Mediaweek Roundup: Emmy awards, Peacock, Julian Morrow + more

• plus Seven, BBC Studios, Google + Sony Music

Business of Media

BBC Studios achieves record 2019/2020 performance

BBC Studios, the BBC’s largest commercial subsidiary, has announced its 2019/2020 financial results following completion of the audit process in August.

The company finished the last financial year in a position of strength, with sales up 17%, profit (EBITDA) up 14%, and BBC content investment up 19% for titles including His Dark Materials and Dracula, all at record levels. The business also had its best ever year for content sales, up 21%. Returns to the BBC were up 14% on the previous year, with the dividend up 8% at £71m.

Since year end, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on BBC Studios’ activities and will impact its returns to the BBC this year 20/21.

In its response to the crisis, and guided by a focus on the health and wellbeing of its people, the business has continued with its strategy to make the boldest British programs, supporting both the BBC Public Service and its international customers with the global demand for quality content, alongside a reduction in investment and discretionary costs.

Tom Fussell, interim CEO of BBC Studios, said: “2019/20 was an outstanding year, and we’re extremely proud of how the BBC Studios team has worked together to deliver both brilliant content and record-breaking commercial returns, as well as a progressive culture. Since year end, the environment in which we operate has changed dramatically, but the performance of the business in 19/20 has given us a position of strength from which to weather the current challenging times. We have worked hard to protect and support our workforce, and we have seen over the past few months programmes such as EastEnders, Top Gear, Dragon’s Den and our new David Attenborough-fronted natural history landmark The Green Planet return to production, alongside the delivery of titles like A Suitable Boy made by our indie partner Lookout Point.

“We are working hand-in-hand with our major customers to help them understand and respond to the acceleration of changes in audience behaviour and we will keep a careful eye on both investment and costs. I am confident that our relentless focus on the best of bold British creative will guide us through.”

Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC and former CEO of BBC Studios, added: “Now more than ever, BBC Studios has a critical part to play in the BBC’s future. I have seen first-hand how this part of the BBC brings tangible benefits for audiences in the UK and abroad, program-makers, licence fee payers and the wider creative industry. This ranges from keeping crucial sources of information like The One Show or Horizon on air during lockdown, growing our award-winning centre of excellence for natural history in Bristol, and building the global profile of exciting new brands like Bluey while continuing the evolution of much-loved ones like Top Gear or Doctor Who. These results show both success for the business and put it on a good footing for future challenges.”

Performance overview

2019/20 was a best ever financial year for BBC Studios, with an enviable pipeline of new business. Sales were up 17% at a record £1,388 million (2018/19: £1,189 million), while EBITDA increased by 14% to £181 million (2018/19: £159 million). Returns to the BBC were a record £276 million (2018/19: £243 million), up 14% year on year – taking BBC Studios’ total contribution in the two years post-merger to over £500m.

The business saw the highest ever levels for both content sales, up 21% and content investment into rights for the BBC, up 19% to £187.5m (2018/19: £157.9m).

BBC Studios was the UK’s most commissioned creator of new content in 2019 , with 77 new commissions in the year: 49 for the BBC and 28 from third-parties including global SVOD services. This makes 53 commissions from third parties to date, including the Jon Favreau collaboration Prehistoric Planet for Apple and the Terry Pratchett adaptation The Watch for BBC AMERICA. A series of new or extended partnerships were signed with major customers including HBO Max, ZDF and Yandex.

Full ownership of UKTV brought immediate benefits, with a very good year in both share of commercial impacts (SOCI) and revenue. The business worked more closely with BBC Studios while retaining its distinct UKTV brand and culture, and BBC Studios’ rights ownership in the UK was simplified.

BritBox went from strength to strength, reaching 1.2m subscribers in North America after year end to become the fastest-growing targeted SVOD service. As well as launching in the UK and initiating plans to launch in Australia, BBC Studios, alongside ITV, announced an intention to roll out BritBox globally, which could see the streaming platform expanding up to 25 territories worldwide. 

As BritBox escalates its plans to launch in Australia later this year, joint venture partners BBC Studios and ITV recently appointed Moira Hogan from Network 10 as country manager.

