Mediaweek roundup: Hamish Blake, Amazing Race, Bickmore + more

Hamish

• Big Brother, Masked Singer, QMS, Netflix, Foxtel and NBCUniversal, Hamish Macdonald, John Hartigan, News Corp, Sonia Kruger + NRL

Business of Media

QMS board set to accept Quadrant’s $500m-plus bid

Quadrant Private Equity is ready to jump back into out-of-home advertising.

The AFR’s Street Talk reports that four years after selling out of what was APN Outdoor – and five years after listing it on the ASX – Quadrant has a board-recommended deal to buy digital signage and sports advertising specialist QMS Media.

Lender sources told Street Talk on Sunday the private equity firm would acquire QMS in full and had offered more than $1.10 a share for the privilege, which is more than where the company’s shares have traded for about 18-months.

The deal would value QMS at north of $500 million including debt.

QMS management, headed by CEO and major shareholder Barclay Nettlefold, is expected to remain at the company under Quadrant’s ownership. It is not known whether Nettlefold is rolling his 15 per cent-odd stake into the bid vehicle, although Quadrant would likely demand he retains significant skin in the game. It could also help thwart off any rival suitors.

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Revealed: How much tax streaming giant Netflix pays

Netflix Australia paid only $341,793 in tax for the 2018 calendar year despite reaping an estimated $600 million to $1 billion from local subscribers, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

While the US-based streaming giant nearly doubled the amount of income tax it pays in Australia from $175,516 in 2017, it continues to use a corporate structure which allows a Netherlands-based subsidiary to recognise the hundreds of millions of revenue earned here.

“We comply with all Australian and international tax law,” a Netflix spokesman said.

The Financial Review is not suggesting Netflix is doing anything against the law. However, it does call into question how effective the Australian government’s tax reforms have been in getting digital companies like Netflix, Google and Facebook to recognise the money they earn from Australian consumers and businesses in Australia.

Netflix Australia acts as a collection, payment processing and content delivery support business. It charges a fee to Netflix International BV for those services.

AMPD Research, a subsidiary of Media Partners Asia, believes Netflix has 5.3 million subscribers in Australia following a June consumer survey.

Netflix has three tiers for its streaming service; $9.99 for basic, $13.99 for standard and $19.99 for premium. However, Netflix only increased the price of its premium tier earlier in October from $17.99.

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Foxtel and NBCUniversal close to expanded TV and streaming deal

Foxtel and NBCUniversal are close to finalising an expanded content agreement across broadcast and streaming, locking in rights to help the News Corp-majority owned pay television business build a back catalogue of programming for a new drama and entertainment streaming service, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

The deal will be for TV shows and movies on both broadcast and streaming video on-demand, making the deal incredibly important for Foxtel in its efforts to launch a new drama and entertainment streaming service. Sources indicated Foxtel was targeting around March or April next year for a launch of the new service.

NBCU is also understood to be close to an agreement with Foxtel’s smaller rival Fetch.

“Foxtel is close to an agreement with NBCU and looking forward to making an announcement in the coming weeks,” a Foxtel spokesman said.

NBCU declined to comment.

It’s believed Foxtel will now turn its attention to trying to nail down new deals with Discovery, Viacom and Turner.

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News Brands

Hamish Macdonald short odds for Q&A hosting gig

Radio National’s Hamish Macdonald has emerged as the hot favourite to become the ABC’s new Tony Jones, hosting Q&A, reports Nick Tabakoff in his weekly column in The Australian.

Macdonald, who also co-hosts 10’s The Sunday Project with Lisa Wilkinson, will stand in for Jones on Monday night for the second time in a fortnight on a Q&A drought special.

That means that with Jones having been off the show entirely in October (as he has been preparing to launch the sequel to his “Day of the Jackal-style thriller”, The Twentieth Man), Macdonald has been the main host, with Fran Kelly and Annabel Crabb hosting the other weeks.

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News Corp venture to bring Asian-Australian focus

News Corp Australia is looking to launch a news and lifestyle website called Yanomi early next year, targeted at millions of Asian-Australians, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Yanomi will feature original content, mostly on beauty, travel, food, relationships, identity and personal experiences, plus stories from the media group’s vast operations.

