Mediaweek Roundup: Foxtel staff cuts, Pacific Magazines, 2GB + more

Twitter, Sunday Times, Commercial Radio Australia, 10 Play, ABC, and NRL

Business of Media

Live sport cuts from coronavirus crisis reduces Foxtel staff numbers

Foxtel has been forced to make 200 redundancies in the last week and stand down another 140 people till June 30 because of COVID-19 work stoppages, particularly affecting those working in live sport, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany has described the last week as “one of toughest in Foxtel’s history” in a staff email on Wednesday afternoon. Delany said the job losses were part of a two-year review into how Foxtel’s products and finances were run, but that the COVID-19 crisis had accelerated the changes.

“You all know how hard we have been working over the past two years to transform our product and finances in the face of digital disruption. Now, with the impact of government COVID-19 restrictions on our business, we have had no choice but to accelerate that transformation,” Delany told staff in an email.

Delany said the rules for the government’s Job Keeper scheme do not allow Foxtel to apply at present, however stood down employees may be eligible for payments under the Job Seeker scheme.

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Magazine sale: Latest on Bauer acquisition of Pacific

Bauer Media Australia’s German owners may be forced to pay the full $40 million to Seven West Media for Pacific Magazines due to a financial guarantee given to the local company by its parent entity even if it chose to close its business in Australia, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

The Australian Financial Review reveals Bauer Media’s parent company, Heinrich Bauer Verlag KG, the holding company of the German headquartered Bauer Media Group, is believed to have guaranteed the Australian company’s PacMags purchase in the sale agreement.

On Tuesday, Seven West Media lodged proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court to compel Bauer to complete the transaction.

“The Bauer transaction is being pursued to completion. The contract is unconditional following the ACCC’s clearance. Seven instituted Court proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday to compel completion,” Seven West Media told the ASX on Wednesday.

“Seven has received an email from Bauer’s solicitors saying ‘Bauer is aware of its obligations under the Sale of Business Agreement and, as you know, has been actively engaged since October 2019 in preparing for completion’.”

[Read more]

Meanwhile The Australian reports today:

Pacific Magazines’ outgoing boss Gereurd Roberts is understood to have emailed staff on Wednesday morning about the court case, telling them that the sale might go through as planned on Thursday. But if it doesn’t, they will be at Pacific for another four to six weeks.

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Jack Dorsey vows to donate $1b to fight the coronavirus

Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter and Square, said on Tuesday that he planned to donate US$1 billion, or just under a third of his total wealth, to relief programs related to the coronavirus, in one of the more significant efforts by a tech billionaire to fight the pandemic, reports The New York Times.

Dorsey said he would put 28 percent of his wealth, in the form of shares in his mobile payments company Square, into a limited liability company that he had created, called Start Small. Start Small would make grants to beneficiaries, he said, with the expenditures to be recorded in a publicly accessible Google document.

“Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime,” Dorsey said in a series of tweets announcing his plans. “I hope this inspires others to do something similar.”

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News Brands

Michael Beach to exit WA’s The Sunday Times as cutbacks bite

Seven West Media has laid off its The Sunday Times editor in Western Australia, as part of the media group’s cost-cutting during the coronavirus crisis, which has hit advertising revenue, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Anthony De Ceglie, Seven’s editor in chief, has told staff that editor Michael Beach‘s position has been made redundant, “due to the financial impact of COVID-19”, and will leave the business as part of a restructure.

Beach is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and has edited the newspaper with “distinction, integrity and success” since Seven bought The Sunday Times and PerthNow in November 2016, De Ceglie said in a statement.

Seven WA chief executive Maryna Fewster said Beach had “played a pivotal role in both The Sunday Times and The West Australian.”

“He has shown strength and flair in every role he has undertaken for SWM and can be proud of his time – in particular as the head of The Sunday Times.”

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Radio

2GB slanging match erupts between Jones, Bolt & Hadley

A slanging match between broadcasters and columnists Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Ray Hadley has broken out in the wake of Cardinal George Pell’s successful High Court appeal, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

The feud between a trio of the country’s most prominent broadcasters and columnists worsened after Andrew Bolt appeared on Alan Jones’ show in sympathetic interview and later accused 2GB host Hadley of being “a coward” after the broadcaster refused to apologise to the Herald-Sun columnist and Sky News host.

On Sky News’s Bolt Report Tuesday night Bolt said he would be demanding an apology after claiming Hadley described his behaviour as “creepy”, which Bolt claimed was a reference to his ongoing defence of Pell and in the wake of making an apology to Paris Street, a man who was the victim of grooming by a teacher at St Kevin’s college in Melbourne.

Bolt appeared on Alan Jones’ 2GB show this morning continuing to demand an apology from Hadley.

But on his own 2GB Morning Show this morning Hadley angrily told listeners he was not calling Bolt “creepy” for his defence of Pell.

“For the attack on me this morning on my own network, to say I am disappointed yes I am,” he said. “Am I surprised, no I am not.”

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Kath Brown departs Commercial Radio Australia after 25 years

Kath Brown has left Commercial Radio Australia where she was head of strategic development, reports radioinfo.

Looking back on her 25 years with the industry body, Brown has told radioinfo she is “proud to have made a significant contribution to the launch and adoption of DAB+ digital radio in Australia.”

