Mediaweek Roundup: Disney, TEG, ABC, Triple M, Alan Jones + more

• Netflix, Saturday Night Rove, Drag Race Australia, NRL and AFL Grand Final

Business of Media

Disney’s plans to conquer Australia: Streaming content & staff

The Walt Disney Company has unveiled an aggressive plan to penetrate Australia with its streaming service Disney+, including a local hiring spree, bespoke content and a wave of original Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar series, reports The AFR’s Patrick Durkin who travelled to Los Angeles with Disney. [See separate feature for content announcement.]

Disney direct-to-consumer and international division head Kevin Mayer told The Australian Financial Review on the sidelines of the D23 fan event the Australian market, being launched just a week after the US, was strategically key to its plans.

Mayer said former Netflix executive Matt Brodlie was also recently hired on a mission to deliver local content for the Disney+.

“He has a mission to find and create content in markets where we need it,” Mayer said.

Disney also confirmed the company has been on a hiring spree in Australia headed by managing director Kylie Watson-Wheeler locally.

More than a dozen staff are joining the existing 400 employees in Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand to work on Disney+, including former ABC iview head Sally O’Donoghue.

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Potential partners pitching to Disney ahead of streaming launch

Disney is in talks with Australian telcos and local media players to promote and integrate its new app, as the global giant prepares to remove its content from streaming platforms, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

Disney could withdraw its branded content from local platforms as early as its November launch and was willing to “go it alone” for several months before turning to local partners to promote the Plus app and events.

Local companies are already pitching to Disney as it looks for partners to promote its app within about six months of its launch.

Australian partners would not be limited to media companies, and telcos like Telstra and Optus are believed to be gauging the ­interest of Disney.

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TEG enters Europe with UK-based MJR Group takeover

Australian ticketing, live events and data analytics business TEG is making its first push into Europe with its biggest ever acquisition of UK-based promoter and venue operator MJR Group, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

TEG chief executive Geoff Jones declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, but said it was his company’s largest. MJR Group promotes and runs more than 2000 shows, owns and operates four venues and holds stakes in six others, and owns a popular UK club night brand.

“It’s an ideal acquisition for us. MJR is an integrated business like us, they own venues and manage venues and they’re a promoter,” Jones said.

“They’ve got a nice niche as a promoter in the what I call the mid-tier from the 1000 to 6000-seat venues.”

MJR Group has toured artists such as Sia, 50 Cent, Culture Club, UB40, Joan Collins and Hans Zimmer. It runs events at its own venues and has also operated shows at major European venues, including 02 Arena in London, Royal Arena in Copenhagen and Palais 12 in Brussels. MJR will be rebranded TEG UK.

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ABC seeks to put more content on Foxtel as part of new deal

The ABC is inching closer to a deal with Foxtel that would allow it to continue running channels and content on the subscription service and could include integrating the ABC iView app on Foxtel’s new platform, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

Despite a push from some within the ABC to end the $4 million a year content deal that allows for the ABC to play on Foxtel, there is likely to be agreement to renew the deal in the near future that would lead to more ABC content on the platform.

A new transmission deal is likely to give ABC iView a “tile” on the Foxtel’s new platform, making the large back catalogue of ABC content accessible and integrated into Foxtel’s app.

Despite preferring to pay nothing for Foxtel transmission, senior figures in the broadcaster are concerned that ABC viewership could be under threat if the deal is not renewed. Many in remote and regional areas also use Foxtel to access the ABC as it is easier to access via satellite.

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Radio

Gus Worland looks back on career in the Triple M breakfast chair

Ten years for the same station in the volatile world of breakfast radio is an achievement Gus Worland cannot have imagined when he got his start in the industry when he and wife Vicky were living in England, reports News Corp’s Mercedes Maguire.

Worland was home to promote one of the An Aussie Goes … cricket reality shows he’d made for Fox8 and was a guest on Triple M Melbourne’s brekkie show.

Southern Cross Austereo’s then CEO Guy Dobson was in a cab when Worland came on air as a guest and, as the story goes, would not get out of the cab, despite the running meter, until Worland had finished his captivating story.

“A week later I got a call in the middle of the night from Dobson’s PA who asked if I could come in for a meeting.

“I had to tell her I was in Lincolnshire and it was 1am. The next day I got on a plane back to Australia and I was offered the spot on The Grill Team with (cricketer) Stuart MacGill and (NRL’s) Mark Geyer.”

A year later, Matthew Johns replaced MacGill and the enduring partnership began.

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Andrew Bolt on Alan Jones: No time for voices to be silenced

For 15 years, Alan Jones has been Sydney’s most popular broadcaster. The latest ratings survey confirms how very many listeners still want him, writes News Corp’s Andrew Bolt.

