Mediaweek Roundup: Merrick Watts, Rugby Australia, MasterChef + more

• Reality TV, Mail Online, InQueensland, Netflix, Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello, and Cricket Australia

Business of Media

Mail Online has ‘winning formula’ as digital ad revenues grow

Double-figure digital advertising growth at Mail Online helped offset print ad decline across the Mail titles, new quarterly figures show, reports Press Gazette.

Ad revenues were up by an underlying nine per cent year-on-year for the quarter across the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Mail Online.

A 17 per cent growth year-on-year in digital ad revenue at Mail Online offset a one per cent decline in print ad revenues, according to a trading update from Mail and Metro newspaper group DMGT.

Group chief executive Paul Zwillenberg told investors the online boost was “down to great content and great execution”.

“We have one of the best digital content teams in the business, generating 1,700 stories a day on average, tens of thousands of photos, and over 900 videos on average a day that we produce on the site,” he said.

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Comedian only joking about price of inner-city warehouse

The local paper recently speculated comedian Merrick Watts would get $5m-plus when his inner-west Sydney warehouse was initially scheduled for auction, reports The Australian’s Margin Call columnists Jonathan Chancellor and Christine Lacy.

So the prospective buyers turning up at the open for inspections were surprised to be told $7m was the actual price expectation.

Then there was almost (non-comic) relief when the guide was adjusted down to $6m-plus.

It has now been snapped up ahead of next Saturday’s scheduled auction, with the buyer introduced by local agent Ben Southwell at Cobden & Hayson.

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Although the sale price has yet to be revealed, yesterday reported sales price “well above the $6m price guide”.

News Brands

InQueensland launches to quench thirst for Sunshine State news

Eric Beecher says there is a thirst for a new independent media voice in Queensland as his Solstice Media looks to replicate the business model from its South Australia-focused publishing business in the Sunshine State, reports AFR’s Max Mason.

Yesterday Solstice launched InQueensland, a news website focused on the state’s politics, business and culture.

Beecher, who is chairman of Solstice and Private Media, publisher of Crikey, said Queensland publishing was dominated by News Corp, which owns the Courier Mail, Gold Coast Bulletin and close to all regional newspapers after it bought APN News & Media’s regional papers in 2016. Nine, owner of The Australian Financial Review, also runs news website Brisbane Times.

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Oscars 2020: Brad Pitt claims first acting Academy Award, as Margot Robbie misses out for Bombshell

Parasite has continued its stunning winner’s streak, becoming the first foreign language film to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars, reports News Corp’s Sarah Blake, Nadia Salemme and Kathy McCabe.

Brad Pitt won the Oscar for best supporting actor – the first gong handed out at Hollywood’s night of nights.

Joaquin Phoenix won his first Oscar, being recognised as best actor for his role in Joker. He was up against, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonathan Pryce, Antonio Banderas and Adam Driver, delivering an emotionally-charged speech that referenced his commitment to veganism and his late brother, River Phoenix.

Renée Zellweger won her second Oscar, for her nuanced portrayal of Judy Garland in the last years of the fabled performer’s troubled life.

Australian nominee Margot Robbie missed out on Oscar for Bombshell, with Laura Dern winning best supporting actress for her knockout performance in Marriage Story.

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3AW looses two big names ahead of 2020 AFL season

Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling has switched teams on the radio dial, departing 3AW for the ABC, reports News Corp’s Scott Gullan.

Ling will feature on Friday nights and Sundays for the national broadcaster who is shaking up its AFL coverage this season.

The Cats champion was a victim of circumstances at 3AW, caught in the crossfire of Channel 9’s takeover of Macquarie Media’s radio stations.

His Channel 7 commentary teammate Matthew Richardson has avoided a similar fate, verballing agreeing to a new deal at 3AW.

Ling will continue to juggle his TV commitments with his new radio gig which will also include being a part of a remodelled Saturday pre-game show alongside chief caller Alister Nicholson.

There is also more movement at 3AW with Caroline Wilson stepping away from the nightly Sports Today program where she has been a regular because of her expanding role on Nine’s Footy Classified show.

