Mediaweek Roundup: Freeview, Netflix, Vice, NRL, AFP raids + more

Crikey, News Corp, Macquarie Media, Nine and the Logies

Business of Media

Freeview CEO Liz Ross resigns after eight years at the helm

Freeview, Australia’s free-to-air aggregated television platform, has announced CEO Liz Ross has decided to step down from the role after close to eight years of service.

Freeview was established in 2008 by ABC, Nine, Seven, SBS and 10 to market, at that time, the new digital free-to-air channels and help Australians transition from analogue to digital broadcast. Liz Ross came in to Freeview in 2011 to build a world-leading aggregated brand, products and platform.

Over the last decade Freeview has introduced a number of aggregated free-to air-products including hybrid Broadband Broadcast platform HbbTV and Freeview’s digital platforms on Apple TV, Chromecast, mobile and web. Freeview has also been recognised internationally through a range of prestigious awards including Best Enhanced TV Service at the International Interactive TV Awards for Freeview Plus; and the International Grand Prix and Winner, Best TV/Video Service at the Connie Awards.

Ross said: “I am very proud of the achievements, innovations and the strategic evolution of Freeview over the last eight years under my leadership.  We’ve worked hard to ensure that every Freeview product is providing aggregated live and catch-up services for all Australian consumers. I am happy to say that Freeview now leads the world with a product suite unmatched by any other FTA industry.”

Freeview’s chair, ABC chief digital & information officer Helen Clifton said: “On behalf of the board of Freeview we would like to thank Liz for her commitment to and passion for our industry. Liz has built Freeview into a well-recognised Australian entertainment brand. She has shown great leadership in bringing free-to-air broadcasters together to create a go-to platform for viewers looking for the best Australian and international content across our channels. Freeview will shortly begin a search for a new CEO to drive the next phase of growth for Freeview, continue to provide great access for viewers, and further unlock the value of the Freeview brand and HbbTV in this market.

“Former Free TV CEO Julie Flynn has kindly agreed to step in to an acting role to ensure it is business as usual while the board conducts a search for a replacement for Liz. Julie was involved at the outset of Freeview so we will be in safe hands.”

Netflix opening Australian office as streaming battle intensifies

US tech giant Netflix is establishing an on the ground presence in Sydney and has started hiring local staff as it fights to maintain its dominant position in the Australian streaming video market, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke and John McDuling.

The $US175 billion ($224 billion) valued global behemoth is in the process of setting up a “small Sydney office” for the first time, media sources said, in a move that could signal the business has plans to back more original Australian content.

The new presence marks the first time Netflix will have permanent local staff, with former LinkedIn director of public policy for Asia Pacific and Japan Nick O’Donnell hired as its local director of public policy.

Former Twentieth Century Fox head of publicity Sarah Haines has taken on a new role as head of Netflix’s Australia and New Zealand publicity for originals.

A local team of as many as 10 people will initially be based out of a Sydney co-working space, sources said, which is believed to be WeWork.

Netflix has 18 office locations around the world, including six in Asia Pacific, and is registered locally with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission using the address of its Netherlands, Amsterdam headquarters.

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Vice Media loses HBO show as former News Corp exec joins

There were significant changes at Vice Media on Monday as the company takes shape under new leadership, reports The New York Times.

First came the news that HBO was cancelling the nightly program Vice News Tonight and that the executive who oversaw the show, Josh Tyrangiel, would be leaving the company.

Vice Media quickly followed that report, which appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, with an announcement that Jesse Angelo, the former publisher of The New York Post, would become the company’s president of global news and entertainment.

The changes occurred on the watch of Nancy Dubuc, a former head of the A&E cable network who joined Vice Media as chief executive last year and has been charged with the task of stanching the flow of red ink at the company.

Angelo, the executive who is scheduled to start at Vice Media this month, left The Post in January after working for two decades in various roles at the tabloid, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s shrinking media empire. He departed soon after Murdoch’s younger son, James, left the family fold.

The Murdoch company, 21st Century Fox, owned a piece of Vice Media for a time; James Murdoch is still on the Vice board as an independent member. He and Angelo have known each other since they were children, and Angelo was the best man at his wedding.