See also:
Streaming wars: Britbox appoints country manager ahead of launch

Peacock Reaches Over 15 Million Sign-Ups, Comcast CEO Says

NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock has reached more than 15 million sign-ups, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told a virtual conference on Tuesday, reports The Hollywood Reporter‘s Georg Szalai.

Management said at the end of July that Peacock had reached 10 million signups, with Roberts saying back then that the streamer’s early momentum “exceeded our high expectations”. NBCU has said it hopes Peacock will attract 30 million to 35 million monthly active accounts by 2024.

Roberts said on Tuesday that Peacock has now reached over 15 million sign-ups. “I am encouraged” about the streaming service’s early days, he said, also mentioning that in Comcast’s broadband-only homes Peacock is already the no. 2 app just behind Netflix, while in homes with the Xfinity X1 TV service platform it is no. 3 behind Netflix and YouTube, but “closing in” on the second spot.

[Read more]

News Brands

Google: We don’t oppose a code

Google has published a new open letter to users that seems to position the internet giant as being more amenable to paying news media for content that it uses, reports News Corp’s Chris Griffith

Google had earlier published a letter to users saying their ability to search on Google and YouTube would be hurt by the new media bargaining code being implemented by media watchdog the ACCC.

While not conceding ground, the new letter took on a more conciliatory tone.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve been really clear that we do not oppose a code of conduct governing the relationship between news media and digital platforms like Google,” the new letter says.

“We want to see a strong future for Australian media. We’ve already agreed to pay a number of publishers to license their content for a new product, including some in Australia, as well as helping train thousands of Australian journalists.

“It’s part of our bigger commitment to the Australian economy, including working with over a million businesses of all sizes, helping support almost 100,000 jobs, sharing revenues through the YouTube Partner Program, and paying tens of millions of dollars in tax in accordance with Australian Law.”

[Read More]

Radio

Sony Music secures another blockbuster week at Aussie radio

Sony Music Entertainment continues to flex its muscles on the official Australian radio airplay charts, with the label landing a second consecutive week with a Hot 40 market share above 40%, reports The Music Network’s Zanda Wilson.

Sony Music now holds a 43.73% share of the Hot 40, and 39.01% of the Hot 100.

The results give them a comfortable lead as the #1 label at Australian radio.

“On behalf of the team at Sony Music, we sincerely thank our valued partners for their support of our artists as they continue to express their artistry and creativity through this unique and challenging time,” Sony Music Entertainment chairman & CEO of Australia and New Zealand, Denis Handlin, tells TMN.

Recent chart highlights come from TikTok star-turned #1 charting act Jawsh 685, with the New Zealander’s Jason Derulo collaboration still in the Top 5 after 13 charting weeks.

[Read more]

Television

With no audience and no red carpet, TV’s Emmy awards go virtual

When the curtain rises on the 72nd annual Emmy Awards, a virtual telecast promising 138 stars from 114 locations across 10 countries, the only certain thing is that the winners will not have to thank their families. If all goes to plan, they will be sitting beside them, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato.

The event, American television’s so-called night of nights, is sailing uncharted territory. In a television teaser for the event aired on US television, host Jimmy Kimmel asks the question: “How will we pull it off?” His answer? “I don’t know.”

This year’s Emmys will break with a number of awards night traditions. There will be no red carpet, due to social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And no sweeping shots of the stars; Kimmel will host the event from LA’s Staples Centre without an audience present.

Instead the telecast, which recognises excellence in the television “arts and sciences”, will depend on a smooth transition between the 114 different locations it will cross to, where both presenters, nominees and winners will be waiting expectantly.

There are eight Australians nominated for 10 Emmy awards this year: Hannah Gadsby is in two categories for her Netflix special Douglas, as is Antonio Gambale for his work scoring the Netflix series Unorthodox. Costume designer Justine Seymour is also nominated for her work on Unorthodox. All of those will be handed out at the Creative Arts Emmys, in the week preceding the main event.

