Mediaweek Roundup: Crocmedia, MCN, Foxtel, ABC, SBS + more

Peter Tonagh

• Amazon, Netflix, Podcasts, Seachange, Sarah’s Channel, Nicole Kidman, and The Block

Business of Media

Multi-Channel Network (MCN) explores rebranding to Foxtel Media

Foxtel advertising sales business Multi-Channel Network is exploring a rebrand to more closely align itself with the pay television provider, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Sources told The Australian Financial Review the business is working through new names, with Foxtel Media Group and Foxtel Media believed to be at the top of the list. MCN is at the beginning of the process.

The rebranding of MCN comes after multiple years of discussions and with the exit of Network 10 in January this year, a change to reflect the business’ closer ties with Foxtel made sense.

Sources said a rebrand will also put a line in the sand, showing the business will stay outside the News Corp portfolio and be tied to Foxtel, rather than the long-rumoured News Corp advertising super group.

In a statement, MCN chief executive Mark Frain confirmed the brand name was under review.

“As we continue to work closer with Foxtel, the platform and all its content partners, MCN are reviewing our brand and position in the market to better align with Foxtel going forward,” he said.

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‘Something has got to give’: Peter Tonagh issues warning on Foxtel

A former chief executive of Foxtel has warned the pay-TV business will need to have a dramatic overhaul to stay competitive and shore up its earnings as Australians turn towards Netflix, reports Jennifer Duke.

Peter Tonagh, who was Foxtel’s CEO for about two years until January 2018 when he was replaced by Patrick Delany, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that the embattled business would not be able to spend as much on content, including sports, in future.

The former News Corp chief executive, who joined the Village Roadshow board last week, also said that while the pay-TV service’s streaming options such as recently launched service Kayo Sports made sense strategically, the lower prices it was charging threatened to put even more pressure on the company’s earnings.

“They charge $25 for their sports proposition … you need 3 million customers to break even on sport [with Kayo]. That’s without the cost of delivery and marketing and all the other things,” Tonagh said.

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See also:
Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany talks to Mediaweek on churn, content reviews & Kayo revenues

Foxtel slashes prices for customers who threaten to quit

Dave Gordon says he threatens to quit Foxtel every six months when his contact comes to an end. And when the 38-year-old Mona Vale resident recently attempted to cut the cord, he got his $90 a month full package cost down to just $55, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Sarah Keoghan.

“Foxtel is really clutching onto the HBO and Fox Sports, NRL and AFL, I think to get customers,” he said. “I would never go back to $90, happy to pay $55 but not much more than that.”

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have spoken to dozens of Foxtel customers who said they were able to secure significant discounts when threatening to leave, with many using the method whenever their service needs to be renewed in an attempt to get further price reductions.

38-year-old Freshwater mother Nikki Smith had already been paying a discount rate of $75 a month for the pay TV service, compared to the current advertised “limited” deal of $99. But when the hit HBO series Game of Thrones ended and she attempted to quit she was offered the entire Foxtel package for just $35 a month.

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Government decides Internet streaming is still not broadcasting

The federal government is delaying action on whether internet streaming is classified as broadcasting for another three years, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

In a review of the Alston Determination, obtained by The Australian, the Department of Communications recommends putting off any changes to how the Broadcasting Services Act defines broadcast and internet live streaming.

Decisions to delay or alter the determination could have significant consequences for how both broadcasters and streaming services charge for and sell content on the Internet.

The determination dictates the way TV and radio content streamed live on the Internet is treated and has particular implications for music, sport and news.

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ABC gets $100k taxpayer Life line for “controversial” website

ABC will spend more than $100,000 of public funds on a new editor of lifestyle platform ABC Life, reporting to the “editorial lead” and creating another layer of seniority at the controversial website, reports The Australian’s Zoe Samios.

Meanwhile, data obtained by The Australian reveals the website is attracting decent audiences, but is failing to draw numbers as big as commercial rivals.

The taxpayer-funded broadcaster is advertising the editor role as a 12-month fixed-term contract, reporting to ABC Life editorial lead Scott Spark. According to the ad on the ABC’s careers website, the successful applicant would earn between $101,000 and $112,000 plus super. Applications close on July 28.

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The podcast explosion: where to start with 700,000 to choose from

Remember when you first heard the word podcast? It wasn’t that long ago, because the term was coined in 2004 and the genre has only really exploded in the past five years thanks to the Serial phenomenon, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Barry Divola.

But we’re currently in the middle of a podcast gold rush and today there are more than 700,000 to choose from, with thousands more arriving every week. Last year the first Podcasting Intelligence Report was released in Australia, finding that with 3.5 million listeners, one in four Australians between 16 and 64 were regular podcast users.

If you’re just getting into podcasts now, chances are you’re daunted by the choice. This category breakdown, including some of the very best, will make it easier on your scrolling thumb, so you can get those earbuds in and start listening.

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While Barry Divola then has his own list of recommendations, we have our own too.
Check the weekly Mediaweek Podcast Week column here for news about established podcast stars and new launches.


Amazon hopes for Channels launch in Australian in 2020

Amazon is hoping to build up its channels streaming business for launch in Australia in 2020, but the US e-commerce giant will find it difficult to replicate the expansiveness of its American product due to existing content deals locally, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Earlier in July, The Australian Financial Review revealed Amazon had been meeting with local content providers and broadcasters to scope out their interest for putting their content on Amazon Channels.