News is hoping to fill a void in the Asian-Australian community, particularly among younger members who feel misrepresented in mainstream media. It is one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing communities, consisting of 3.6 million people and forecast to rise to 4.8 million in a decade.

Yanomi is the winner of News’s second annual business ideas program, News Bolt, which received 150 ideas from more than 100 staff. After a lengthy process over many months, Yanomi was chosen by News executives, led by executive chairman Michael Miller.

“The big benefit of News Bolt is that it provides an avenue for everyone at News Corp to express their creativity every day,” Miller said.

“We are seeing a pipeline of highly innovative business ideas that are helping underwrite News Corp Australia’s long-term future.”

The idea of Yanomi came from the personal experience of Chinese-Australian News employee Jacklyn Szetu. She worked on the project with colleagues Michael Geedrick and Christie Molloy.

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Without government intervention, regional news ‘will fail’: John Hartigan

Prime Media non-executive chairman John Hartigan has warned rural newsrooms are facing an existential threat that means regional broadcasters who do not become part of bigger media businesses will fail without major regulatory changes, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

The former News Corp Australia chief executive, who in November announced his plan to retire from Prime, also expects Bermuda-based billionaire and major Prime shareholder Bruce Gordon will back the merger of Seven West Media with its regional affiliate.

“There’s no question that the market is heading to a level where it can no longer support three regional commercial television [networks]. If you look at any measure, but even if you compare our revenues to the period of the financial crisis, we’re significantly down,” Hartigan said.

“This is a pretty sad thing. And the greatest casualty has been, and will continue to be, the 6pm news,” he said. News bulletins are expensive to produce and are typically less attractive for advertisers than entertainment content.

“Unless there’s significant, and I mean really substantial regulatory reform, the market will ultimately fail,” he said, adding that eight newsrooms across several broadcasters had been closed in regional areas and more would like shut this financial year.

Seven chief executive James Warburton has committed to maintaining the local news bulletins, saying his plan is to invest in the expanding business.

Hartigan said he was comforted by these comments as only companies with big balance sheets like Seven could absorb the costs of maintaining many newsrooms.

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Television

Will Carrie leave The Project? The question Bickmore won’t answer

Carrie Bickmore has refused to buy into the public intrigue surrounding her contract negotiations with Network 10, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Bickmore, who is unquestionably the female face of Channel 10, is yet to commit to a new deal with the network, sparking no end of speculation and wild rumours about what could eventuate in 2020.

“I don’t talk s— about the s—, I just don’t,” Bickmore said in summing up her contract situation.

But sources do talk and word is Bickmore and 10 are getting closer to an agreement.

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Australia, meet Australia: Diversity the winner on Amazing Race reborn

If you ever wanted to see what genuinely diverse casting looks like, tune into 10’s reboot of The Amazing Race Australia, reports The Age’s Karl Quinn.

The 11 teams of two who will compete for a $250,000 cash prize represent as good a cross-section of Australia as you could hope to see on the screen.

There’s a gay couple; a pint-sized Asian-Australian brother and sister; a pair of African-Australian psych nurses; Greek-Australian millennial siblings; a pair of Aussie Rules-playing lads who cheer themselves on with testosterone-fuelled yelps of “the boys!”; a farmer and a firefighter in their late-50s. There’s even a couple of nuns and – perhaps the most representative pair of all in this day and age – a couple who proudly describe themselves as social media influencers.

Australia, meet Australia.

Stephen Tate, 10’s head of factual and light entertainment, says the network always aims for diversity in casting reality shows, but “it’s not always possible because we don’t always have the people show up. But with this one, people from all walks of life have come out of the woodwork. It’s by far the most diverse cast we’ve ever managed to attract to any franchise, which is really exciting.”

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The Masked Singer isn’t all South Korea television has to offer

The Masked Singer Australia was an instant hit for Network 10 this year, and the quirky format is just a small reflection of what South Korean television is offering local networks, reports The Age’s Broede Carmody.

Beverley McGarvey, 10’s chief content officer, says the network is open to seeing what else could be adapted from South Korean TV.

“We keep an eye on everything,” she said. “At the moment those South Korean and South-east Asian territories are extremely zeitgeisty. Entertainment is generally so big in those markets.

