Mediaweek Roundup: Foxtel approached, Maureen Plavsic, Media Reforms + more

Tegan George

• Nine CEO search, SBS 2020 upfront costs, Kevin Rudd & Daily Telegraph, Hugh Marks, AACTA Awards, and Stan Sport

Business of Media

News Corp received ‘blank cheque’ approach for Foxtel stake

Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation turned down an offer from a US ‘blank cheque’ company to invest in Foxtel in a move that could have provided the debt-ridden pay TV company with some financial relief, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Industry sources briefed on the talks who could not speak publicly for confidentiality reasons said a special purpose acquisition investment company (SPAC) approached News Corp with an offer to invest in Foxtel in the middle of the year.

Under the terms of the deal, the SPAC would have acquired a major stake in Foxtel and paid off a large amount of the pay TV company’s $2.1 billion debt pile. The sources said News Corp would have kept a substantial holding in Foxtel under the proposal, which was not successful.

[Read more]

See also: The AFR’s Neil Chenoweth on News Corp asset disposals.

Will Murdoch’s Fox Corporation buy the Foxtel stake? Could Lachlan privatise the newspapers? At some point will News cash out the REA stake?

[Read more]

Global ad agency giant WPP bids for remaining share of ANZ operation

WPP has submitted a proposal to the board of WPP Australia and New Zealand to pursue an acquisition of the remaining shares in WPP AUNZ. WPP currently holds a stake of approximately 61.5% of the share capital of WPP AUNZ, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

WPP said the proposed acquisition is in line with its global strategy of simplifying its structure and will move WPP to 100% ownership and control of its Australian and New Zealand operations.

The proposal made by WPP, of A$0.55 per share in cash, represents a premium of approximately 34.1% to the closing price of WPP AUNZ on 27 November 2020. The total aggregate consideration payable by WPP for the remaining shares would be approximately A$181m.

The proposal is subject to customary conditions (including regulatory approvals) and, if implemented, is expected to be completed in 2021.

WPP AUNZ notified the ASX this morning it has a received an unsolicited proposal from its majority shareholder WPP plc to acquire all of the ordinary shares in WPP AUNZ that it does not already.

The independent directors of WPP AUNZ, along with its advisers, are considering the proposal and shareholders are being advised to take no action in relation to WPP plc’s proposal until they receive the independent directors’ formal recommendation.

WPP AUNZ said it will update shareholders, in accordance with the company’s continuous disclosure obligations, in due course.

Tribute from Kerry Stokes after lung cancer claims a former Seven boss

The only woman ever to run an Australian television network, Maureen Plavsic, has died following illness, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

In 2000, Plavsic, a former Unilever and John Singleton Advertising ad industry executive who was then director of sales at the Seven Network, was tapped by Seven’s major shareholder and director Kerry Stokes to take the reins as managing director of Seven.

She stepped down three years later after being replaced by ex-Nine boss David Leckie.

Stokes yesterday paid tribute to Plavsic: “I’m very saddened by the passing of Maureen. We had a long and wonderful relationship and she was the best marketing executive in the Australian TV industry and the first female chief of a network,” Stokes said in a statement to The Daily Telegraph.

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Nine appoints recruitment firm Spencer Stuart to search for new CEO

Nine Entertainment Co’s board of directors has hired recruitment firm Spencer Stuart and Associates to begin the hunt for a new chief executive following the abrupt resignation of Hugh Marks, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Industry sources with knowledge of the hiring process said Nine had selected the local arm of Spencer Stuart in the last week and that it had already started making calls to potential candidates.

A Nine spokeswoman declined to confirm the appointment, but said in a statement the board and management would not comment on speculation around the candidates for its business. “There is an appropriate process underway and we continue to focus on our work for Nine and our people,” the spokeswoman said.

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SBS: Seriously Big Spenders at 2020 Upfront events

SBS, take a bow. You have won the title of the most outlandish spending by a public broadcaster on a programming launch, far outstripping the ABC, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

Diary’s investigations of Senate Estimates documents show that last year, SBS, led by James Taylor, spent a whopping $444,000 on five separate “upfronts” – events used to launch the network’s 2020 programming schedule — in the major state capitals. That’s nearly 100 Cartier watches!

By comparison with its baby sister, the ABC was a positive picture of financial modesty last year, outlaying just $22,000, or just four Cartiers, on a single upfront event at its Ultimo HQ last year.

The most outlandish SBS overspend came at its lavish Sydney upfront at Barangaroo, where it outlaid $318,000 on a single event.

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New trust could ensure stable funding for news services

On Friday, the government announced a suite of new media reforms, aimed at creating a unified regulatory environment. These included the setting up for two new trusts; the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) trust and the Create Australian Screen Trust (CAST), reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

The Australian Associated Press – along with a many regional news media companies – could lock in ongoing government funding to keep it afloat as part of the new trust proposed in a new green paper into media reform.