Amazon Channels is an additional product available on top of subscription video on demand service Amazon Prime Video, which launched in Australia in 2016. It acts as a hub, or aggregator, for third-party channels and streaming services in a similar vein to Foxtel and Fetch, except it does not involve hardware such as a set-top box.

Sources with an understanding of Amazon’s plans said the business was looking at next year to launch Channels. Working against Amazon is the fact Australia is a smaller market, Amazon has not reached the scale it has in America and content in Australia is highly concentrated with a small group of players, and in many cases exclusively.

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SBS expands Foxtel deal despite efficiency review recommendations

The SBS has expanded a deal with Foxtel to broadcast its content on the pay-TV platform despite the government’s efficiency review suggesting the taxpayer-funded networks end these contracts, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

The public broadcasters both pay for their shows to be retransmitted on Foxtel. A new agreement signed at the beginning of July has brought SBS World Movies onto two Foxtel channels in high-definition, for cable subscribers, and standard-definition for cable and satellite subscribers.

However, the agreement comes months after the ABC and SBS boards were handed a 2018-commissioned investigation into their financial efficiency. Sources with knowledge of the report said one of the recommendations was that the ABC and the SBS wind back their multi-million dollar Foxtel transmission deals as the public can already access the content elsewhere.

The ABC has begun reviewing its own $4 million-a-year arrangement with Foxtel.

An SBS spokeswoman said the broadcaster had a retransmission deal with Foxtel “in place for many years” and the movies channel was “recently added to this” arrangement.

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Sigrid Thornton: bringing the gift of reinvention to Seachange 2.0

A working actor for more than four decades, Sigrid Thornton is accustomed to early starts. Unfazed by the transition from darkness to light, she stands perfectly silhouetted in the half-light, beside the glass-like surface of a nearby ocean pool, as the sun sends its first spray of gold across the sky, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato.

Around her is the marketing machinery powering her return to television screens as Seachange‘s delightful, dysfunctional mother and magistrate Laura Gibson; behind her the water casts a shimmering reflection of the iconic Australian actor.

“I think I see in the mirror someone who’s actually really, really striving to live a full life,” Sigrid says as we retire to the comfortable indoors. “I’m pretty determined to just keep going. And I don’t mean that as an actor. I mean, to strive for fulfilment, for happiness, for [creative] enrichment.”

She adds that these aspects of her personality haven’t really changed. “They’ve been tempered by sadness, pain and grief, and all of the things that happen to most people if they live long enough. And that’s not an easy thing.”

Seachange will air on the Nine Network in early August.

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ABC comedy series Sarah’s Channel makes Comic-Con debut

The comedy series Sarah’s Channel, from Australia’s ABC, has been showcased at this year’s Comic-Con International, the first time an Australian program has been given a launch pad at the annual convention, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato.

The series, produced by Robbie Miles, Karen Colston, Rick Kalowski and Que Minh Luu, is the story of a “beauty vlogger” who is revived in the far future to save a dying colony of mutant survivors. The show’s star, Australian comedian Claudia O’Doherty, and two of its producers, Miles and Colston, appeared at the convention, which was held over the weekend.

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Nicole Kidman wants another season of blockbuster Big Little Lies

Aussie superstar Nicole Kidman has teased the finale of the global TV sensation Big Little Lies may not be the end – if the all-star ensemble, including Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep, agree to return for season three, reports News Corp’s Holly Byrnes.

Speaking exclusively to News Corp Australia while on holiday to visit her mother Janelle and sister Antonia this week, Kidman said: “I think we would love to do a season three because there is certainly ideas,” adding “but we would not do it without all of the same people involved … even the kids.”

The 52-year-old Oscar winner said facing off with “the Great One” had been a career high, confirming viewers were in for fireworks.

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The Block’s eight-year $90m cash splash in Melbourne market

Hit TV series The Block has poured almost $90 million into property during its tenure in Melbourne, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

The reality renovating series has been set in Melbourne since 2011 and in an eight-year period the Channel 9 production has spent an eye watering $89.75 million purchasing sites to be developed, renovated and overhauled for the show.

The eye-opening size of the show’s investment in the Melbourne property market comes as The Block prepares to move from St Kilda to leafy Brighton in 2020.

A Channel 9 company associated with the show paid $14.9 million for a large parcel of vacant land in New Street, Brighton earlier this month and has submitted plans to the Bayside council to relocate five old weatherboard homes to property.

The $90 million figure is the combined amount the show has paid for 12 sites over the past 8 years. It does not include what was then spent on building luxury homes and apartments at those locations.

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Sports Media

Crocmedia expands broadcast capabilities with new acquisition

Crocmedia has acquired broadcast satellite company, Rapid TV – spearheading its expansion into live outside broadcast, streaming, satellite and distribution services.

This now positions Crocmedia with a turn-key outside broadcast and streaming solution – complementing the existing branded-content and studio services currently delivered by in-house agency, Rainmaker.

The acquisition of Rapid TV has created a new service offering within Rainmaker, titled Rainmaker Live – which will deliver live satellite and internet-based vision transfer services in Australia and around the world.

Rainmaker has recently facilitated broadcast and streaming production services for the Athletics Australia National Championships in Sydney, the Bowls Australian Open and Bowls Premier League as well as the NBL’s 3×3 Pro Hustle Australian series.

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