Mediaweek Roundup: Seven leadership change, Stan, Macquarie Media + more

• Disney, Alan Jones, Andrew Denton, Asher Keddie, Zoe Ventoura, Curtis Stone, and NRL

Business of Media

Kerry Stokes: Warburton a change agent, wants new revenue streams

Seven West Media executive chairman Kerry Stokes told The Weekend Australian that he “agreed mutually” to accept Tim Worner’s resignation on Thursday night, saying it was time to “refocus the company” in search of “additional forms of revenue” at a hugely challenging time for network television, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

“Tim and I had a couple of long discussions last week about our position and where we were going in the future and I decided last night (Thursday) I would accept his resignation,” Stokes said.

“Not easily, but I think the final consensus was we needed to focus on additional forms of revenue and improving our revenue base as well as improving our production.”

Under the terms of Worner’s departure deal, he will be paid about $2.6 million by Seven during the next 12 months — the media equivalent of silent gardening leave.

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“We needed to have a change in direction,” Seven chairman Kerry Stokes told The Australian Financial Review’s Max Mason.

“The industry is going through an issue where traditional media and revenue are getting more difficult, we thought that if we’re going to change the company and pursue the next phase of some growth we had to change the way we do business.

“To do that we needed an agent for change, an agent who understood the industry, who understood revenue, who understood the elements that gain you revenue as well as the adjacencies going into the future.”

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Seven West Media set for tough result as TV audiences decline

Two of Seven West Media’s biggest programming formats have suffered years of audience decline, according to TV ratings data, as the media company braces for the financial results that led to Tim Worner being ousted as CEO late last week, reports The Australian’s Zoe Samios and Leo Shanahan.

In 2014 My Kitchen Rules – in its fourth year at the time – averaged 1.88 million metropolitan viewers across the series, while this year the average audience was 896,417.

In the past year alone Seven West Media has also struggled with launching new formats. In 2018 a number of new programs suffered low figures and have not returned to air, including Australian Spartan, Dance Boss and Back With The Ex.

This year Seven decided to axe the second season of My Kitchen Rules, new show The Super Switch was cut from two days to one per week, and Temptation Island was axed before it went into production. The success of Nine’s programming line-up, combined with Seven’s inability to effectively launch new programs, led to Nine taking a bigger share of commercial revenue for the first time in 13 years back in 2017.

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Nine’s Stan could lose Showtime content after CBS-Viacom merger

Network Ten chief executive Paul Anderson says the merger of 10 parent company CBS and American media player Viacom will present a huge opportunity for local streaming offerings and could further threaten Nine’s Stan, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

In an interview with The Australian, Anderson said the reunion of the major US media players could have implications for the local landscape, especially in terms of streaming offerings.

“What they have said is the first strategic priority that they’ve outlined is the direct-to-consumer components. So they’ve got some really strong direct-to-consumer assets with Showtime and All Access,” Anderson said.

According to the 10 boss, Nine’s Stan streaming platform could lose out from content deals if Showtime were bundled in a new CBS/Viacom streaming service, and would be particularly vulnerable to rival Disney Plus – the media giant’s proposed new streaming service likely to launch in November.

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Former radio executive wants to stay invested in Macquarie Media

Minority Macquarie Media shareholder and former radio executive Tim Hughes believes Nine becoming more deeply entwined with the talkback and sports radio broadcaster will be a boon for the business in the future, but he doesn’t want to sell out at the offered takeover price, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Hughes is joined by fellow minority shareholders Centennial Asset Management principal Matthew Kidman and Wilson Asset Management chairman Geoff Wilson in preferring a higher price from Nine.

“I firmly believe in the benefits of cross media, particularly electronic. With this deal off the back of the Fairfax merger Nine has a triple play,” Hughes told The Australian Financial Review.

Hughes and Kidman only hold small minorities in Macquarie, roughly 500,000 and 240,000 shares respectively. Wilson owns 4.1 per cent of Macquarie’s stock and was buying last week.

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Disney bolsters Australian team ahead of streaming service launch

The Walt Disney Entertainment Company is recruiting a new team in Melbourne in a move that signals the launch of its highly anticipated ‘Netflix-killer’ streaming service in Australia could be imminent, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

The $US243 billion ($358 billion) entertainment behemoth has advertised for 10 roles at its Richmond office in the past week within its direct-to-consumer and international division. It comes amid intense speculation the company could unveil plans for a local launch of Disney+ within a matter of weeks.

The new roles include a public relations and marketing staff at its Richmond office, with a specific focus on planning communications for streaming services in the Australia and New Zealand market, a marketing manager for partnerships and a sales executive.

The job descriptions detail leveraging media to “raise awareness” of the new services locally and developing long-term commercial partnerships. Disney also owns TV and movie streaming service Hulu and live sports platform ESPN+.

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Radio

Final warning: Alan Jones close to being sacked, but gets another life

After 2GB’s Alan Jones attacked the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern last week, Macquarie Media has reacted, giving Jones a final warning. This statement was released by Macquarie Media chairman Russell Tate on Saturday:

On Thursday on his 2GB and 4BC breakfast show, Alan Jones made certain comments in respect of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which caused offence to many people.

Recognising the offence caused by his remarks, Alan on Friday publicly apologised for them.

