Mediaweek Roundup: Bruce Gordon, Netflix, ABC-SBS merger + more

Ita Buttrose, Netflix, Amazon, The Canberra Times, Facebook, Twitter and AFL

Business of Media

Bruce Gordon reshuffles stake in regional broadcaster Prime Media

Bruce Gordon may have sold most of his shares in Prime Media, but the Bermuda-based media mogul has actually increased his exposure to the regional broadcaster, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Gordon, owner of rival regional broadcaster WIN Corp, has effectively sold down from his 14.99% shareholding in Prime to 3.25%.

However, the 89-year old increased his total economic interest in Prime via new cash-settled share swaps with Deutsche Bank and a Swiss-based bank, Vontobel.

Cash-settled share swaps allow investors to have an economic interest in a company without voting rights, which means they do not fall foul of ownership limits.

Gordon now has an economic interest in Prime of about 65.3 million shares, or about 17.8% of the company – 3.25% in shares and 14.59% via swaps.

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Impact of Netflix and Spotify: TV, radio to suffer as streaming lifts off

The rise of video and music streaming services will do to free-to-air television and radio services what online classifieds did to newspaper print revenue and could have implications for commercial and public broadcasters, as well as the value of sporting rights, according to new research from Morgan Stanley, reports The Australian’s Andrew White.

Analysts at the investment bank said free-to-air services that rely on selling viewer numbers to advertisers face a dramatic loss of audience to streaming services such as Stan and Netflix that will hurt their revenue and profitability and investors are underestimating the risk.

The analysts said they expected the value of traditional media businesses to decline sharply and in some cases fall to zero, with the biggest risks facing Nine Entertainment Co, Seven West Media, Network Ten, Prime Media Southern Cross, WIN, HT&E and Nova, as well as subscription TV operators

In a grim examination of the impact of streaming services on traditional media, the investment bank said the federal government might need to consider licensing fees for streaming services to replace the licensing fees for radio and TV broadcast spectrum.

As audiences move to streaming businesses such as Netflix and Stan, the loss of audiences and the advertising revenue that is based on them would fall away and with it the licensing revenue collected by the government.

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ABC-SBS merger possible after impact of streaming on Gov’t revenue

The ABC and SBS could be forced to merge as streaming services wreck the broadcast licence revenue that the government has used to fund public broadcasting, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley, reports The Australian’s Andrew White.

Historically the fees are collected as a percentage of advertising revenue – around 10% for television and 3-4% for radio, peaking at $300 million in 2009 and declining ever since with the rise of streaming services.

Morgan Stanley said around 40% of Australian households have at least one streaming service and this would rise to 60%, putting pressure on traditional media revenues.

“One of the considerations for the federal government looking forward would be … with the eventual disappearance altogether of TV and radio licences fees, how can these dollars be replaced?” the Morgan Stanley analysts said.

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More diverse views needed at ABC, says new chair Ita Buttrose

ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose has said some staff at the broadcaster unconsciously let their biases show through, as she revealed she had no plans to cut jobs despite the almost $84 million budget reduction facing the organisation, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Nick Bonyhady.

“Sometimes I think we might be biased. I think sometimes we could do with more diversity of views,” Buttrose told ABC Radio on Wednesday. “Sometimes I think, people without really knowing it, let a bias show through.

“I haven’t got a problem with anybody’s view but I think we need to make sure ours is as diverse as it can be … The more diverse views we can represent, the better it will be for us,” Buttrose said in remarks that dovetail with the demands of some of the ABC’s conservative critics.

Buttrose said ABC staff should not be afraid of losing their jobs, despite a 2018 funding indexation freeze that will cost the broadcaster $83.7 million over three years.

She said she planned to meet with new Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher and the Prime Minister to discuss funding.

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Netflix and Amazon score in battle with UK streaming services

Netflix and Amazon made £1.1bn in revenues from UK streaming customers in 2018, double the amounts the UK’s biggest broadcasters were able to make from their own streaming services. The figures have highlighted just how much the absence of a true British rival to the Silicon Valley giants is a missed opportunity, reports The Guardian.

Netflix is estimated to have made £693m in revenues from its 10 million UK subscribers last year, while rival Amazon notched up £400m from an estimated 7.7 million subscribers to its Prime Video service, according to research from media regulator Ofcom.