And in Monday night’s primetime Emmy telecast five Australians are up for the year’s top awards: Hugh Jackman (HBO’s Bad Education) and Cate Blanchett (FX’s Mrs America) in outstanding lead actor and actress, Sarah Snook (HBO’s Succession) and Toni Collette (Netflix’s Unbelievable) for outstanding supporting actor in a drama and limited series respectively, and Tony McNamara (Hulu’s The Great) for outstanding writing for a comedy series.

[Read more]

Chaser’s Julian Morrow in court battle over The Checkout

For years, ABC consumer affairs program The Checkout pursued a rich variety of business identities for alleged deceptive and misleading conduct. Now the program’s executive producer Julian Morrow, one of the founders of The Chaser, finds himself in court accused of … deceptive and misleading conduct report SMH‘s Samantha Hutchinson and Stephen Brook.

Morrow is locking horns with a former business partner, producer Nick Murray, whose company Cordell Jigsaw makes TV hits such as Gruen and Bondi Rescue. CJ used to jointly produce The Checkout with Morrow’s Giant Dwarf production company.

Now both sides are fighting in the NSW Supreme Court over lucrative producer tax offsets – amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Giant Dwarf claims Cordell Jisgaw, as they’re referred to in the documents, breached its contract and stopped Giant Dwarf from getting two extra seasons of The Checkout made, and wants compensation.

Last week in the NSW Supreme Court, Cordell Jigsaw had a loss, failing in its attempt to get a bank account frozen.

The dispute stretches back to April 2019, when CJ agreed to sell its shares in The Checkout joint venture to Giant Dwarf for $50.

Morrow was already in discussions with the ABC about making another consumer affairs program, possibly a new series of The Checkout. But Cordell Jigsaw didn’t know. The planned ABC deal hit the skids in May when the ABC asked CJ to sign an effective deed of release so it could proceed with the planned production. CJ refused.

Last November, The Checkout Pty Ltd and Giant Dwarf took legal action, claiming that Cordell Jigsaw had breached the share sales agreement by refusing to sign the release.

In December the ABC pulled the pin on discussions with Giant Dwarf, saying this was “after Giant Dwarf’s public statements and correspondence and dealings with the ABC made it clear we are not creatively aligned”. Ouch.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Revealed: Channel 7’s dramatic declaration in TV rights war

Channel 7 has dramatically closed its coffers on cricket for the rest of the year in a move which has put instant pressure on the game, reports News Corp’s Ben Horne.

The network is contracted to pay $75 million a year for the rights, yet on Tuesday paid considerably less than its first $25 million instalment before declaring Cricket Australia won’t see another cent from them this summer.

Cricket Australia had the option to flip the tables on Seven and make their own escalation in the TV rights war, but on Tuesday night maintained a dignified stance of refusing to condemn its broadcast partners, even after Fox Sports also put the squeeze on its part of the $1.2 billion six-year deal by only partially paying the $33 million they owed.

The part payment is based on a belief by Seven and Fox that the value of the Big Bash League will be diminished this summer, with the situation now at crisis point heading into urgent negotiations this week.

Seven chief executive James Warburton called on an independent expert to assess the new value of the rights, which the network has essentially asserted is only worth in the vicinity of $15-20 million for the entire summer.

Cricket Australia’s position is poles apart, with interim chief executive Nick Hockley on Tuesday night reinforcing the governing body’s position that the quality of the summer will not be compromised.

“…We are more confident than ever about staging a successful BBL, which is by far and away the most watched sporting league in Australia on a per-match basis,” Hockley said.

[Read more]

Broadcast war escalates as Seven, Fox refuse to pay in full

Seven is threatening to terminate the final four years of its contract, report Nine Publishing’s Jon Pierik and Chris Barrett.

Its failure to pay any more fees this summer stands to have wider ramifications for CA. The sport is underpinned by television rights fees and has already made drastic cuts in recent months. Sources say CA had cash reserves of $60m at the end of June and it has also secured a $50m line of credit from the Commonwealth Bank, so players, staff and executives won’t be left out on the street, but the breakdown with broadcasters is alarming for the game.

The part payments come after Foxtel and Seven each wrote to CA last week claiming a breach of contract. CA has until September 23 to respond to their claims.

[Read more]

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