Mediaweek Roundup: Southern Cross Media, News Corp, oOH! Media + more

• Optus, Warren Buffett, Sophie Monk, Australian Survivor, Nova Peris, Biggest Loser, Australian Open, and Christian O’Connell

Business of Media

Southern Cross Media is cheap and ripe for a buyer: IML

While valuations are high in many market sectors, there is still plenty of value in mid-cap stocks such as Southern Cross Media, according to fund manager Investors Mutual, reports The AFR’s Luke Housego.

“With the Australian sharemarket trading near record highs and with many sectors looking fairly fully priced, we continue to find very good long-term value in many good quality small and mid-cap stocks,” Investors Mutual portfolio managers Simon Conn and Marc Whittaker said.

In addition to commanding a lower price-to-earnings ratio, Southern Cross Media also benefitted from having most of its assets concentrated in radio, which Conn argued is better placed than TV.

Last year, the company reported an 8.5 per cent drop in revenue in the first quarter of financial year 2020, across both its audio and television segments. But Conn argued the outlook for radio remained strong.

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Optus pays half a million for spamming Australians in 2018

Singtel Optus Pty Limited has paid a $504,000 infringement notice after an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found significant breaches of spam laws. This is the second largest infringement notice ever paid to the ACMA.

The ACMA investigation found that between 1 June and 4 December 2018 Optus sent SMS and email marketing messages to consumers after they had unsubscribed.

The ACMA also found Optus sent commercial emails in the form of billing notices that did not include a unsubscribe facility.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said large e-marketers need to listen to consumers and respect their choice when they unsubscribe.

“This is the second largest infringement notice that has ever been paid to the ACMA, and the largest paid for spamming,” O’Loughlin said.

“It reflects the seriousness of breaches made by Optus and its failure to honour its customers’ wishes to unsubscribe, in some cases on multiple occasions.

“Australians find spam infuriating and as a regulator it is something we are actively cracking down on.”

News Corp’s new CFO Michael Ford coming off QBE shocker

News Corp Australia has appointed its latest chief financial officer. Former QBE Insurance CFO Michael Ford assumes the ceremonial office being vacated by Stacey Brown in April, reports AFR’s Joe Aston.

Brown served in a purely decorative capacity inside the knotty refinancing of Foxtel last year led by News Corp’s global CFO Susan Panuccio, Brown’s predecessor at Holt Street.

He had been at QBE for an entire seven months when his resignation was curtly included in a broader announcement to the ASX. “I would like to … thank Michael for his time at QBE,” was all chief executive Pat Regan said. Effusive!

By no accident, Ford barely said a word during his only set of results in February 2018. Through the subsequent investor meetings, he maintained a monastic silence.

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Search for oOh!media founder Brendon Cook’s replacement begins

oOh!media is on the hunt to fill the shoes left by its outgoing founder and chief executive Brendon Cook, who has been with the company for 30 years, reports AFR’s Sarah Thompson, Anthony Macdonald and Tim Boyd.

Street Talk understands executive search consultants Russell Reynolds Associates have been mandated with the task of replacing Cook.

It is understood Russell Reynolds has a long-term relationship with oOh!media and has helped it secure board talent in the past.

Cook founded oOh! in 1989 and in that time has seen out two runs at the ASX boards, ownership by private equity, a failed merger and almost 40 acquisitions.

He will stay as CEO of the company until a replacement is found and will then work with the board during the transition to a new CEO, oOh! said in an announcement to the ASX on Wednesday.

Once a new CEO has been appointed, Cook will stay with oOh! in a non-executive consulting role to provide ongoing strategic advice to the $873 million company.

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News Brands

News Corp launches news aggregation service Knewz.com

News Corp has launched Knewz.com, a new multi-source news website free of “filter bubbles” and “narrow-minded nonsense”, thumbing its nose at fake news and clickbait perpetuated on social media, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

The beta version of News Corp’s latest publishing endeavour was launched in the United States and takes in a wide variety of American news sources across the News Corp stable, but also from competitors including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Mail and television networks like CNN and NBC.

Knewz.com also aggregates from leading online-only news websites across the political divide like The Daily Beast, Business Insider and Breitbart News.

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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett gets out of the newspaper business

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc is selling its newspapers to publisher Lee Enterprises Inc for $US140 million, a rare admission by the billionaire investor that he views his current newspaper business as unsustainable, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Friedman and Allison Prang.

Mr Buffett, a lifelong newspaper lover, has said for years that Berkshire’s newspaper business declined faster than he expected. In mid-2018, Berkshire hired Lee to manage all of its newspapers except the Buffalo News.

The sale announced includes the Buffalo News along with the dozens of newspapers that Lee already manages for Berkshire, Lee said. Berkshire’s newspaper collection includes the Tulsa World in Oklahoma, the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Mr Buffett’s hometown paper in Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald.

