alcohol in Australia. He is confronted by the highs and lows of alcohol consumption and witnesses the changing shape of a national pastime.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Bruce McAvaney apology after comment during Thursday AFL Perth clash

Footy commentators have accused Bruce McAvaney of delivering a flippant description of Collingwood star Jordan De Goey’s sexual assault charge, reports news.com.au’s Tyson Otto.

The Channel 7 icon was commentating on Thursday night as De Goey celebrated his return to the Collingwood side with the first goal of the match against Geelong in Perth.

McAvaney – in the eyes of some – appeared to describe the assault charge as a “hiccup” for the Collingwood player, leading to a social media storm.

The 67-year-old responded to the criticism when he took a moment after the Magpies’ 22-point win to apologise for his comment.

“I do apologise. Jordan is facing some serious allegations and it’s more than a hiccup and I realise that. So for anyone that’s taken offence, I understand completely.”

While McAvaney has moved to clarify his comment, footy commentators were earlier quick to criticise him for a poor choice of words.

The Australian’s Jessica Halloran posted on Twitter: “The Victorian Police have charged Jordan De Goey with sexual assault. A ‘hiccup’?”.

Halloran has previously campaigned for the AFL to adopt the same “no-fault stand down” rule that stops NRL players from playing while there is a serious matter before the courts.

Fox Footy reporter Max Laughton posted on Twitter: “A ‘hiccup’ for Jordan de Goey. Not great”.

[Read more]

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