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News Brands

Major parties consider parliamentary inquiry into press freedom

The Coalition has flagged action on press freedom after the government came under fire for police raids on the ABC’s Sydney headquarters and the home of a senior News Corp journalist, report The Australian’s Olivia Caisley and Richard Ferguson.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann yesterday opened the door to a parliamentary inquiry, telling reporters in Perth the government would publicly address the AFP probes in coming days.

“There are obviously a range of issues to be considered here and we’ll make statements in relation to this later in the week,” Senator Cormann said.

A spokesman for opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said an inquiry was something the party was “still considering”.

“There are quirks and oddities that could be explored through a broad Senate inquiry,” the spokesman said. “It’s an option Labor is still considering.”

Growing support for an inquiry comes as ABC chair­woman Ita Buttrose announced she would meet the Prime Minister to discuss the raid, in which police seized 9214 documents relating to a 7.30 story regarding clandestine operations by Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan.

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ABC set to mount a court challenge after last week’s AFP raids

The ABC is set to mount a court challenge over last week’s AFP raids on its headquarters in a case that could test the Constitution’s implied right of political communication, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

The ABC has retained media barrister Matt Collins QC in a bid to fight for the return of information taken from the ABC.

The Australian can also reveal that News Corp executive chairman of Australasia Michael Miller, Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks and ABC managing director David Anderson will address the National Press Club in Canberra on press freedom on June 26.

Former deputy editor of The Australian and former editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Fray, said the raids had the capacity to unite media organisations.

“The raids are potentially a watershed for press freedom in this country,’’ said Fray, who is now a professor of journalism at the University of Technology Sydney.

“I say potentially because it is one thing to raise awareness – as they absolutely have done – but quite another to see that awareness turned into change.”

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Private Media’s Crikey appoints former Project exec to lead INQ

Private Media’s Crikey has announced its 12-person INQ team ahead of a launch on June 24 when it will publish the first reports from the inquiry journalism initiative.

Eric Beecher, Private Media chairman and editor-in-chief, announced the plans for INQ in February this year.

The initiative, which originally aimed to launch in April, is the culmination of a long-running collaborative project between the team at Crikey and two of Private Media’s largest investors, John B Fairfax and Cameron O’Reilly, who together have a long association with the media.

See also:
Eric Beecher’s Private Media invests in Crikey editorial expansion

Former The Project chief-of-staff Lauren Molan heads the INQ team, six-time Walkley Award-winner Suzanne Smith is consulting editor and among the reporters is former 7.30 and The Checkout reporter Kirsten Drysdale.

In announcing the launch, INQ last detailed its principles:

Endlessly Questioning

Our Inquiry Journalism model is built on questions. We don’t just look for the big stories, we look for the side-stories, the stories under the surface that reveal where the real power lies, and who is influencing it.

Fiercely independent

We’re not part of any establishment, we’re here to scrutinise the establishment and call bullshit when we need to. And unlike so much of Australia’s “local” media, we are actually owned and controlled here, not a mere cog in someone’s global network.

Freely transparent

We often take our readers behind the curtain and under the hood, because how the story happens is sometimes just as important as the story itself. Our journalists reveal the side details so our members get the inside running.

Unshackled from convention

We’re not interested in filling columns, or baiting clicks. Our membership model requires us only to tell important stories, and to live up to the high expectations of our members. Story length, team structure, format, everything is open for discussion. The truth is the only thing that matters.

Follow the money

How investigative journalism is paid for is one of the biggest questions facing the media at the moment. We can’t speak for everyone else, but we can share how INQ is funded. INQ is part of Crikey, which over nearly 20 years has avoided industry trends and remained a subscriber-only email supported by a pay-walled site. This reluctance to follow trends has insulated us from industry changes. It seems like every time an algorithm flaps its wings, a news site dies.

News Corp’s The Messenger enters era of expanded digital coverage

Messenger Community News has announced it will expand both its geographical and digital coverage with new products reaching out to some of Adelaide’s fastest-growing regions in the north and a renewed focus on digital delivery.

Drawing on more than 50 years of publication, all mastheads will be rebranded as The Messenger, and a renewed publication covering the northern and north-eastern Adelaide suburbs will now cover the fast-growing areas of Gawler and Virginia.

Messenger Community News editor Nadja Fleet said the renewed northern and north-eastern publication would now reach an estimated audience of 115,000 readers – a boost of 39% – with a new delivery model across 200-plus retail outlets, digital and selected editions of The Advertiser.

