Mediaweek roundup: Disney+, Golden Globes, Karl Stefanovic + more

• Apple TV+, Steve Wood, 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Jason Derulo, Alan Jones + Annika Smethurst

Business of Streaming

AFR’s Disney+ preview: Billions bet on streaming battle with Netflix

The Walt Disney Company is committing a war chest of up to $3.65 billion to invest in original content for its Disney+ platform in its fight to knock Netflix off its perch as the dominant player in the global streaming wars and hit as many as 90 million subscribers by 2024, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

In a small theatre on its Burbank studio lot in Los Angeles, California, Disney’s top executives, including chief executive Bob Iger and direct-to-consumer chairman Kevin Mayer walked a group of about 10 journalists from around the globe through its ambitions to completely rework how it has traditionally made money from its content.

“This is not only the company’s number one priority, it is one of the biggest initiatives we’ve taken on, certainly in my tenure at the company,” Iger said.

Disney+ launches in the US overnight and will launch in Australia next Tuesday. The Mouse House will increase its annual original content budget to $US2.5 billion ($3.65 billion) by 2024, kicking off this year with $US1 billion and launching with an original series from the Star Wars Universe – The Mandalorian.

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The Disney+ streaming service has just had a nightmare debut

Thousands of Disney fans eager to watch their favourite movies were greeted with error messages on Tuesday, hours after the debut of the Disney+ streaming service had crushed its servers, the company said, reports The Washington Post.

Users flocked to social media to update their followers on the anticipated event. Many could not begin the new Star Wars show The Mandalorian. Instead, they were greeted with a frowning character from the movie Wreck-It-Ralph paired with a network error message, or Mickey Mouse stranded in space.

The problems for some users undercut a huge day for Disney, which has touted the streaming service as a major part of its portfolio. The Mandalorian is the flagship launch show for about 500 films and 7,500 episodes of programming from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and others.

“The demand for Disney+ has exceeded our highest expectations,” the company said. “We are so pleased you’re excited to watch all your favourites and are working quickly to resolve any current issues. We appreciate your patience.”

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With the launch of Apple TV+, tech giant has moved the goalposts

The first time I used Apple TV+, the tech giant’s new streaming service, I felt as if I was missing something, reports The Age’s Craig Mathieson. For months now an Apple TV logo had been sitting quietly on the ubiquitous range of Apple products my household and so many others now casually accumulate: a smartphone, a tablet, and the Apple TV network device that brings existing streaming services to my television.

Like many millions of people around the world, I opened it up on Saturday, November 2, the day Apple joined the streaming wars and became a creator of content. The expectation was that Apple TV+’s suite of launch shows – headlined by Morning Wars with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell– would be prominent, laid out waiting for that first click that signifies the seduction of a new series started.

Instead, the top row was a list of shows I was currently watching on other streaming services, such as SBS on Demand’s The Bureau and Amazon Prime Video’s Jack Ryan, with a prompt to pick up from where the previous viewing finished. Below was a variety of recommendations for series and movies from a variety of sources, including HBO dramas and Marvel superhero movies. Instead of a walled-off enclave, as Netflix provides, this was an open border.

Apple TV+ is the gateway to Apple TV, and Apple TV intends to become your personal television. However you watch it, you’ll be getting an aggregation of all your streaming services that allow themselves to be included (Netflix, for example, is having none of this). From there, Apple can integrate its iTunes operation, and recommend third-party titles you can purchase with a few clicks. It has the viewing data to personalise the suggestions and will pocket a cut of the purchase price.

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News Brands

Annika Smethurst raid: Search of journalist’s home ‘amounted to trespass’

Lawyers for News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst have argued the Australian Federal Police should be forced to destroy the information they extracted from her phone during the high-profile raid of her Canberra home earlier this year, reports The Australian’s Olivia Caisley.

Stephen Lloyd SC, appearing for Smethurst and Nationwide News, told the High Court on Tuesday the warrant the AFP used to enter the journalist’s home had “spectacularly broad definitions” and was invalid.

He argued the search amounted to trespass.

In their submissions, Smethurst’s lawyers have questioned whether the warrant was valid because it did not precisely state the alleged offence and infringed the implied freedom of political communication.

Lloyd told the High Court on Tuesday the lack of detail in the warrant was “apt to mislead Smethurst and the executing officers” to allow a broader search of any material critical of the government.

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Radio king Alan Jones defies ad boycotters: ‘I say it as I see it’

Alan Jones has vowed he will never be silenced by anyone, despite a high-profile advertising boycott of his show being blamed by his network’s owners for contributing to a profit downgrade, reports The Australian’s Steve Jackson and Zoe Samios.

The longstanding ratings leader extended his reign on Tuesday, collecting an unprecedented 223rd consecutive win for 2GB in the heavily contested Sydney breakfast radio time slot.

Paying homage to his loyal listeners, the 78-year-old said he was buoyed by their enduring support and felt it was his duty to keep on calling it as he saw it out of deference to them. “I can’t speak for my listeners but the responses that I receive are immensely encouraging,” Jones told The Australian.

“They appreciate that I am talking about the things that matter to them. They appreciate that I say it as I see it, not saying what some might like me to say. In life, there is no point in being involved if you don’t believe and you don’t feel committed to what you do. Radio and television are no different.”

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Jason Derulo performs on World Famous Rooftop and Hit Network drive

Jason Derulo has been the latest guest on Hit Network’s World Famous Rooftop and performed up a storm for diehard fans who braved Melbourne storms, heavy gusts of wind and sideways rain to see their idol live yesterday.