In his apology, Alan recognised that his comments were “careless, unnecessary and wrong”, and “should have been more clearly thought out”. He indicated that he had apologised sincerely to Prime Minister Ardern for any offence given, and had certainly not intended to suggest any harm through his comments.

Notwithstanding his apologies, I have today discussed the matter with Alan and advised him that any recurrence of commentary of this nature will result in the termination of his contract.

Jones is being labelled a “repeat offender” by some when it comes to aggression towards women. Most famously perhaps when talking about then PM Julia Gillard, Jones said: “I’m putting her into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea.” Jones later made disparaging remarks about Gillard and her late father.

Russell Tate’s warning comes at the end of the week where Nine revealed it would be bidding for the remaining Macquarie Media shares it doesn’t own. In the absence of a better offer, Macquarie Media shareholders indicated they would accept the offer.

Macquarie Media’s new tougher stance against Jones comes as Nine is poised to take control. A new owner doesn’t want a breakfast host who could be becoming more of a liability than an asset.

Television

Timing! Denton pulls the plug as Seven’s #2 entertainment show

In the week that Andrew Denton’s Interview was Seven’s second-highest rating entertainment program, behind only Australia’s Got Talent, the new Seven CEO got the news the host and the producers were pulling the plug.

An announcement on the program’s Facebook page carried the news:

After two seasons of Andrew Denton’s Interview, the team behind the program has decided to axe itself.

It has been a delight to make the show for Seven, who have given the show every opportunity to shine, and have confirmed they would have recommissioned it for next year. We apologise for taking a different path.

We’re also glad to have been able to make Interview for a viewing public that received it with open hearts. We’re proud of the conversations we’ve put on screen and into podcast, but it feels like the right time to move on.

For the record, there is no truth in the rumour that Andrew will be replacing Matt Preston on MasterChef. (We know, because Andrew started the rumour). We look forward to not seeing everyone at the 2020 Logies.

Polly Connolly, Jon Casimir, Andrew Denton

Executive Producers

  1. To be clear, we’re wrapping both the TV show and the podcast.

Award-winning actor Asher Keddie named new face of Myer

Gold Logie winning actor Asher Keddie is Myer’s new style ambassador, bucking the trend of replacing mature models with younger versions, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The “hardworking” star of Offspring and Love My Way, 45, has been signed to a new contract and will feature prominently in ads for the department store from today, replacing Jennifer Hawkins who was, at 35, a decade younger than Keddie.

“We love Asher because of what she’s achieved, what she represents,” Myer’s chief customer service officer Geoff Ikin told The Sunday Telegraph.

Keddie, who appeared on the cover Stellar on Sunday, joins Myer’s stable of “ambassadors” Kris Smith, Elyse Knowles and Rachael Finch, and its newly signed youth face, Sarsha Chisholm.

While not wishing to be drawn on comparisons to Hawkins, who Myer transformed into a household name during a 12-year relationship but who broke with the department store last November after pricing herself out of the market, Ikin conceded Keddie was a departure for “Australia’s favourite department store”.

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Zoe Ventoura joins Home and Away onscreen this week in TV return

She was Australia’s sweetheart as Melissa Rafter and, after six years away, Zoe Ventoura is excited to make her return to Australian television this week, reports News Corp’s David Meddows.

The Packed To The Rafters star has spent the past six years based in Los Angeles with her husband, actor and TV host Daniel MacPherson but was tempted back home with a “meaty” role on Channel 7 soap Home and Away.

Ventoura plays Dr Alex Neilson, a tough trauma specialist in Summer Bay’s hospital.

While refusing to give away too much of her character’s upcoming storyline, she reveals it’s one that may not have been told in the past and is one of the reasons she took the role. “There’s stuff that happens down in the storyline that I’m not supposed to be talking about just yet but is part of the reason why this role was so interesting to me and that’s part of that push forward,” she told The Sunday Telegraph.

Ventoura was accompanied by MacPherson for the first couple of months of filming but he’s now filming the final season of British spy thriller Strike Back in Croatia for six months.

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MasterChef judges: Curtis Stone, Andy Allen + mystery female chef?

Celebrity chefs Curtis Stone and Andy Allen are believed to be two of three front-runners set to helm MasterChef Australia in 2020, reports News Corp’s Nui Te Koha.

Stone, who has not ruled out a judging role on 10’s show, and is based in Los Angeles, is said to be close to committing to the reality show kitchen.

Insiders say to help Stone, several cook offs will be held in California, where the star chef has restaurants in Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

A third host – a woman – is still being cast to front show alongside Stone and Allen. Insiders say the names do not include Poh Ling Yeow, Sarah Todd or Julie Goodwin.

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Sports Media

The ratings figures that should send shockwaves through the NRL

These are the figures that should send shockwaves through the NRL, reports Danny Weidler in The Sun-Herald.

And it could hurt them in the long run where it matters: in the back pocket when it comes time to negotiate a new TV deal.

People are turning off the game, abandoning rugby league in droves, in the past month in particular. Free-to-air and pay TV NRL audiences have dropped by more than 3 million compared with the same time last year.

And, yet, through all this, the game’s administration continues to do nothing to halt the decline.

“The top three highest rating shows on free-to-air television this year are State of Origin,” an NRL spokesman said. “No other sport is in the top 10, and 62 of the top 100 shows on Fox Sports are NRL and NRL content. Importantly our percentage of market share continues to grow.”

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