Mediaweek Roundup: Matt White, Village Roadshow, Nine, Bauer + more

• Video game sector, media crisis, Jacinda Ardern, Annaliese van Riet, Rod Webb and UK television

Business of Media

Village Roadshow agrees to takeover talks as offer drops to $468m

BGH Capital is in talks with Village Roadshow to buy the troubled cinema and theme park owner for up to $468.5 million, ending months of takeover speculation and competing bids, reports The AFR’s Elouise Fowler.

Shares in the entertainment group shot up 17 per cent after the Melbourne-based private equity firm made an offer to pay at least $2.20 a share and 20¢ more if the group’s two Gold Coast theme parks and cinemas reopen by the time shareholders meet to vote on the deal.

The offer to take the company private is at least a 25 per cent premium to the entertainment group’s closing stock price of $1.77 on Friday when the deed was inked and a 51 per cent increase from March 19, when Village Roadshow announced to the Australian Securities Exchange it would close down operations due to COVID-19.

But the offer is still significantly lower than previous bids and is laden with conditions. BGH first made a $770 million offer in late January of $4 per share, while in late 2019 private equity firm PEP made a rival offer worth $3.90 per share.

[Read more]

See also:
Village people: three banks, two law firms, one boutique in BGH/VRL deal
• BGH lobs ‘bargain’ bid for battered Village Roadshow

Jobs boom for virus-resilient video game sector as console sales jump

The $200 billion global video game sector has proven one of the most resilient to COVID-19 as booming demand from players seeking social connection and distraction sees both revenue and job opportunities rise, reports The AFR’s Hannah Wooton.

This contrasts to the broader entertainment industry, which has been ravaged by job cuts in the wake of COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Game console sales jumped 285 per cent in Australia the week that lockdown measures were announced in March, after declining month-on-month previously, and game sales grew 278 per cent.

The Zip Weekly Spending Index showed video game retailers up by 115 per cent this April compared to last.

“For skilled people, there’s jobs in video games at the moment,” said Trent Kusters, co-founder and director of Melbourne game production house League of Geeks, which is currently hiring.

League of Geeks is about to advertise five to 10 new roles, as it moves to expand its current team of 30 to 50 within a couple of years.

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News Brands

Matt White departs Network 10 on tough day for the business

Separate to the closure of the Network 10 news website 10 Daily, the network also retrenched several sales staff and its head of sport, Matt White, reports The Age’s Michael Lallo.

The veteran sports journalist, who made his name on the now-defunct Sports Tonight program, returned to 10 in 2014 after a decade at Seven. “He leaves with our sincere thanks and very best wishes for the future,” a network spokeswoman said.

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More than 150 newsrooms shut as Covid-19 deepens media crisis

The closure of BuzzFeed News in Australia may have grabbed the headlines last week but the digital startup is just one victim on a growing list of media casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Guardian Australia’s Amanda Meade.

Five editorial staff at BuzzFeed have lost their jobs, and on Monday a further 30 editorial job losses were announced due to the closure of the online news site 10 Daily. Across the country hundreds more have been stood down in an already fractured media landscape. It’s unclear how many will ever return to their posts.

In the far north of the country the family-owned Cape and Torres News stopped the presses after 60 years in March when distribution became impossible and advertising dried up. In regional Victoria, locally owned mastheads entering their second century were forced to close as the coronavirus started to devour advertising revenue.

Sunraysia Daily was supposed to be celebrating its centenary, but owners Elliott Newspaper Group made the “gut-wrenching” decision to suspend all newspaper publishing operations in Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang, albeit promising they would come back when the economy recovered.

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New Zealand Prime Minister slams ‘rude’ question from TV host

Jacinda Ardern expertly dodged an invasive question about her appearance during a cringe-worthy exchange on New Zealand breakfast television Monday morning, reports news.com.au.

Speaking on New Zealand’s The AM Show, the NZ Prime Minister got stuck into “rude” host Ryan Bridge after he asked whether she’d been colouring her hair because it’s going grey.

“Why are you dyeing it anyway? Is it going grey or something?” Mr Bridge had said.

“Never … never … never … that’s not a polite question to ask anyone – I was about to say a lady – but anyone, actually,” she said, laughing uncomfortably.

After a brief silence she added that it was simply a “little touch-up,” with the host then justifying the question by commenting that her high-profile job would be likely to cause stress.