Touring as part of the megastar line-up for Southern Cross Austereo’s RNB Fridays Live, Derulo sang his hits Swalla, Want To Want Me, Trumpets, Wiggle and Talk Dirty.

After his performance Derulo joined Hughesy and Ed Kavaleee live in the studio and on the Hit Network drive show and talked gym routines, staying in shape and Hughesy being mistaken as a roadie by Fatman Scoop.

For the fourth year in a row, RNB Fridays Live is touring across Australia and will be in Brisbane and Sydney this week.

The 2019 lineup features Janet Jackson, Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent, Jason Derulo, Brandy, Keri Hilson, Sisqo, J-Kwon and is hosted by Fatman Scoop with Horizon + Yo! Mafia.


Hugh Marks tells how Karl Stefanovic is ‘fired up’ for Today return

Nine Entertainment boss Hugh Marks has defended the return of Karl Stefanovic to its television network’s ailing breakfast show Today next year, saying he is refreshed and “fired up”, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

“At the time when he came off the show, he was burnt out and he wasn’t performing, and he would recognise that now. We certainly saw it at the time. It was unsustainable,” Marks told journalists on the sidelines of Nine’s annual shareholder meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.

“If I look at Karl now, he’s ready for the game again.

“He’s fired up and really up for the challenge, and whatever you say, he is a brilliant performer in that format. So I think it’s the right time with him in the right place, with the right partner to come back to that show.”

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Ricky Gervais returns to host the Golden Globes for fifth time

Ricky Gervais will resume hosting duties for a record fifth time at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards airing in Australia on Sunday, Monday January 6.

“Once again, they’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse. But this is the very last time I’m doing this, which could make for a fun evening,” said Gervais.

“When Ricky Gervais is at the helm of the Golden Globes Awards, we can always expect the unexpected,” said President of the HFPA Lorenzo Soria. “We’re excited to see it all unfold in January!”

“In a world where many award shows are opting to go the no-host route, the Golden Globes are going all in! It’s going to be a great night,” added MikeMahan, CEO, Dick Clark Productions.

Creator and star of The Office and Extras, Ricky Gervais has won three Golden Globes, two Primetime Emmys and seven BAFTAS. The Office is the most successful British comedy of all time, shown in more than 90 countries with seven remakes. The NBC version is the most successful US remake of a British show in more than 30 years. Gervais hosted the Golden Globes in 2010-12 and returned for a fourth time in 2016.

Gervais is an award-winning stand-up comedian, with five international tours to date. His live stand up show, Fame, became the fastest selling UK stand-up show in history. Gervais can most recently be seen in the dark comedy After Life, which he created, directs, stars in and executive produced. The series premiered March 8 worldwide on Netflix and will return for a second season in 2020.

In 2017, Gervais toured worldwide with his first stand-up special in seven years. Humanity, which was also recorded as a Netflix special, takes aim at human behavior with his trademark wit. He recently embarked on his follow up tour, Super Nature, which will also be released on Netflix.

Gervais is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most downloaded internet show of all time. He was named in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and awarded the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award from the Banff World Television Festival.

Sports Media

Games coverage would cost $1 million: ABC’s Judith Whelan

The ABC has said its budget is simply too tight to afford the $1 million needed to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics live on radio, reports AAP.

Programming director Judith Whelan said the $1 million price tag included the costs of sending commentators to Japan and setting up the broadcasting system.

Whelan said the public broadcaster’s budget was “running hot” because of the amount of emergency broadcasting it was committed to that had extended from a six month period to 12 months across the nation.

“Our budget is very tight. It has been tightened tremendously over the past five years and we are facing more budgetary pressure at the moment,” she said on Tuesday.

Whelan said Australians would still be able to pick up Olympics coverage on other digital platforms, with the ABC still providing daily updates.

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AOC reaches out to ABC in hope of reversing Tokyo decision

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has made a formal request to meet with ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose in the hope the broadcaster can reconsider its decision to opt out of live coverage of next year’s Tokyo Games, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Phil Luton.

It emerged on Monday that the ABC had decided not to purchase the non-commercial radio rights for the Olympics, citing a changing broadcast environment and cost pressures amid a shrinking budget.

The commercial radio rights are also available but, as of Tuesday, they had yet to be finalised, so there was still the possibility that Australians may yet have no radio coverage of an Olympic Games in their own time zone.

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Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood told to ‘do deal’ with Seven

Tennis Australia’s former CEO Steve Wood was so pleased with the “great”, “watershed” deal struck with the Seven Network that he emailed Seven CEO Tim Worner to tell him “you are the ESPN of Australia” and his brother in the US to boast about the “very cool” deal, reports The AFR’s Patrick Durkin.

Under cross-examination, Wood admitted there was some urgency to strike a deal because Nine and Ten had both been “on the brink of collapse” and each subsequently signed a deal for the cricket, meaning he extracted “about as much as he could” from Seven for the tennis.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission claims Harold Mitchell and fellow former Tennis Australia director Steven Healy colluded with Seven to win the broadcast rights, despite other networks willing to pay more.

But Mitchell’s barrister Matt Collins, QC, painted ASIC’s star witness Wood as the central decision-maker behind the $195 million deal which he maintained on Tuesday was “a very good deal”.

“You extracted an offer from Seven which you wholeheartedly endorsed to the board … you had extracted as much as you could from Seven and there was a substantial risk if you went to competitive tender,” Collins put to Wood.

The three-week trial continues with former members of the Tennis Australia board up next to give evidence, followed by former Nine CEO David Gyngell and former Ten CEO Hamish McLennan.

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