Mediaweek Roundup: Nine, AFR, Jenny Brockie, Rugby Australia + more

• Alexi Baker, The Heights, Cricket Australia, and Swimming Australia

Business of Media

Nine director of commercial Alexi Baker to leave after nine years

Nine managing director of commercial Alexi Baker is leaving the business after nine years with the group to pursue opportunities outside the media sector, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Baker played important roles in Nine’s merger with Fairfax Media in July 2018, the broadcaster’s decision to switch from cricket to tennis rights in March 2018, the acquisition of the remaining stake in Macquarie Radio that Nine did not own, as well the growth of subscription video on-demand service Stan.

However, with Nine largely finishing its deal-making and M&A cycle, Baker has decided to leave to take on a new challenge.

“I just wanted to let you know that after much thought over the last while, I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on from Nine,” she said in an email to her management colleagues.

“I have so enjoyed my time at Nine and don’t do it lightly. But with the big deals done and the business in such a great position, I think it’s time for me to explore what is next in my career.”

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks said: “The whole management team at Nine wish Alexi well and thank her for the enormous contribution she has made to the transformation of Nine.

“Alexi will be missed by us all but we understand her desire to seek new opportunities and wish her well for the future.”

[Read More]

News Brands

Matthew Drummond on 20 years of the AFR Magazine Power issue

It arrived with a portentous thud, tucked inside the September 28, 2001 edition of The Australian Financial Review newspaper, writes AFR Magazine editor Matthew Drummond. “The Power lists comprise three premier lists,” stated the opening line of the 110-page inaugural Power issue of The Australian Financial Review Magazine. “These identify the people with the tightest grip on three major strands of power in this country: overt, covert and cultural.”

And then the next line, as if to fend off an expected torrent of criticism: “Of course the process was not intended to be scientific. Power is in large part a matter of perception and opinion.”

This year the AFR Magazine Power issue turns 20. John Howard was midway through his prime ministership when it launched. “I think it is fair to say that it created a good deal of interest among members of Parliament, and also probably within the broader community,” he says, when asked to comment on the milestone. “I hope you continue with the enterprise.”

The Power issue has been a consistent hit with readers and advertisers alike. The 2020 iteration is inside Friday’s Financial Review, looking much like that first issue in 2001. For why mess with something that worked from the get go? “There was a hole in the analysis of power in Australia, and it needed to be filled,” says Andrew Cornell, who wrote the main essay inside the issue from 2003 to 2013. “Power was understood in a piecemeal fashion, but there was no rigour pulling it all together.”

[Read more]

The 2020 AFR Power List:

1. Scott Morrison
2. Josh Frydenberg
3. Brendan Murphy
4. Gladys Berejiklian
5. Daniel Andrews
6. Greg Hunt
7. Matt Comyn
8.Philip Lowe
9. Mark McGowan
10. Anthony Albanese

[Read more]

Jenny Brockie to step down as Insight host after two decades

After nearly two decades, Jenny Brockie has decided to step down from her role as presenter of SBS’s flagship current affairs program, Insight.

Jenny Brockie said: “After a break this year and a lot of thought, I’ve decided it’s time for a change. I care deeply about SBS and I couldn’t be more grateful to James Taylor and Mandi Wicks for supporting my decision to step away from my role on Insight. We’re talking about new ideas and how I might contribute to the network in the future.

“Hosting Insight for nearly two decades has been a highlight of my professional life. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and am hugely grateful to the talented Insight team and the many other fine people at SBS who’ve made that work possible. I have enormous regard for Insight’s viewers and want to thank them for all the warmth and kindness they have shown me. Above all, I want to thank the thousands of guests who’ve trusted me with their stories over so many years. It’s been an honour and a privilege to help you share your experiences.

“I’m looking forward to what comes next for me. I have no doubt Insight will continue to flourish and I will be welcoming the new host in 2021.”

SBS managing director, James Taylor, said: “Jenny is one of Australia’s most respected journalists and has played an integral role as part of our highly-regarded news and current affairs team. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Jenny’s substantial contribution to SBS over almost two decades with Insight, and for her award-winning body of work. Jenny has been instrumental in growing and refining Insight from its early days to become the world class forum program it is today, and we look forward to building on that success. Jenny will always be part of the SBS family and we’re hopeful she will return to our screens in the future.”

Newly appointed SBS director of news and current affairs, Mandi Wicks, said: “Jenny is renowned for her curiosity and fairness, bringing a forensic attention to detail and a warmth that puts interviewees at ease. She has unearthed some extraordinary first-person stories over the years, delivering the high-quality journalism our audiences know and trust us for. Jenny will be taking a break, and while we are sad to lose her from Insight, we’re discussing opportunities and fresh ideas in the hope we can work together at SBS in the future. I look forward to working with the Insight team during its next phase in 2021 as it continues to deliver balanced, considered and intriguing debates, delving into a wide variety of topics with a fresh perspective.”

SBS will commence its search for a new Insight host for 2021 in the coming weeks.

Television

Let’s hope good intentions in film, TV reforms don’t pave way to hell

The Australian film and television reforms announced this week by minister Paul Fletcher were much needed and long overdue. They are loaded with good intentions, too – most notably to foster “higher production values and programs with a better prospect of being sold into the global content market”. But there’s a very real chance they will fail, writer SMH‘s Karl Quinn.