However, the trust is only a proposal, and if put into law is contingent on a number of other proposals, such as a new TV licence regime, being taken up, which could be years down the road.

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News Brands

Kevin Rudd and me: the PM, the editor and the Daily Telegraph boys

Kevin Rudd sought me out in my capacity as editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, a role I held from April 2005 to November 2008, giving me a front-row seat for the end of the Howard era and the Rudd victory, reports David Penberthy in The Australian.

We would have dinner together at a now-defunct French bistro called Tabou on Crown Street near the News Corp offices in Surry Hills, and sometimes head out for a cleanser after.

When he became PM, Rudd ­organised several nights at Kirribilli House for what he liked to call “The Tele Boys”, which meant myself, Luke McIlveen, Joe Hildebrand, Simon Benson, and when he was up in Sydney from Canberra, our national political editor Malcolm Farr. A couple of these nights finished around 3am, and they always involved a strange tradition invented by Rudd where he would challenge us to a running race up the hill at the harbourside property.

If you wanted a headline to describe the relationship between Murdoch and Rudd it would be this: Media figure stalked by crazed fan. His enthusiasm to ingratiate himself with our company was so extreme that we almost needed to obtain a restraining order. Rudd now believes the company is evil and that it misuses its power and picks winners.

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Daily Telegraph removes Nine CEO story after defamation threat

News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph has removed an article about outgoing Nine chief executive Hugh Marks following threats of defamation action from media litigator Mark O’Brien, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

However, the prospect of Federal Court action remains, with O’Brien continuing to push for a published apology from the Sydney-based tabloid publication.

The article, published in the Saturday November 21 edition of the Telegraph, made allegations against Marks and former Nine managing director of commercial Alexi Baker.

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Bryce & Ebony take over triple j national breakfast in 2021

triple j has announced Bryce & Ebony will take over triple j breakfast in January 2021.

Hailing from Moranbah via Woy Woy, 26-year-old Bryce Mills got his start in community radio, presenting on 2SER.

Mills later jumped at the chance to helm the triple j front desk in 2018, answering phones and stuffing marketing material into Unearthed High and Hottest 100 envelopes, unbeknownst to everyone that within two years he would be triple j’s go-to presenter, regularly filling in on peak triple j shows like breakfast, drive, mornings and lunch, while also hosting triple j weekend arvos in 2020.

In addition to radio, you can also catch Mills on his weekly podcast God Is Dead, which unpacks the worst offerings from the internet and pop culture, Channel 10’s Unpacked series, roasting episodes of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, or via his own social media docu-reality satire videos which have amassed over a million views. As a comedian, he’s soldout multiple shows at the Sydney Comedy and Sydney Fringe Festival, as well as appeared at events like Secret Garden Festival.

Co-hosting triple j Brekkie is 25-year-old hip hop and dance aficionado Ebony Boadu. Born and bred in Western Sydney, Boadu’s obsession with music led her to hosting spots on FBi, SBS and MTV, before joining triple j in 2019 to sound track your Saturday nights on triple j’s House Party. In that time, her fast-growing popularity also saw her pick up peak fill in shifts on triple j breakfast, drive, nights and the Hip Hop Show.

Boadu is also an accomplished DJ, having played sets at all major festivals, like Splendour In The Grass and Falls Festival, as well as supporting the likes of Stormzy and Leikeli47, in addition to her own headline tours.


AACTA Awards 2020: Audience Choice nominees revealed

In a year when TV viewers took control of the remote more than ever before, it seems only fitting that this year’s AACTA awards turned voting over to the public, reports News Corp’s Holly Byrnes.

The Audience Choice awards, marking the academy’s 10th anniversary, saw some of Australian TV’s biggest names battle it out in a public poll, across the national News Corp websites.

Those votes were then tabulated to reveal these top 5 short lists, with your winners in each category to be revealed during the gala telecast this Wednesday on Seven.


Sarah Snook
Asher Keddie
Claudia Karvan
Deborah Mailman
Essie Davis


Offspring, 10
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, ABC TV
Wentworth, Foxtel
Home and Away, Channel 7
Packed to the Rafters, Channel 7

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Sports Media

Nine paid too much for rugby, investment advice from Seven boss

Nine Entertainment dropped the ball with its $100m investment in rugby, according to Seven boss James Warburton, who says not only did the network pay too much for the three-year deal, but they “picked the wrong sport”, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

The swipe follows Nine’s announcement earlier this month that it had signed a deal with Rugby Australia to broadcast the sport via its streaming platform Stan. In unusually frank remarks, Warburton also accused Nine of driving up the cost of sports broadcast rights.

“I think they’ve picked the wrong sport. At $100m (cash and contra) over three years, plus production for something that is incredibly niche, that is a massive bet,” he told The Australian in an exclusive interview.

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