Mediaweek Roundup: JobKeeper, Cricket TV Deal, Dancing with the Stars + more

• News Corp, TV quota rules, Emma Alberici, Victorian printing facility and Rugby Australia

Business of Media

‘JobKeeper did its job’: Media unlikely to qualify for JobKeeper 2.0

While Australian media firms still face a tough market, the majority that used JobKeeper to hang onto staff are not expecting to qualify for the next round of assistance, reports AFR‘s Max Mason.

The government subsidy may have got them through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many now winding back their own emergency measures, such as temporary pay cuts.

Seven West Media, Here, There & Everywhere, Carsales, Domain, and WPP AUNZ are among those who received JobKeeper and do not expect to qualify for the next round, which will run from October.

oOh!media expects to qualify for the December quarter, but not the March quarter. Southern Cross did not return The Australian Financial Review‘s approach. Prime Media declined to comment. Network Ten was not eligible for JobKeeper because it is considered an overseas owned business due to its ownership by ViacomCBS.

Businesses with pre-COVID revenues of less than $1 billion will again need to show a decline of more than 30 per cent, while those over will have to show a drop of more than 50 per cent.

Businesses which file a quarterly Business Activity Statement will have to show a turnover drop between this year’s September quarter and last year’s quarter, while those filing monthly will have to show a drop between September this year and the same month last year.

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News Corp Australia boss quits Twitter

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller has deleted his Twitter account, saying the lack of regulation of content on the platform has moved beyond offensive to dangerous, reports AFR‘s Max Mason.

It comes during a week when popular platform TikTok struggled to stop the spread of a video featuring suicide and has been hidden in content targeted at children. The video was initially live-streamed on Facebook on August 31, but the video began spreading again after being hidden in other content.

“In the News this week has been plenty of discussion about the value of social media platforms, particularly of Twitter and TikTok, as offensive and personal material has circulated on their platforms,” Miller said in his weekly note to News Corp staff.

“Kids were exposed to material they shouldn’t see and didn’t want to see, and in today’s world it seems it’s possible for anyone and particularly journalists to be subjected to daily abuse, or campaigns by faceless people. Twitter, in particular has become a dark place for nameless and destructive personalities.”

Miller cited notes from ABC managing director David Anderson and head of news Gaven Morris telling staff they did not need to use Twitter and wouldn’t be measured on it.

“So what does all of this mean to me? Well I’ve asked myself – what are the positives? What good is coming from platforms like Twitter and, more broadly, is social media doing more harm than good? And the answer for me when it comes to Twitter is that the negatives far outweigh the positives – to me personally, or to News Corp as a business, or to society in general,” Miller wrote.

“For that reason, I have decided I am also going to delete my Twitter account. I’m of the view that the unfettered social news and the lack of effective regulation of the content that can be posted and shared, as well as the way it is used to target individuals, has gone well beyond offensive, and can now be classified as dangerous.”

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‘Go where the audiences are going’: Producer calls for streaming change in TV quota rules

A leading producer says commercial TV networks should be allowed to move their Australian drama, children’s and documentary content to their streaming or catch-up services, leaving their main channels for reality, entertainment, sports and news programming, reports SMH‘s Karl Quinn and Zoe Samios.

“Australians want to watch drama, and they want to watch Australian drama,” says Chris Oliver-Taylor, Asia-Pacific chief executive officer of Fremantle, one of the biggest local producers of both scripted and unscripted content. “But you need to go where the audiences are going.”

“There should be some incentives and structure around, say, Netflix and Seven working together, Nine and Stan, Ten and CBS, to make sure they can put their drama offerings on the right platform at the right time, and the free-to-air model can be designed around sport, reality and news.”

The comments mark a significant intervention by the respected industry figure in the debate around the future of the industry as the federal government considers its response to the Options Paper prepared by Screen Australia and the ACMA, which was released in April. Allowing the broadcasters to acquit their obligations in drama, children’s and documentary off their main channels would be a major concession from the production side of the industry.

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News Brands

Alberici to write off the wrongs in ABC story

Emma Alberici was never going to disappear quietly into the sunset after her high-profile departure from the ABC last month, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

Her new book will claim her reputation has been unfairly “smeared” over her 2018 corporate tax story, which the ABC found contained nine errors of fact and omissions.

The book will be called Rewrite the Story.

There will certainly be plenty for Alberici to “rewrite” when it comes to the controversial 2018 story, which caused ructions at the highest levels of the national broadcaster and the national government. Not only did it prompt the intervention of then PM Turnbull to complain and ask for it to be rewritten, but Justin Milne’s unsuccessful instruction to sack Alberici over the story and a separate analysis piece ultimately played a key role in his abrupt exit as ABC chairman.

Alberici says all of this and more will be addressed in the book. In an acquisition announcement to be released this week, Alberici says the focus of Rewrite the Story will be to clear her name with “irrefutable” evidence.

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Logos to develop Victorian printing facility for News Corp Australia

Industrial property funds manager Logos will develop a purpose-built printing facility for News Corp Australia at its Truganina Logistics Estate in western Melbourne, creating 130 jobs in the process, reports News Corp’s Ben Wilmot.