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Television

Sophie Monk removes Love Island host from Instagram bio

Sophie Monk has removed her role as host of Love Island Australia from her Instagram bio, reports News Corps Mibenge Nsenduluka.

The TV presenter, who has hosted the reality TV show for two seasons, recently updated her profile to exclude any mention of the Channel 9 reality show after abruptly switching her management team.

The Nine Network is yet to renew the controversial dating show after season two suffered consistently low ratings last year.

In a statement to Confidential, a Nine spokesperson said no official announcements have been made.

“We haven’t made any announcements about Love Island. Sophie is a much loved part of the Nine family,” the spokesman said.

A representative for Monk did not respond to Confidential’s request for comment.

Monk’s bio previously read “Channel 9 host @loveislandau” but this has now been deleted.

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Olympian and ex-senator Nova Peris sues Jacinta Price over Studio 10 debate

Former Olympian Nova Peris is suing conservative Indigenous politician Jacinta Price for defamation over comments she made on Studio 10 accusing the ex-Labor senator of protecting abusers amid the fallout of host Kerri-Anne Kennerley being accused of racism, reports The Age’s Tom Cowie.

Price appeared on the Channel 10 morning chat show with former Greens MP and Indigenous woman Lidia Thorpe in January last year, after a heated Australia Day debate between Kennerley and panellist Yumi Stynes sparked outrage.

Stynes said Kennerley was “sounding racist” after the veteran presenter said people who marched against “Invasion Day” were more interested in changing the date of Australia Day than doing something about sexual violence in Indigenous communities.

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Olympic great Lydia Lassila ‘really messed up’ after first Survivor stint

Lydia Lassila admits that her first experience on Australian Survivor left her “really messed up”, reports News Corps James Wigney.

The five-time Winter Olympian – and gold medallist in freestyle skiing aerials at the 2010 games in Vancouver – had experienced plenty of hardship and resilience from countless hours of training in her celebrated career as a professional athlete. But nothing quite prepared her for the mental and physical challenges from appearing on the 2018 season of the long-running reality TV show, which pitted Champions Vs Contenders.

“It’s very strange,” Lassila says, ahead of her return to the island in the new season, Australian Survivor: All Stars.

“To have food again as an abundance, to wash properly, to sleep in a bed with a doona cover on top. I remember waking up in the middle of the night saying ‘someone check the fire’.

“You actually are really messed up. It’s a short time that you are away in the grand scheme of everything but it’s such an intense period that you really are experiencing life very basically and simply. You’re malnourished and you’re tired and you are kind of withering away and then you add the game-play in there, which is intense. It’s brutal.”

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Sad end for Biggest Loser couple Michelle Bridges and Steve ‘Commando’ Willis

The shocking news this week that fitness guru Michelle Bridges had been arrested for drink-driving came with a surprising detail: She had also split from her long-term partner, fellow Biggest Loser star Steve “Commando” Willis, reports News Corps Nick Bond.

It was a sad end for a celebrity couple who, in the 13 years since they first met, have become reality stars, controversy magnets, tabloid fixtures and parents to a young son.

The pair got their TV start together when they were both drafted in to join the second season of Ten’s hit weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser in 2007. Bridges was a no-nonsense personal trainer with almost two decades of fitness experience, there to serve up tough love while putting contestants through their paces. Ex-army commando Willis was a formidable character: a beefy caricature of masculinity in his uniform of dark sunglasses, camo pants, and a black singlet.

“When I first met him, he was pretty much straight out of the army, virtually. So he was very intense back then. And I remember thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ Bridges later said.

Both were married to other people when they started working together in 2007. But by the time they both left the show in 2015, Bridges was about to have Willis’ baby.

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Radio

Nine tennis commentator abruptly ends interview with 3AW host

Tennis legend John McEnroe has engaged in a fiery interview with Melbourne media icon Neil Mitchell over his Australian Open protest regarding Margaret Court, reports the Herald Sun.

On Tuesday McEnroe teamed up with fellow great Martina Navratilova to launch the on-court protest, holding a sign saying “Evonne Goolagong Arena” after a legends doubles match.

Both players have since apologised for their actions which breached tournament protocol.

Speaking on 3AW this morning, McEnroe and Mitchell went toe-to-toe on the issue, and it didn’t take long for things to get out of hand.

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Is Christian O’Connell going national in 2020?

After reaching the summit of the FM Breakfast ratings in Melbourne in 2019, The Christian O’Connell show is going national this year, reports Radio Today.

Taking to Twitter, O’Connell wrote a cryptic tweet about the move, revealing he, Jack Post and Patrina Jones will be heard all around the country.

“Very excited to say that the show very soon will be available all over Australia,” he tweeted.

“Nothing but deep gratitude for this chance I’ve been given here x.”

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