Mediaweek Roundup: Ovato, News Corp, Seven, ABC, Wimbledon + more

• Plus Eddie McGuire and NZME

Business of Media

Ovato printing plants open despite reduced demand, cuts pay 40%

Australia’s biggest printing group Ovato has released a statement about how it is fairing in a climate impacted by COVID-19.

Chairman of the business formerly known as PMP Group, Michael Hannan, said: “Ovato is facing this unprecedented crisis with the most experienced management team in the industry. We have acted early and are adapting to the daily changes. We have managed capacity by shutting down equipment at all sites, while retaining the flexibility required to ramp up or down quickly. I am proud to say that we have had good co-operation from our entire workforce which will see an effective 40% pay reduction for most of our staff, including all executives and board members. In the interests of our staff, our customers and our shareholders no one should underestimate our resolve to get through this crisis.”

The company gave no indication of the size of the drop in demand for print, and no indication of the impact for products distributed by Gordon and Gotch.

Kevin Slaven, CEO & managing director of Ovato said: “We continue to enjoy the support of our financiers, customers, suppliers and employees. We acted swiftly in the outset of COVID-19 to ensure our staff were as safe as possible and our customers could continue to be well served. While this uncertainty continues, Ovato remains confident in its ability to maintain our service standards with plants operating in all Australian states, albeit at reduced capacity. We are seeking to ensure that we match our expenses to our revenues, and I would like to thank our financiers, customers, suppliers and employees for their support and understanding.”

Ovato is believed to count Bauer Media amongst its clients and the impact of any merger of the Pacific titles could impact on the business, although it is expected that magazine print runs would have dropped significantly. Similarly demand for catalogues from retailers has also been impacted, although Ovato referred to neither directly in its statement.

Bauer Media has seen its business shutdown in New Zealand after the government ruled that magazines and community newspapers be suspended as part of the level four lockdown.

News Corp on government inaction as business models collapse

Today is a sad day for Australian media, writes News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller in multiple News Corp newspapers.

Every newspaper company’s paramount mission is to get the paper out. Next week, 60 of News Corp Australia’s papers won’t be printed.

Our decision to suspend print editions of our community newspapers in four states to assess their viability comes as other publishers also close editions and accelerate cost reduction.

COVID-19 did not create this crisis but it brought it to a head.

Australian media is passing its tipping point. The tragedy is, for more than a decade, broadcasters, filmmakers, publishers and local content creators have been warning successive governments this day was coming.

But time and again, governments have chosen political self-interest over the right of Australian communities to have their voice.

When confronted with issues threatening the future of our industr­y, governments have acted too slowly or not at all.

The unfairness of the digital playing field, along with Australia’s draconian tangle of legislation and regulation, means local companies can’t compete with international platforms.

Successive governments have stood by and watched as the traditional business models of Australian media companies have collapsed, and the real danger is they stand by and watch as our future collapses as well.

[Read more]

Seven Network orders staff to take severe wage cuts

The Seven Network is introducing severe cost-cutting measures, ordering staff to take 20% pay cuts and warning job losses are “inevitable”, as it braces for the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, reports The Australian’s Steve Jackson.

The network’s chief, James Warburton, broke the news in an email to staff on Wednesday afternoon, saying “we find ourselves in an extraordinary and challenging situation”.

Outlining the austerity measures, Warburton said that all network staff earning between $80,000 and $200,000 – and not covered by an enterprise agreement – “will be asked to work a four-day week with a commensurate 20 per cent reduction in salary”.

Those earning more than $200,000 “will be asked to accept a 20 per cent temporary salary reduction and continue to work a five-day week to assist the company through this challenging time”.

[Read more]

News Brands

ABC promises to keep nation informed at home and online

The ABC has outlined how it is keeping the nation informed, educated and entertained in response to COVID-19, with trusted content and services all Australians can turn to.

Managing director David Anderson said the ABC is playing an essential role in the lives of all Australians impacted by COVID-19.

“Clearly, the challenge for the ABC is to continue providing the essential broadcast and digital services all Australians expect of us,” he said. “There have been some changes to our normal schedule that audiences will have noticed already, such as the suspension of the National Press Club broadcast and a reduction of The Signal podcast. And, like other providers, it will take some time for us to return to normal activity once the threat has passed.

“But Australians should be reassured that we are making every effort to continue to provide our trusted and valued services to audiences, wherever they are. We are conscious of the important role the ABC plays in our lives. And we are doing all we can to keep Australians informed, educated and entertained in these unprecedented times.

“Contingency planning is well advanced and we are also adjusting our output to meet the rapidly changing needs and expectations of all Australians, covering everything from new box sets to binge on iview to recipes and activities for people staying indoors at home.