With her background in audience research at News Limited, Brown started as a media planner in the Radio Marketing Bureau back in 1995, presenting to agency and client teams on the benefits of including radio in their campaigns. She became an early advocate for DAB digital radio as it allowed broadcasters to offer niche audio formats and additional text and graphics.

“With 73% of new vehicles (many with screens) and close to a million ads on DAB+ services so far this year, it is pleasing to see that vision is starting to become a reality in Australia.

“I have worked with many wonderful board members, chief engineers/CTOs, programmers and station management over the years, and have enjoyed close collaboration with the public and community radio sectors,” said Brown.

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Television

Easter streaming gift from 10 play: How To Stay Married

An isolation gift from the 10 Network, the entire season two of this likeable Aussie comedy is now streaming, reports The Age’s Larissa Dubecki.

Slip on the trackies – sorry, loungewear – and settle in for an eight-episode binge over Lisa McCune and Peter Helliar‘s amiable chemistry. Their suburban mum and dad act is the patterned wallpaper backdrop to a series of entirely relatable events including family barbecues, teenage sexting, waiting for the NBN technician and the irresistible lure of the ALDI special buy. First cab off the rank milks the time-honoured scenario of their teenage daughter being mortified at her parents’ dagginess when her friends come over.

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TV mystery: How Eve returns from the dead to face off Villanelle

The cat-and-mouse game continues for Eve and Villanelle in the third series of Killing Eve. But this time, are they batting for the same team? asks The Age’s Clare Rigden.

When we last saw Sandra Oh‘s character she was lying face down in the middle of a historical monument in downtown Rome, shot by her long-time nemesis-turned-colleague-turned-love-interest, Villanelle (played by Emmy Award-winning Jodie Comer).

She looked, to all intents and purposes, to be very, very dead. But surely you can’t have Killing Eve without… Eve? Right?

“Yes, well, I figured [the writers] would have told me if she actually was dead,” says Oh, who, fans won’t be surprised to learn, is still very much a part of the new series, and speaking from self-isolation from her home in the US.

“It was a great way, and a challenging way, to start the third season. We had to have them jump several months ahead and to somehow [find a way] to pull them back together from very different places.”

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Sports Media

The AFR: Why winter sport will never be the same

The coronavirus-induced shutdown of sport has left rugby union and football on the brink of collapse, while the NRL is vulnerable to its cashed-up rival AFL, reports The AFR’s Angus Grigg and Max Mason.

“Those codes already weakened or vulnerable prior to the virus shutting down their seasons may never recover,” says sports commentator and former rugby league coach Roy Masters.

Rugby union, just 25 years into its professional life, is facing collapse in Australia as Foxtel contemplates walking away from the game.

The A-League is also staring at the loss of Foxtel as a broadcast partner and may “need to get smaller before it gets bigger”, according to former Socceroo, Football Federation of Australia board member and commercial lawyer Danny Moulis.

“Broadcasters used to bid up rights and hope to recover the increment through future revenue growth,” says Hugh Marks, chief executive of Nine. “No broadcaster can build a model that guarantees that growth into the future.”

Marks says that while revenue around sport has held up better than many other genres, broadcasters will be more disciplined into the future.

“Seeking to grow revenue share unprofitably is a dead-end strategy from this point,” he says.

Amid the unease, Fox Sports boss Peter Campbell is not offering the usual reassuring words. In a statement he said the “future shape of sport in Australia will be very different”.

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NRL 2020 season relaunch date: Peter V’landys wants May return

The NRL is preparing to axe the Sydney self-isolation plan ahead of a late May kick-off, reports News Corp’s Peter Badel and Paul Crawley.

News Corp Australia can reveal the NRL’s innovation committee is considering scrapping the Sydney ‘Bubble’ idea with pandemic experts confident NRL stars can remain at home without a 14-day lockdown at Homebush.

That is a sign the NRL is increasingly confident the Telstra Premiership will resume on either May 21 or 28 in a stunning fightback amid the coronavirus ordeal.

The NRL’s innovation committee had set a target date of July 1 as part of its Project Apollo objectives – but ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys is ready to launch earlier.

State of Origin remains on the agenda and is likely to be played around July or August in front of empty stadiums.

V’landys said it is possible the NRL could resume on May 21 but is more bullish about a re-launch the following week.

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Nine and Foxtel play hardball with NRL over season reboot

Rugby league’s broadcasters are playing hardball about the rest of the season being staged behind closed doors and potentially extending beyond early October, arguing it’s not the premium product they signed up for, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Chris Barrett.

NRL powerbrokers are eager to get the competition up and running again as quickly as possible and an innovation committee headed by former Balmain captain Wayne Pearce will put a recommendation to the ARL Commission on Thursday that includes a May restart.

There are hopes that if that gets off the ground a grand final could still be played by its scheduled date of October 4 following a truncated regular season as well as a mid-year State of Origin series.

However, the resumption of play will not automatically lead to broadcast rights money pouring back into the revenue-starved code at the level it previously did under the $1.8 billion five-year deal with Nine Entertainment and Foxtel.

Broadcasters will already pay discounted amounts if there are less rounds played than under the terms of the contracts they signed in 2015 and which became active for the 2018 season.

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