Yet Jones’ career could soon be over, thanks to a few activists and journalists who believe they should decide what other Australians may be permitted to hear.

Oh, and let’s not forget corporate Australia – the advertisers too weak to defend our freedom to decide for ourselves what to listen to.

I find it chilling that corporate weaklings, spooked by largely anonymous trolls on social media, should connive at this closing down of debate by conservatives.

How healthy is it that someone that many Australians want to hear could be taken off the air, just because corporate Australia gets spooked by a few online haters?

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Television

Netflix commissions Clickbait amid pressure for more Australian content

Two months after Netflix opened its first Australian office, the American streaming giant has commissioned Clickbait, a new Australian drama series, reports News Corp’s Wenlei Ma.

The announcement comes as the streaming platform is increasingly under pressure from a more competitive marketplace and a campaign demanding local content quotas.

Clickbait is light on detail at the moment and Netflix hasn’t announced any casting, but it sounds much more promising than the previous two shows Netflix has made in Australia.

What has been announced is that it will be a “character-based thriller which explores the ways in which our most dangerous and uncontrolled impulses are fuelled in the age of social media, and reveals the ever widening fractures we find between our virtual and real life personas”.

The eight-part TV show will be produced by renowned Australian writer and director Tony Ayres, who has previously worked on The Slap, Home Song Stories, The Family Law and is currently filming the Cate Blanchett series Stateless.

Clickbait will be the fourth Australian Netflix Original, following Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up special Nanette, supernatural soap Tidelands and Chris Lilley comedy Lunatics.

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Mixed reception for first episode of 10’s Saturday Night Rove

10 has unveiled Saturday Night Rove, the first of six live entertainment specials hosted by the Gold Logie winner, reports TV Tonight.

10 piloted a Saturday night format last year, and staged the new series in its Sydney studios, with guests Jessica Mauboy, Luke McGregor, Anthony Callea and Venezuelan comedian Ivan Aristeguieta.

Many were happy to see a return to Saturday entertainment with a familiar face. It was an intimate grab-bag of segments and ideas, removed from the traditional Tonight show, which made for an uneven start.

Points to 10 for bringing back live Saturday telly…will six weeks be enough to find its feet?

On social media the response was divided, with some questioning the timeslot suitability.

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ITV Studios hoping Drag Race Australia will premiere in 2020

TV Tonight reveals ITV Studios Australia has landed the local format rights to the hit reality contest, made famous by RuPaul’s Drag Race, from Passion Distribution and World Of Wonder.

Producers are about to begin discussions with Australian broadcasters, with a view to a 2020 contest.

The hunt for the best drag queen is now in is 11th season in the US, where it has won 9 Emmys, and spawned RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK – all three editions screen in Australia on Stan.

Former Australian Idol artist Courtney Act (aka Shane Jenek) was also runner-up in the 2014 US series.

When approached for comment by TV Tonight, CEO David Mott confirmed, “ITV Studios Australia have secured the rights to arguably one of the biggest formats globally at the moment.

“With Drag Race UK about to launch and already a major hit in the US and other territories we are set to shantay onto Australian screens in 2020.”

Sports Media

Nine set to dump Thursday night football in next NRL TV deal

The NRL’s free-to-air broadcaster, Channel Nine, may try to get two exclusive games as part of the next deal and sacrifice the Thursday night game. It will be interesting to see if Fox Sports believes that six exclusive games will be enough to drive subscriptions, reports Nine’s Danny Weidler.

Channel Nine saw the benefits of an exclusive broadcast during the Australian Open tennis this year. It had every platform to itself and it would like to revisit that concept for the NRL in the next deal.

As we revealed last week, NRL ratings are tumbling, especially on free-to-air television. Last weekend was the worst of the year with another massive drop-off. There is no question the Ashes is stripping viewers away from league with huge numbers watching the cricket. Some 800,000 viewers are believed to have turned away from league compared with the same weekend last year.

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Mike Brady, John Williamson & maybe Hugh Jackman for Grand Final

Two champions of Australian music are set to thrill the crowd at this year’s Grand Final with a 100,000-strong chorus guaranteed for their performances, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Mike Brady is understood to be returning to the MCG for the AFL’s biggest day next month to perform footy’s most-loved anthem, Up There Cazaly.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the song; a milestone worth celebrating.

Meanwhile is understood John Williamson will also be part of the pre-match festivities. Williamson, best known for his song True Blue, is expected to perform Waltzing Matilda.

Various radio stations were bubbling on Friday with rumours that “The Greatest Showman” Hugh Jackman would be the star attraction. Sources yesterday said no act had been locked in as yet.

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