“The new title will be inserted in The Advertiser every Tuesday in retail and home delivery copies within the new distribution, plus copies will be available for free pick-up at more than 200 retail outlets, including councils, libraries, petrol stations and supermarkets, across the new footprint,’’ Fleet said.

In the eastern suburbs, the Eastern Courier Messenger will be replaced by a new The Messenger masthead, which will also expand to take in suburbs from the city fringe and foothills.

The existing The City print publication will become a digital product, in response to demand from readers across the metropolitan area for up-to-date content about the CBD and the business and cultural life of the city.

“This is a true celebration of our digital future and strengthens our credentials as Adelaide’s most trusted community brand and number one source for local news,” Fleet said.

News Corp Australia’s SA managing director Ish Davies said The Messenger would now reach areas it had not covered before, with the metro region’s peri-urban fringe primed for growth in the next few years due to investment in the wine sector, a revitalised manufacturing market, and a huge boost soon to flow through from the multibillion-dollar defence contracts underpinning a generation of employment.

“The Messenger is a longstanding brand with a powerful connection to our community, with local news media regarded as the most trustworthy of all media,” he said.

Top Photo: The Messenger’s editor-in-chief Nadja Fleet and digital editor Kara Jung. Source: News Corp/Naomi Jellicoe

Radio

Nine CEO Hugh Marks downplays Macquarie Media radio deal

Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks has talked down the possibility of an imminent deal with Macquarie Media, despite the owner of radio stations including Sydney’s 2GB and Melbourne’s 3AW renewing its contact with top-rating presenter Alan Jones, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Marks signalled last year he could look to purchase the shares in Macquarie Media that Nine doesn’t yet own since its $4 billion merger with Fairfax Media last year. Nine is the owner of this masthead.

Last month, Macquarie Media re-signed star host Alan Jones for two more years ending months of negotiations. Some media industry observers believed Nine was unsure about progressing with a deal while the contract was unresolved.

“I think it’s important [the contract was signed] for the certainty of that business. I think it was important from that perspective,” Marks said in his first public comments on Macquarie Media since Jones was re-signed.

Despite this, he said the successful outcome after the extensive negotiations was “not a reason to – or not to – do a deal with Macquarie”.

“That will depend on what the business looks like, its profitability, its viability and what a deal might look like,” he said.

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Television

Young Sheldon cast coming to the Goldie for TV Week Logie Awards

The stars of American TV comedy series Young Sheldon will walk the red carpet at this year’s TV Week Logie Award on Sunday June 30.

Alongside 10-year-old Iain Armitage, who plays comical child prodigy Sheldon Cooper, will be Zoe Perry (his patient on-screen mum, Mary), Lance Barber (his loveable dad George) and mischievous siblings 16-year-old Montana Jordan (George Jnr) and 11-year-old Raegan Revord (Missy).

Young Sheldon was created as a prequel to award-winning US sitcom The Big Bang Theory, both of which air on Nine Network in Australia. After two successful seasons, Young Sheldon has recently been renewed for a third and fourth season.

TV Week editor Thomas Woodgate said: “This is such wonderful news for this year’s TV Week Logie Awards. I’m so excited to welcome the cast of Young Sheldon to TV’s night of nights at The Star Gold Coast on Queensland’s gorgeous Gold Coast. They’ll bring a lot of star power to TV’s biggest and best awards show. I can’t wait to see them all strut the red carpet on June 30.”

Sports Media

Sports rights: NRL planning to get jump on AFL in TV cash grab

The ARL Commission is weighing up whether to go early on its next broadcasting deal, a move that would allow rugby league to get the jump on the AFL but which could also have massive ramifications for the game’s existing clubs, reports The Australian’s Brent Read.

Club chairs and chief executives will meet the ARL Commission and the NRL tomorrow to discuss a range of issues, among them player behaviour, integrity and, significantly, the broadcasting future.

It is understood a discussion paper has been circulated to the clubs raising the prospect of opening talks over the next broadcasting deal as early as next year. The existing arrangement runs until the end of 2022.

The ARL Commission is in the second year of a landmark $1.8 billion deal with Fox Sports and the Nine Network. That deal was the biggest in the code’s history and seemingly allowed the commission to consolidate the future of its clubs by providing them with more money than ever before.

However, despite receiving about $13 million a year from the central administration, most NRL clubs still run at a loss. Hence the need to ensure the next deal at least matches the existing arrangement.

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