The big winners of the reforms are the commercial TV broadcasters, which have had their obligations to commission Australian drama, kids content and documentaries simplified (a good thing) and reduced (good for them, not so good for those who think Australian voices, stories and talent in these areas matter).

The streamers – Netflix, Stan, Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+ – have escaped regulation, being asked merely to report their spending on Australian content. The veiled threat is that if they don’t commission willingly, they will be forced to do so by regulation.

It’s an enormous leap of faith in more ways than one.

[Read more]

Will The Heights return? “We obviously want to keep going”

Fans of The Heights last night took to social media after its season 2 finale, all wanting to know one thing: will there be more? Reports TV Tonight.

The Matchbox Pictures serial reached a conclusion of sorts, but like many Australian dramas, writers were faced with an ending without ever knowing if it would be renewed.

Co-creator/producer Warren Clarke tells TV Tonight he still doesn’t know if the Perth-made serial will return – especially given’s ABC funding challenges.

“We’re certainly hopeful that we get to go again, though are appreciative of the circumstances at the ABC and the challenges we would face,” he says.

“We obviously want to keep going but we understand those constraints they’re under, and that hard decisions are having to get made. Given the fact that we haven’t moved, obviously, that window starts to close.”

Sixty episodes were filmed in total, set in the fictional Arcadia Heights housing commission flats. With arguably the most diverse ensemble in an Australian drama, the show has won critical praise for its slice-of-life approach.

The BBC recently screened the series in an early afternoon soap timeslot and Clarke says the audience feedback has exceeded expectations.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Channel 7 commentator Michael Slater wants cricket stoush resolution

Channel 7 commentator Michael Slater has admitted his concern over the network’s TV rights war with Cricket Australia and is hoping for a speedy resolution, reports News Corp’s Ben Horne.

Slater is currently in Dubai calling the IPL, but will return home early to help anchor Channel 7’s coverage of the WBBL starting later this month in Sydney.

Channel 7 is set to take their dispute to an independent tribunal next Tuesday to seek an independent valuation on the new rights value, although Cricket Australia have told them they’re not within their rights to do so.

The ugly standoff still has the potential to end up in court, and Slater, one of the stars of the Seven stable along with Ricky Ponting and Mel McLaughlin, says he shares the anxiety of cricket fans worried about what it all means for the future of the game in Australia.

“I think the cricket community in Australia would be concerned as to what’s going on there. My current alignments are with Channel 7 and, of course, I want it to be sorted out and I want to be commentating as normal,” said Slater.

Channel 7 claim CA has breached its contract, and at the heart of their concerns is the Big Bash League, and a belief the value of the product will be heavily compromised if there are international stars absent and matches are played in neutral venues.

Slater has called on the Big Bash to follow the benchmark set by the Indian Premier League if they want to make Twenty20 cricket sing on television screens, even without a crowd.

“Honestly, they’re setting the standard. (The fake crowd noise they’re using) sounds fantastic. There was the real applause when there was a boundary, the hint of a buzz around the ground and they’ve certainly not overdone it or underdone it,” said Slater.

[Read more]

Foxtel lodges bid with Rugby Australia for broadcast rights

Foxtel has made an offer to broadcast rugby union next year as it looks to continue its two-decade long relationship with the code, which is also in talks with Nine Entertainment Co, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

The broadcaster missed the deadline for formal expressions of interest for the rights in early September but continued to discuss ways to work together.

Industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Foxtel submitted a bid this week. Foxtel had been paying between $30 million to $40 million a year but wanted to renegotiate the price. It has already secured a discount on its rights for the AFL and NRL and is trying to renegotiate its deal with Cricket Australia. Foxtel and Rugby Australia declined to comment.

The industry sources said Foxtel’s offer was for the rights to what it currently broadcasts – the Super Rugby, the National Rugby Championship and Wallabies Tests – at a similar price to what it previously paid. It is unclear whether Foxtel is prepared to trial new formats of the game, such as State of Union – a tournament similar to the NRL’s State of Origin.

Foxtel, Ten and BSkyB are at the end of a $285 million five-year deal with RA signed in 2015.

[Read more]

Swimming Australia and Seven terminate broadcast partnership

The Seven Network and Swimming Australia have agreed to terminate their broadcast partnership following Swimming Australia’s inability to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials in 2020 due to the COVID- 19 pandemic as required under Seven’s media rights agreement.

Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell said: “While we are disappointed with the outcome, we acknowledge that these are unprecedented times for businesses all over the world, including our own, and understand Seven’s position.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Seven for the generous contribution they have made to the sport of swimming over the years.

“Through a strong working relationship with Seven, we have been able to bring swimming to Australian lounge rooms – not just in an Olympic and Paralympic year but every year in between and that has been vital to telling the story of our incredible athletes and coaches.

“We see the broadcast of swimming in Australia as crucial to our sport and the fabric of the Australian sporting landscape and we will continue to explore options within the media and digital landscape for opportunities to share and showcase our amazing sport, which literally millions of Australians are involved in.

“With 2021 Olympics and Paralympics around the corner, we are firmly focused on the future for our athletes, coaches and fans.”

Lewis Martin, managing director Seven Melbourne and network head of sport, said: “We have enjoyed our partnership with Swimming Australia since 2016 and have been proud to broadcast their events to Australians.

“We thank Swimming Australia for the great relationship we have had with them and wish them nothing but the very best going forward.”

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