“And with so many children now at home, the ABC is helping primary and secondary students and teachers with additional curriculum-linked education content across multiple platforms. No matter the challenges to come, the ABC will be there for all Australians for the long haul, as a trusted friend and companion in a time of need.”

Radio

NZME pulls pin on Radio Sport station, restructures

Earlier this week NZME ceased broadcasting Radio Sport and is restructuring its print and digital sport platforms, with potential redundancies as the fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak takes its toll on the media company’s revenue, reports The New Zealand Herald.

“With the cancellation and suspension of virtually all local, national and international sports events and competitions, we have been forced to look closely at the level of sports coverage, including live events, across all our platforms,” chief executive Michael Boggs said in an internal email to staff.

“The impact of the cancellation and suspension of events, along with the overall impact of Covid-19 on NZME revenue, has been significant.

“We have made the incredibly difficult decision to stop broadcasting Radio Sport. Radio Sport frequencies will now carry Newstalk ZB programming indefinitely.”

Radio Sport began as Sports Roundup, a Radio New Zealand program during the 1980s and early 1990s that provided live commentary of summer sports like cricket.

Sports Roundup was replaced with dedicated Radio Sport network following privatisation in 1996.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Off-contract stars the biggest casualties of NRL’s new wage war

They are the 10 wretched days which are expected to cost off-contract NRL players a colossal $20 million, reports News Corp’s Dean Ritchie.

Hardest hit will be young superstar David Fifita, who is bracing for a $1.25 million pay cut from future earnings.

While South Sydney champion Latrell Mitchell could lose $200,000 a year from next season.

Around 180 NRL players coming off contract after this season could have their value reduced from a collective $80 million to $60 million — all this in just 10 days since the NRL was forced into shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[Read more]

All England Club cancels Wimbledon Championships 2020

The All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships yesterday decided that The Wimbledon Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic. The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021.

The tennis Grand Slam event was broadcast on Seven and Fox Sports in Australia.

A statement from the All England Club said:

Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen – the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents – as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life.

Since the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in January, we have followed guidance from the UK Government and public health authorities in relation to our year-round operations, alongside developing an understanding of the likely trajectory of the outbreak in the UK. This has enabled analysis of the impact of the Government restrictions on the usual commencement in April of the significant preparations required to stage The Championships, either on the original date of 29 June, or at a later date in the summer of 2020.

Following a series of detailed deliberations on all of the above, it is the Committee of Management’s view that cancellation of The Championships is the best decision in the interests of public health, and that being able to provide certainty by taking this decision now, rather than in several weeks, is important for everyone involved in tennis and The Championships. Members of the public who paid for tickets in the Wimbledon Public Ballot for this year’s Championships will have their tickets refunded and will be offered the chance to purchase tickets for the same day and court for The Championships 2021. We will be communicating directly with all ticket-holders.

In addition, we have taken account of the impact that this decision will have on those who rely on The Championships – including the players and the tennis community in Britain and around the world – and we are developing plans to support those groups, working in partnership with the LTA and the other leadership bodies in global tennis. This also applies to our loyal staff, to whom we take our responsibility very seriously.

Eddie McGuire clashes with Nine News’ Tony Jones

Nine sports presenter Tony Jones last night asked Nine host and Collingwood Football Club president Eddie McGuire about the AFL football clubs and their stance when it comes to members asking for refunds. “We need our members to stick with us as much as we can,” McGuire told Jones during a cross on Nine News. When Jones asked about a member who has lost his job asking for a refund, McGuire said, “Listen to me. We are in it together – we look after our members. What we don’t want is a run on clubs because the membership is keeping us alive at the moment.” When Jones again interrupted, McGuire said: “You are not listening to me Tony, you are trying to get a headline.”

Jones replied: “I am not trying to get a headline, I am trying to get an answer.” As Jones tried to wind up the interview saying they were out of time, McGuire accused him of making it sound like clubs were taking money out of peoples’ pockets. “Don’t wind me up with a smartass last line.”

Photo: 9News

Eddie McGuire fires back after on-air clash with Tony Jones

Eddie McGuire has responded to a fiery primetime stoush with Channel 9 sports reporter Tony Jones by pleading for footy club supporters to keep their memberships, reports News Corp’s Nui Te Koha and Jackie Epstein.

McGuire, hosting Channel 9’s Footy Classified last night, said Jones “rightly” asked questions about possible membership refunds for people who are doing it tough.

McGuire, who is also the Collingwood Football Club president, said: “You ring your club, they’ll look after you, they always do, because the football club is owned by the members.

“It’s not owned by private industry, it’s not some oligarch sitting over the top counting the money and diving into their swimming pool like Scrooge McDuck.

“To Tony’s point, yeah, there are people who are going bad at the moment. If there is a run on the clubs, and I’ll be perfectly honest about this, then we don’t have to worry about the $600 million the banks are gonna give us, because it’ll be all over.”

[Read more]

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