Mediaweek Roundup: News Corp, Nine, Today Show + more

• Ray Hadley, KIIS FM, Neighbours, Wil Anderson, and Optus Sport

Business of Media

News Corp’s Michael Miller: Foxtel profitable, papers facing staff cuts

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller has re­inforced the company’s commitment to invest more in Foxtel to drive uptake of its iQ4 box, Kayo Sports and acquire new programming, and says the dominant pay TV company is “making good money”, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

In an interview with The Australian and Weekend Business on Sky News, Miller lauded the success of News Corp Australia’s online publications in signing up 500,000 paid subscribers, with The Australian joining The New York Times and The Washington Post as the only newspapers in the world to have paid digital subscribers total more than its historic print daily circulation peak.

However, the News Australia boss warned that staff needed to prepare for further cuts across the company in keeping with the rest of the industry, with jobs likely to be lost across all major metropolitan newspapers’ editorial, marketing, advertising and human resources departments.

Top Image: Michael Miller

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Nine appoints Steve Shervill as general manager of Darwin outpost

Andy Bruyn has stepped down as general manager of Nine’s Darwin operations and his responsibilities will be taken over by Steve Shervill who will also continue to lead the sales team.

Nine Network COO Brett Dickson told staff:

“Andy’s association with our business spans some 37 years – going back to when the business was Territory Television – and I want to take this opportunity to thank him, both personally and on behalf of Nine, for all his significant efforts over more than three decades.

“Andy advised me of his decision in recent weeks and wanted to pass on these thoughts to us all.

Bruyn said: “I’ve been GM for 28 years – a privilege I have thoroughly enjoyed and in which I’ve taken massive pride but the timing is right to step aside for a new era at Nine. I’ve been fortunate to work with Steve and the marvellous team that makes Nine – here and across Australia – the powerhouse that it is. There have been some great talents come through our doors and go on to significant television careers elsewhere. I’m fortunate to have been part of their journey. The team we have today continues that trust. They are a huge credit to themselves and the Territory that has nurtured them. As for the future, Darwin’s home for me — I will be staying in the Territory.”

Shervill also has a long history with Nine, joining the Darwin sales team in 1988 before working in Port Moresby and Brisbane, returning to Darwin as sales manager in 2001. He is also the first Territory-born person to lead the NT’s top broadcaster.

News Brands

News Corp newspaper editors ‘listened to electorate’s pulse’

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller has credited his newspaper editors for correctly picking the mood and concerns of the country ahead of the Coalition government’s surprise federal election victory, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

News Corp Australia’s major metro newspapers (including The Australian) editorialised in favour of re-electing the Morrison government, with the NT News endorsing Labor, and the Hobart Mercury not taking a side.

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News Corp Australia regional newspapers no longer for sale

In Michael Miller’s first interview with The AFR in his current role, he flagged jobs are expected to go across News Corp Australia, including but not limited to journalists, as the company brings in different expertise to cater to its audiences, reports Max Mason.

“Our objective is profitable growth,” Miller said in his first sit-down interview with The Australian Financial Review since re-joining News Corp in 2015.

Miller also said News Corp was no longer fielding offers for its regional business and was happy with how it was integrating into the wider portfolio. It pulled the pin on a potential sale of its regional business last year because “we didn’t see value in the offers we were given”.

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Radio

Ex-2GB producer Chris Bowen prepares for lawsuit against Ray Hadley

Lawyers for former 2GB producer Chris Bowen have been making discreet inquiries about star announcer Ray Hadley in preparation for a lawsuit that The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Hornery reports could be filed as soon as the end of June:

Part of their investigation has been to compile witness accounts in the form of affidavits to be used in court against Hadley.

In March, Bowen made his bullying accusations against Hadley public in a series of Facebook posts.

He subsequently appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 program to make more claims against his former friend Hadley and was joined on camera by another of Hadley’s accusers, ABC rugby league caller Andrew Moore.

In April, it emerged that Bowen had engaged the services of Laxon Lex Lawyers’ John Laxon, a highly-regarded workplace law solicitor.

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Brave Melbourne FM radio hosts to risk their health for ratings

A doctor will be on call and vitamin drips on standby as two Melbourne breakfast radio hosts risk their health in a bizarre bid to boost ratings, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Melbourne KIIS FM breakfast hosts Jase Hawkins and Polly “PJ” Harding are to attempt a bizarre 56 hour live broadcasting marathon.

The pair will kick off their descent into sleep deprivation at 6am on Wednesday (June 5) and plan to host their show through until 2pm Friday.

“We have done it three times before (in New Zealand) for 51, 52 and 53 hours,” Hawkins said.

“I know this sounds ridiculous but we are pretty smart about the way we do it. We have full medical checks and from about the 20 hour mark we get checked every four hours with the doctor on call if we are feeling a bit off or if we start freaking out a little bit.”

The sleep-free marathon could be the wake-up call listeners need to check out Hawkins and Harding’s KIIS breakfast show.

The pair have struggled to get traction in Melbourne breakfast radio ratings races since they launched their show last year after enjoying success in the New Zealand market.