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Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal has been booted from MasterChef

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal has been booted from his long-held guest judging spot on MasterChef amid claims a restaurant he fronted underpaid staff by millions, reports News Corp’s Bella Fowler.

Last week, it was revealed Dinner by Heston in Melbourne underpaid staff by more than $4m over three years, according to liquidators, with Network Ten today confirming he will no longer appear on MasterChef.

Network 10 has confirmed that the international chef will not be returning for his usual position on the judging panel, having regularly featured on the series for many of its 11 seasons.

“Heston has been a long-time member of the MasterChef Australia family, but he will not be appearing in the upcoming season,” a spokesman told the Herald Sun.

Network 10 did not give a reason for the move.

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Hit Netflix show filmed in Toowoomba and Ipswich emu farm

A hit Netflix show has filmed scenes for its next season in Toowoomba and the Ipswich region, the show’s creator has confirmed, reports Tobi Loftus, in The Toowoomba Chronicle.

British comedian Jack Whitehall told a Brisbane crowd at his stand-up comedy show on Saturday night the region would feature in the next season of his show Travels With My Father.

In the show Jack, an eccentric man in his early 30s, travels around the world with his father Michael Whitehall, an upper-class British man.

The show has in previous seasons visited Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, eastern Europe and the United States.

“We were in Toowoomba filming Travels With My Father,” Jack Whitehall said.

“We were in a cafe when one of our producers asked the somewhat older gentleman behind the counter what milk options do you have.

“‘We’ve got hot and cold’, he said.

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Producer reveals the big secret all reality stars should know

Choosing to enter a reality show is always a risky move — and a former producer has spilt one big secret all contestants should know, reports

Jana Hocking, who worked behind the scenes on The Bachelor, appeared on’s Not Here To Make Friends podcast this week. While discussing Married At First Sight with co-hosts James Weir and Carla Bignasca, she let slip a big mistake some contestants make.

“I have one tip, should you ever enter a reality show: Fake it!” she said. “Don’t say, ‘I am petrified of spiders’. They’re going to put you in a room full of spiders!”

Last week, we saw MAFS producers put Poppy in a hot-air balloon after she revealed she was terrified of heights.

The Not Here To Make Friends podcast is streamed on Facebook Live every Sunday and Wednesday night after MAFS and available to download as a podcast.

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Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello claims he felt bullied by Lucy and Kane Cornes

Andrew “Cosi” Costello has accused Lucy and Kane Cornes of online bullying after they claimed he “stole” footage for a segment on his TV travel show, reports News Corp’s Antimo Iannella and Anna Vlach.

Apologising for calling him a thief on social media, Lucy, who is married to media personality and former Port Adelaide great, Kane, has blamed the attack on her feisty side. But Lucy, CEO of creative production agency She Digital, said she was also “unapologetic about protecting the industry”.

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Deal for Rugby Australia to buy Shute Shield rights imminent

Club Rugby TV and Rugby Australia are expected to reach an agreement on the sale of the broadcast rights to the Shute Shield on Tuesday, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Georgina Robinson.

It was not clear on Monday whether RA had agreed to buy out the remainder of Club Rugby TV’s deal with the Seven Network, worth $1.25 million over the next five years.

But both parties said they expected to finalise the agreement on Tuesday, paving the way for RA to take its club-to-Wallabies broadcast rights package to market later this week and just in time for the coming season, which starts in April.

The predicted buy-out will bring to an end Club Rugby TV’s involvement in the Shute Shield, a competition its founder John Murray began streaming in 2013, when the ABC still broadcast the Match of the Day.

In 2015, Murray and new business partner Nick Fordham brokered a 10-year deal with the SRU and NSWRU to broadcast the competition on the Seven Network’s digital channel 7mate. It required the Sydney clubs to find $300,000 a year between them to pay Seven and Club Rugby TV, a burden that placed the SRU under financial stress if the final could not deliver the gate takings to cover the fees.

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Triple treat: Perry claims third Belinda Clark award

Ellyse Perry reinforced why she is one of the world’s most dominant cricketers by claiming her third Belinda Clark award at the Cricket Australia awards night, reports The Age’s Jon Pierik.