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Radio

Annaliese van Riet leaves SCA after four months leading culture

Annaliese van Riet has departed Southern Cross Austereo, Radio Today reports.

Van Riet was named chief people and culture officer by SCA last December, with a January 20 start date, but after less than four months the executive is no longer in the building.

According to van Riet’s LinkedIn profile on Saturday, there is no record of her time at SCA. The executive’s current role is director of amplifi HR, a position she’s held since November 2018.

Radio Today reached out to SCA for comment, who confirmed the departure: “We can confirm that Annaliese has left the business and we wish her all the best with her future endeavours.”

Her appointment was labelled by CEO Grant Blackley as a key hire under the broadcaster’s revamped leadership team, including promotions for Nikki Clarkson and Dave Cameron.

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Television

Remembering Rod Webb, tributes to TV and film programmer

Former Sydney Film Festival, Australian Film Institute, SBS and ABC executive Rod Webb died on Friday after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 76, reports Don Groves at IF.com.au.

Among the numerous tributes on social media, former AFTRS director, degree programs, Ben Gibson said: “Rod was a great mate around the festival circuit back in the 80s when I was a distributor and he was doing SFF. Fondly remember his very definite opinions and style of argument – and a certain dandyish.”

Documentary maker Tom Zubrycki observed: “Rod and I were friends for a long time. He was a keen judge and critic of film and a sharp wit. Loved a good party. Was always very supportive to filmmakers trying out new ideas. Will be much missed.”

In the early 1990s he worked as the Australian Film Institute’s program manager followed by a 12-year career with SBS as network programmer and occasional acting head of television.

He was named head of programming at the ABC’s Australia Network in 2003 and retired from that position in 2011.

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One of Nine’s two heads of drama departs the network after 14 years

Jo Rooney, one of two heads of drama at the Nine Network, has resigned after 14 years with the network, reports TV Tonight

Michael Healy, Nine’s director of television, said: “After 14 years at Nine Jo Rooney has made the decision to leave. Jo has contributed to an impressive slate of quality Australian drama and made many friends during her time at Nine. We wish her well in her next adventure.”

Rooney has shared head of drama duties with Andy Ryan since 2011.

Together they have overseen such titles as Doctor Doctor, House Husbands, Love Child, Here Come the Habibs, Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, Beaconsfield, SeaChange, Bad Mothers, Bite Club, Gallipoli, various Underbelly incarnations and Stan’s Wolf Creek and No Activity.

She previously worked at Southern Star and ABC. Her other credits include Water Rats, Love My Way, Brides Of Christ, The Leaving Of Liverpool, Police Rescue, Wildside and Seven Deadly Sins.

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Guidelines agreed to get UK television cameras rolling again

Television stars will have to do their own makeup, and cast and crew may have to bring their own cups and plates to sets, in new coronavirus safety rules agreed by UK broadcasters to get the cameras rolling again on some of the country’s favourite TV shows, reports The Guardian.

The guidelines have been agreed by the UK’s biggest broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and news broadcaster ITN, as well as Pact, which represents the hundreds UK independent producers.

Popular programmes such as Coronation Street, EastEnders, Emmerdale and Top Gear plan to resume filming in the coming weeks, as stocks of episodes start to run out despite rationing them since the lockdown in March.

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Publishing

Bauer to close, merge or sell 10 UK magazines – say it ain’t Q

Magazine publisher Bauer Media plans to close, merge or sell 10 of its UK print titles it says will not be sustainable once the Covid-19 crisis is over, reports Press Gazette.

The titles affected are: music magazines Q and Planet Rock, car brands Modern Classics and Car Mechanics, “true-life” title Simply You, Mother and Baby, Golf World, Practical Photography, Sea Angler and Your Horse.

Bauer said for each of these titles it is currently looking at whether to move them to a digital-only format, merge them with sister titles, sell them, or close them altogether.

Bauer’s UK publishing chief executive Chris Duncan, who was appointed last month after leaving his role as Times Newspapers managing director, said: “The pandemic and lockdown has further accelerated the trends already affecting the publishing industry.

“Bauer publishes nearly 100 magazines in the UK, and some titles that were already challenged, unfortunately, are not expected to be sustainable after the crisis.

“We must protect the long term health of our business and ability to invest in future growth by re-shaping our portfolio.”

[Read more]

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