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Television

Nine hose down rumours Karl Stefanovic will return to Today

Karl Stefanovic has been out of action from our TV screens for six months and his heavy $3 million pay packet is weighing on the minds of Channel 9 executives. One boss revealed why he was moved on from Today while he hosed down speculation of a Today return for Karl, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Today’s poor ratings coupled with the recent re-signing of radio breakfast star Alan Jones to Nine’s majority owned Macquarie network – and Stefanovic’s star turn on the bill at a Nine sponsored hospital charity fundraiser on Thursday night – were last week driving industry speculation Nine CEO Hugh Marks is preparing to exhume Stefanovic and reinsert him into the ailing breakfast show that still pays his salary.

Nine’s director of news and current affairs Darren Wick was quick to scotch rumours of a Today show return for Stefanovic.

“We’ve gone in a dramatically different direction with Georgie Gardner and Deb Knight to where we were with Karl and while we know we haven’t got it quite right yet, we are happy with where we are,” said Wick.

“No one is panicking about the ratings.”

The Nine news boss will sit down soon with Stefanovic to discuss his future.

“We will sit down and work out where to from here,” Wick said.

“Karl is an incredible talent. “We’ve just got to find the right fit for Karl — and Nine.”

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The Sunday Telegraph rates Nine’s Today show team

In an accompanying piece to a report about the future of Nine’s Today show, News Corp’s Annette Sharp rates the breakfast show team:

A-Richard Wilkins
Wilkins has more on-camera presence than the rest of the team combined…should be recalled.

A- Deb Knight
Looks too often to be neglected by Nine’s hair and makeup – something that can stick out like a sore thumb sitting next to glamour girl Georgie Gardner.

A- Steve Jacobs
Looks exhausted…would be a true A with a month’s R and R and a shave.

B Georgie Gardner
Still lacks warmth and personality on the desk but is clearly working at it.

B Tom Steinfort
Is a capable autocue reader…banter sometimes awkward.

C Brooke Boney
Should be given her start on Today Extra and dressed in age-appropriate clothing.

Today show tweaked: News presenter Tom Steinfort promoted to co-host

There are some significant changes to how Nine’s Today breakfast will look on air, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

Today’s hosting duo of Deb Knight and Georgie Gardner will effectively become a trio. The show’s newsreader, Tom Steinfort, will figure much more prominently, as Today strives for the elusive winning formula.

Expect to see more of Steinfort in all facets of Today from now on, breaking up what viewers perceive to be a competitive dynamic between Gardner and Knight. Weatherman Steve Jacobs will also take more of a role.

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Double trouble: Infamous Blakeney twins return to Ramsay Street

Two of Neighbours’ biggest stars from the 90s, twin sisters Gayle and Gillian Blakeney, who played Christina and Caroline Alessi, are heading back to Ramsay Street.

After 27 years the Blakeney twins will be stepping back into the shoes of the characters that made them household names.

Gayle Blakeney will get to know her character Christina Alessi again and she should have a lot of catching up to do. Christina left her mark on Ramsay Street as one of Paul Robinson’s (many) ex-wives. But this one was with a twist.

Meanwhile Gillian Blakeney will slip back into the role of the fiery and a sometimes naughty Caroline Alessi, who is best known for being Paul’s lover!

On their return to Erinsborough, Gayle said: “We were tickled pink to be asked back and we knew if they wanted to reprise the characters after nearly 30 years, it had to be for a great story line which it is. We’re really looking forward to filming it.”

Gillian added: “Strangely enough it feels just so comfortable and familiar despite the obvious changes, the cast and crew have been so welcoming.”

Gayle and Gillian Blakeney will to the Logie-nominated Australian drama series in September 2019 on 10 Peach.

Photo: The Blakeney twins – Gayle (left) and Gillian

Wil Anderson savages Logies and refuses to go for his nominated show

Comedian Wil Anderson is scathing about the Logies and refuses to attend despite a nomination for Gruen, the show he hosts on the ABC, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Stand-up king Wil Anderson has left no doubt about his thoughts on the Logies, describing the TV awards as a “complete joke” despite his ABC show scoring a nomination.

Anderson, who hosts Gruen, which is nominated as Most Popular Entertainment Program, declared on his Triple M Hot Breakfast show “you could not pay me to go”.

“The Logies are a complete joke and you could not pay me to go there in a million years,” Anderson said.

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Sports Media

Optus Sport coverage of European football breaks audience records

Optus chief executive Allen Lew will probably be feeling pretty good about the world when he arrives at work this week, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s John McDuling.

Less than a year ago, the number two telco he leads had a genuine public relations crisis on its hands amid the #floptus World Cup streaming debacle. On Sunday, its coverage of European soccer’s biggest annual event broke all audience records.

Liverpool defeated Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League Final, in a glorious moment for fans of the Merseyside club. (In the interests of full disclosure let me confirm, yes, I am one of them). It was also a triumph for Optus.

The SingTel owned carrier said that its exclusive online telecast of the game generated 16.5 million live streaming minutes. I’m not sure exactly that means, but it was 20% higher than the old record, set during the recently ended Premier League season.

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