Perry’s ability to influence a match with either bat or ball was on show during another strong year for the Australian side, allowing her to poll 161 votes, ahead of Alyssa Healy (153) and Jess Jonassen (87). The latest victory in another tight count at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium adds to her awards of 2016 and 2018.

There was one Test which fell in the voting period, of January 8 last year to January 8 this year, that being during last year’s Ashes tour at the County Ground in Somerset. In a drawn clash, Perry was the stand-out, stroking 116 in Australia’s first innings of 8-420 (dec) and 76 not out in the second in a player of the match performance.

The Australians are in their final preparations for the World Cup but have struggled so far through the tri-series against England and India. They hope to click as a unit in the final against India at Melbourne’s Junction Oval on Wednesday.

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Return hit: Warner edges Smith to claim Allan Border Medal

David Warner has capped a stunning return to international cricket, edging fellow bad boy Steve Smith by one vote to claim the sport’s top individual honour in a thrilling count at the Cricket Australia awards night, reports The Age’s Jon Pierik.

A year ago, Warner, 33, and Smith, 30, were completing year-long suspensions and still being blamed for their roles in arguably Australian cricket’s darkest day – the sandpaper scandal in South Africa in 2018. On Monday night, their resurrection was completed when Warner polled 194 votes to be crowned the Allan Border medallist, fending off Smith and last year’s winner, Pat Cummins (185 votes).

Warner and Smith’s next challenge will be returning to South Africa for the first time since the Cape Town meltdown. The pair leave on Friday with Australia’s white-ball squads. Warner said he was ready to handle any abuse from a sometimes-confrontational South African crowd.

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Foxtel tantrum reveals true worth of rugby TV rights

At what point do you recognise that a partnership has become an abusive relationship? asks Matt Rowley* in a column published by Nine publishing.

It’s a question Rugby Australia must have asked itself about its broadcast “partner” for the past 25 years, Foxtel.

A coalition of self-interested voices led by News Corporation (which owns 65 per cent of Foxtel) would have you believe RA has recklessly passed up Foxtel’s offer for the next five years of broadcasting rights, which priced the rights flat for a decade.

This is reckless, apparently, because rugby in Australia is a hot mess being led into TV rights oblivion by a team who need to know their place, take what they are given and be grateful for it.

Foxtel’s core negotiation tactic has been to bully the seller from going to market. But RA has called its bluff, and Foxtel and News Corp have been left making one hell of a song and dance about a set of rights they would like us to believe are no big deal to them.

* Matt Rowley is the founder of and chief executive of Pedestrian Group, which is owned by Nine.

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News Corp ‘walks away’ from rugby… yet again.

Our black summer has lent credence to the notion that News Corp’s very worst effect is its carriage of climate change denialism in the observance of ideological pluralism. Wrong, reports AFR’s Joe Aston.

Far from it. None of its journalism is more ordinary than that which so readily savages any putative obstacle to its commercial interests. And nowhere is that craven genre more baldly practised than in its coverage of sports broadcast rights.

Holt Street’s newest victims are Rugby Australia and Foxtel’s competitor in the auction for rugby union’s next set of rights, Optus.

The Australian’s Wally Mason wrote on Thursday that Foxtel “has been actively involved in strengthening and developing all these [sporting] codes – it’s in their interests. The interests of Optus, on the other hand, lie not in contributing to the development of sport but in attracting subscribers to its phone services.” Wait on; only Optus wants to attract subscribers? Foxtel doesn’t?!

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Seven West Media warning as rugby rights deal in balance

Seven West Media boss James Warburton has warned sporting bodies they should better demonstrate their value to broadcasters as Rugby Australia prepares to stoke interest in the television rights for the struggling code, reports News Corp’s Leo Shanahan.

After Foxtel last week announced it was walking away from its 25-year partnership with rugby after Rugby Australia rejected an offer to renew its current deal, RA is hoping to strike a new deal with Optus and a free-to-air partner in an open tender to increase its current $57m-a-year deal.

With Seven also preparing to extend its current broadcast right deal with the AFL, Warburton said sports must demonstrate “revenue and growth” opportunities in a clear signal he would not enter a bidding war to show Wallabies Tests or Super Rugby.

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