“But I think we will be having this conversation in a year from now and be talking about a totally different market. Television is quite cyclical. For many years the northern European markets were really interesting and you saw shows like Big Brother and The Voice coming out of that territory.

“And for a long time Israel was making some very interesting television, particularly in the scripted area, so you saw shows like Homeland coming from there.”

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Kruger under review says sources as Nine bosses shake-up Today

Today show anchor Georgie Gardner would be shunted to Nine’s struggling Today Extra morning show in 2020 to replace Sonia Kruger whose role at Nine is under review, TV sources claimed yesterday in comments that drew a swift denial from Nine, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

With executives at the TV broadcaster under mounting pressure to finalise a series of anchor appointments across Nine’s underperforming breakfast and morning line-up before the end of the ratings year, Kruger is said to have been identified as the star most easily shed in a move that could make her the network’s biggest casualty of the new year.

As a consolation, Kruger could keep her role on The Voice– although that too is believed to be under review as the presenter explores her options outside Nine with rival networks.

Nine denied Kruger would be replaced at the helm of Today Extra. It further denied Gardner would take Kruger’s place.

“All of the talk is made up,” said a network spokeswoman.

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Gretel Killeen brings sense of heritage to Seven’s rebooted Big Brother

Gretel Killeen has been signed to host Seven’s rebooted series of Big Brother next year, television insiders said last night, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Fresh from her surprise appearance on 10’s The Masked Singer, the one-time Midday show comedian entered into talks last month to make her prime-time comeback at the helm of the show she launched in Australia and hosted on 10 for seven years from 2001-07.

Her main rivals for the role are said to have been another former Big Brother host, Sonia Kruger, who hosted the show for three seasons on Nine from 2012-14, and Big Brother alumnus Chrissie Swan with Seven and production partner Endemol Shine looking to bring a sense of Australian heritage to the new show.

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Hamish Blake: “I’m pretty familiar with our policy on early mornings”

Hamish Blake has quashed suggestions that Andy Lee might be headed to the Today show, following a report his sidekick had been sounded out for a role, reports TV Tonight.

“Someone told me yesterday we were both thrown around as hosts. Far out. I’m answering here an article I have no idea about,” he told TV Tonight.

The Lego Masters host said he hadn’t heard any news of Lee joining Today “… only in the context of our friends laughing about a newspaper report. I guess people who run newspapers have to write something. You can’t put out a blank story, so you have to write something.

“Having known Ando for 20 years I’m pretty familiar with our policy on early mornings. I’d be surprised if that changed.”

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Sports Media

Seven keen to tackle NRL rights: “Interested in looking”

New Seven Network boss James Warburton is gearing up to make a serious play for NRL broadcasting rights to increase its market share in Sydney and Brisbane, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

In the boldest move yet by the Seven West Media chief executive since taking the job in August, The Australian understands Seven will make a considered push to steal the NRL rights from Nine Entertainment, with the current deals for both rugby league and AFL set to expire at the end of 2022 and negotiations for new deals to begin over the next year.

Asked directly whether Seven would compete for the NRL free-to-air rights in 2023, Warburton said he was interested.

“News and live sport are central to our DNA,” he said. “We’d be interested in looking at rights when the time is right.”

The Seven boss said holding onto the AFL would be his preference but he floated the idea of taking the State of Origin series if full NRL rights could not be achieved.

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Buzz: Family-friendly NRL 2020 schedule trumps TV ratings

The NRL is finally standing up to television network Channel 9 over the season schedule, reports News Corp’s Phil Rothfield.

No longer will the showpiece match of the round be shown on prime-time Thursday nights.

When the NRL draw is released on Tuesday, it will be the most family-friendly schedule we’ve had since the networks took control of the timeslots.

This year the emphasis is on getting fans back to the football rather than just TV ratings that have been average anyway.

You will find the better games next year will be on Saturday afternoons/evenings or Sunday afternoons.

Under the old system, they would have been on a Thursday night.

No more blockbusters on school nights when it’s too late to watch on TV, let alone get to a game and fight the traffic or transport hassles on the way home.

Teams like the Raiders, who have had little or no prime-time exposure for their sponsors, will get more Channel 9 matches.

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