News Corp, publisher of The Australian, has committed to a 10-year term lease at the 11,215sq m site, which will become the company’s new print centre for its Victorian newspapers including the Herald Sun and the local edition of The Australian.

Logos acquired the Truganina site in mid-2018 with plans to transform it into a prime logistics and e-commerce estate offering modern facilities, primarily to serve Melbourne and surrounding areas.

The News Corp facility is the first precommitment for the estate.

The publisher sold its heritage print facility in bayside Port Melbourne and is reinvesting into the new development, which is slated to be completed in November.

News Corp partnered with property and supply chain firm TM Insight to design and procure the new facility, with TM Insight to project -manage the build with Logos.

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Tristan MacManus’ morning move spells end for Dancing With The Stars

With reality TV show ratings sliding backwards this year, there is news that 10 is poised to pull the pin on its expensive dance series, Dancing With The Stars, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The relocation of popular Irish dancer and judge Tristan MacManus to 10’s morning show, Studio 10, last week was interpreted by industry stalwarts as confirmation the dancing show was for the chop.

MacManus seemed an unlikely appointment to the morning chat show — which recently shed more seasoned show regulars Natarsha Belling, Joe Hildebrand, Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Denise Scott — and goes forward with just two anchors, MacManus joining long-time host Sarah Harris.

Insiders claim MacManus has a contract with 10 that must be honoured, prompting the cash-strapped network to move him to the morning advertorial program.

No word on where this leaves fellow judges Sharna Burgess and Craig Revel Horwood in 2021 if the show is cancelled, although hosts Amanda Keller and Grant Denyer look safe as they have other commitments on Ten.

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Cricket Australia, Channel 7 TV war to financially destroy broadcaster

Channel 7 stands to lose the equivalent of almost half the value of its station if it broadcasts cricket this summer, reports News Corp’s Robert Craddock.

It is understood Seven lost more than $60 million on cricket last summer and it has been forecast the damage will be much greater in a COVID-challenged summer if it proceeds with the third year of a six-year deal.

Seven, valued at $177 million at close of business on Friday, has informed Cricket Australia of its intention to terminate the deal in a letter delivered last week.

Seven is due to pay $25 million to CA on Tuesday as part of a routine instalment of its $85 million annual fee but is likely to resist making the payment which will leave Australian cricket in crisis.

Seven were aware Channel 9 lost more than $40 million a year in the closing years of its deal but Seven still bid for the product even though there were growing concerns about its value.

Free-to-air stations have long accepted they would make a loss on the cricket but have seen it as a loss leader because it allows them to promote their shows for new ratings season.

Cricket Australia had initially planned to launch the Big Bash and the four Test series against India on the same day but that will now be impossible with the Test series likely to start several weeks late in mid-December.

Seven had suggested to CA it might consider abandoning the Big Bash for a year but there is no chance of that for CA is determined to fulfil its contract-guaranteed 59-match schedule.

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Foxtel puts the squeeze on Cricket Australia

Foxtel is pushing Cricket Australia for a discount on its $600 million rights deal and potentially more exclusive games ahead of the virus-hit summer schedule, at the same time as free-to-air broadcaster Seven West Media threatens to terminate its contract, reports AFR‘s Max Mason.

Sources told The Australian Financial Review that Foxtel wrote to Cricket Australia on Friday alleging a shortfall in quality and a schedule that favoured India’s cricketing body rather than local broadcasters that signed a $1.18 billion, six-year deal in 2018.

Foxtel is not pushing to terminate its contract as Seven is threatening to do. However, like Seven, it believes there are clauses regarding the quality of various competitions, particularly the Big Bash League Twenty20 tournament, which entitle it to a discount.

Sources said it is considering withholding its payment due this week. It follows a similar threat in Seven’s letter last week.

Foxtel bought rights to all matches played in Australia, including exclusivity over limited-overs internationals and some of the BBL, for about $100 million a year before production costs.

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Optus not interested in Rugby Australia broadcast rights

Optus has not formally expressed interest in Rugby Australia’s revised broadcast rights package, leaving News Corp-controlled Foxtel in a strong position in negotiations with the under pressure code, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

The Singtel-owned telco provider was on the brink of securing a deal with Rugby Australia earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic hit, but formal talks fell apart during the crisis and only restarted last month.

Media industry sources who could not speak publicly because the process is confidential said Optus had not submitted interest in the code’s revised rights package, which RA unveiled last month.

The telco was now looking at alternative ways to grow subscriptions, but could return to negotiations at a later date, the sources said. “We don’t comment on rights, either current or future,” an Optus spokesperson said.

Optus’ absence from the official negotiating table leaves RA with fewer choices for a broadcasting partner. Fox Sports, which has broadcast Super Rugby since its inception in 1996, remains interested in rugby – particularly Super Rugby and Test matches. Amazon, which last week secured the rights to a one-off Eight Nations tournament in Europe, declined to comment on whether it was involved in the local tender process.

Meanwhile Network Ten, which is currently the free-to-air broadcaster for the Wallabies matches, did submit a formal expression of interest. Ten is the only commercial free-to-air broadcaster to formally enter talks, but sources have indicated the broadcaster is looking to pay less than it currently does for the matches. Ten currently pays about $3.5 million a year as part of RA’s $285 million deal signed with the broadcaster, Foxtel and BSkyB in 2015.

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