The streaming services of the UK’s main commercial broadcasters – ITV Hub, Channel 4’s All 4, Channel 5’s My5 and Sky’s Now TV – made about £530m last year.

The British services make money from a combination of advertising revenues and subscription income – such as for daily, weekly and monthly passes to Now TV and the 265,000 viewers paying £3.99 a month to get ITV Hub ad-free. The BBC’s iPlayer service, the biggest streaming service in the UK in an estimated 13.4m homes, does not take advertising or subscription revenue.

Overall, Netflix offers a staggering 32,600 hours of films and TV shows to UK viewers, with Amazon providing 22,600 hours of content. By comparison, Sky’s Now TV offers access to 12,600 hours of content and the BBC iPlayer, which currently is only allowed to keep shows on its service for 30 days, has 5,100 hours.

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News Brands

Does new owner Catalano have plans to overhaul The Canberra Times?

The Australian’s Christine Lacy reports in the Margin Call column:

We hear the latest Canberra Times owner, Antony “The Cat” Catalano, is considering turning it into a national newspaper in the style of The Washington Post.

The ink is still drying on his $115 million purchase with billionaire Alex Waislitz of Fairfax’s regional newspapers – which include the national capital-based masthead – but the Cat is clearly kicking around some big ideas for his new plaything. We hear he and Waislitz were even spotted in the Canberra Times offices last week.

All the Cat has said publicly so far about his ambitions is he wants to strengthen the identity of the paper as a “highly regarded political commentator”.

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Facebook removes more coordinated inauthentic behaviour from Iran

Facebook released this statement about cleaning out more fake accounts:

Today we removed 51 Facebook accounts, 36 Pages, seven Groups and three Instagram accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in Iran.

The individuals behind this activity – which also took place on other internet platforms and websites – misled people about who they were and what they were doing. They purported to be located in the US and Europe, used fake accounts to run Pages and Groups, and impersonated legitimate news organizations in the Middle East. The individuals behind this activity also represented themselves as journalists or other personas and tried to contact policymakers, reporters, academics, Iranian dissidents and other public figures. A number of these account owners also attempted to contact authentic Instagram accounts, some of which later posted content associated with this activity.

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Twitter cancels 2800 fake accounts, some falsely linked to US media

Earlier this month, we removed more than 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran, said Twitter head of site integrity Yoel Stone.

These are the accounts that FireEye, a private security firm, reported on today. We were not provided with this report or its findings.

As we conduct investigations into the wider networks and actors involved in information operations, we typically avoid making any declarative public statements until we can be sure that we have reached the end of our analyses.

These accounts employed a range of false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally. Some engaged directly through public replies with politicians, journalists, and others.

Several of the accounts falsely represented themselves as media based in the United States and claimed affiliation with outlets like the New York Daily News, Newsday, and the Seattle Times.

Read more about recent Twitter public policy:
Addressing the abuse of tech to spread terrorist and extremist content

Sports Media

AFL’s biggest coach/journo blow-ups: Scott v King plus others

Brad Scott’s run-in with David King is the latest incident in a series of bizarre and occasionally terrifying coach v media blow-ups, including the day Terry Wallace took aim at a Herald Sun journo, reports News Corp’s Al Paton.

Footy is a stressful and emotional game, especially when you’re sitting in the coach’s box and the media is turning the heat up on your club.

It’s not surprising those emotions sometimes boil over in the heat of the moment, with Brad Scott’s run-in with Fox Footy expert David King last Saturday just the latest example.

Scott later denied he made a “beeline” for the Kangaroos champ at three-quarter time on Saturday, but he appeared to brush past King, who was working as boundary rider, as he made his way to the team huddle. The outgoing Kangas coach then made a few comments that weren’t hard for any lip reader to decipher.

“I probably would (take that back),” Scott said on AFL 360 his week. “But I don’t live my life in hindsight. Life’s full of mistakes and if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t get better. I pride myself on certainly my professional life living on the edge, and I’ve been an absolute competitor. And when you are on the edge, you’re going to tip over the edge a couple of times. I don’t waste any time on it (watching it again).”

Other coach v clashes covered by Paton include:

Terry Wallace v Geoff Poulter
Luke Beveridge v Damian Barrett
Alastair Clarkson v Matt Thompson
Mick Malthouse v the media
Ross Lyon v Shane McInness
Damien Hardwick v Patrick Keane
Tony Lockett v Eddie McGuire

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