Mediaweek Roundup: Sunrise, Hamish McLennan, Ben Fordham, Tim Bailey + more


• Ben Fordham, The New Daily, Sam Newman, 10 News Adelaide, Julian Morrow, Nova, Creative Arts Emmys, BBL, Supercars and Every Family Has a Secret

Business of Media

The relentless rise of media executive Hamish ‘the Hammer’ McLennan

Having started in the mailroom of a local ad agency, Hamish McLennan has accumulated a collection of directorships that makes him one of the most influential figures in Australian business – on paper at least, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

The 54-year-old is chairman of News Corp’s most important asset, online real estate company REA Group, chair of radio and billboard business Here, There & Everywhere, and deputy chair of $100 billion funds management firm, Magellan Financial Group. And then there is his new role at Rugby Australia, which is arguably his greatest challenge yet.

During his early days at Y&R McLennan became known as “the Hammer”. No one can agree on where it came from. Some colleagues say it was because of his ability to get deals done quickly in the same way a hammer comes down at an auction. Others claim he hammered people who weren’t performing. One person said he was relentless, like a hammerhead shark.

He is respected by some of the 25 current and former colleagues who spoke to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age for this profile and loathed by others. Several interviews began with a deep sigh or laugh. One call ended when his name was mentioned. Two of McLennan’s most famous bosses – Sir Martin Sorrell and Lachlan Murdoch – refused to comment.

McLennan doesn’t tread carefully. But he is aware of the toll his ruthless approach has on the people he has worked with.

[Read more]

Hamish McLennan joins insurance-tech start-up board

Hamish McLennan has joined the board of insurance technology business Claim Central, which has tapped Macquarie for a third seeding round out of the United States, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

“Claim Central is an absolute ripper and one of the best technology companies you may not have heard of,” McLennan told The Australian Financial Review.

“I was approached in market. The growth is explosive and we have a tight and very professional board. I was attracted to the fact that Claim Central is a disrupter in the insurance industry and insurance is a massive market opportunity globally.”

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News Brands

Chris Kenny: Your superannuation supports more left-wing lunacy

It has long been wryly amusing that embittered old leftie journos like Paul Bongiorno and Michael Pascoe win adoration from the woke kids on Twitter by joining or fuelling nasty, obtuse pile-ons against people like me or anyone not avowedly green left, writes The Australian’s Chris Kenny. They need something to keep them amused, I suppose, and anyway, it is this pointless toxicity that drives sensible people away from the platform.

But I do draw the line at funding Bongiorno and Pascoe. It is not right that my compulsory super contributions (and those of many readers, no doubt) are boosting this pair’s semi-retirements, rather than just our own nest eggs.

They both write for The New Daily, a left-of-centre, free news website funded by industry super funds, including mine. And probably yours.

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Sam Newman threatening legal action against former employer Channel 9

Sam Newman, once one of the most powerful figures at Channel 9, is sensationally launching legal action against his former TV employer, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the former Footy Show star is suing Nine, claiming he was defamed in a news report.

Newman argues he was defamed in comments made by photographer Wayne Ludbey about an episode of Newman’s You Cannot Be Serious podcast that referred to Nicky Winmar.

Ludbey was strongly critical of Newman’s comments on the famous incident where St Kilda footy legend Winmar lifted his jumper and pointed to his skin at the end of a 1993 match against Collingwood during which he had been racially abused.

Newman’s legal team sent his legal demand on Friday.

Newman is also taking action against Ludbey and three other media outlets including the Daily Mail Australia which published or republished interviews.

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Adelaide viewers switch off as 10 News comes from Melbourne

Viewers have swiftly reacted to Network 10’s decision to axe its local news presenting team in favour of a Melbourne-helmed weeknight bulletin, reports The Advertiser’s Lisa Woolford.

The first Jennifer Keyte-presented service on Monday (September 14) saw 29,000 people tune in locally, down from 42,000 on September 7 when Rebecca Morse was still presenting. Numbers dipped to a low of 23,000 on Tuesday, before picking back up to 31,000 on Thursday night.

A Network 10 spokesperson said the station expected the change to take some time to resonate with viewers.

“The dedicated team at 10 News First Adelaide continues to break stories every day and tell the stories of South Australia like they always have. Just this week, the team have broken several exclusive stories,” the spokesperson said.

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Ratings update: 10 News First Adelaide weekday average for week 38 was 27,000, down from 41,000 in week 37, the last week of Adelaide-based presenters.

Julian Morrow sues for He Who Shall Not Be Named slur

Julian Morrow, co-founder of satirical group The Chaser, has always been a stout defender of free speech. He even gave an Andrew Olle Media Lecture on the subject, report Nine CBD columnists Samantha Hutchinson and Stephen Brook.

So it is a surprise to learn Morrow attempted to sue fellow TV producer Nick Murray for defamation, after Murray referred to him as “Lord Voldemort” the fictional villain from the Harry Potter series, in an email to the ABC. No need to point out that Morrow is perfectly within his rights to do so if he feels his reputation has been injured and livelihood damaged.

The pair, who used to jointly produce the consumer program The Checkout, via their respective production companies Giant Dwarf and Cordell Jigsaw, are already in a legal dispute after a nasty falling out, as CBD reported last week.

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Podcasts strategy: Audio gives News Corp edge to win subscribers

Amid rising demand for audio content, News Corp Australia is strengthening its podcast slate with new releases featuring actor Paul Hogan and the latest cricket news and analysis throughout the summer, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

The media group is leveraging the podcasts to drive subscriptions at its digital mastheads, including The Australian and The Daily Telegraph.

News Corp’s audio network NewsCast has become the nation’s third largest podcast producer since its launch last year, after rivals ARN/iHeartMedia and Southern Cross Austereo which operate radio stations around the country.

Its string of news, sport, crime, business, politics and lifestyle podcasts – which include the nation’s top news podcast From The Newsroom, I Catch Killers with Gary Jubelin, and The Matty Johns Podcasts – reach more than 5.5 million downloads combined each month.

Ainslee O’Brien, News Corp’s general manager of commercial networks, says audience growth and demand for its audio content have been “very significant”.

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Ben Fordham’s Good Weekend: Feeling the heat as radio ratings near

An article on 2GB breakfast host Ben Fordham is causing some internal headaches at media company Nine, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Insiders last week informed this column that reporter Tim Elliott has been commissioned to do a piece on Alan Jones’ radio successor.

According to sources, Elliott is working on a monster yarn for one of Nine’s magazine liftouts, Good Weekend.

Fordham, who enjoys a large fan base internally at Nine, is of the view the piece will be a jolly piece of PR.

But some within what was once called Fairfax say that may not be the case.

Meanwhile, with radio ratings set to be released in a week’s time, 2GB’s new breakfast host is understandably feeling some pressure.

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Tim Bailey gets new job at 2GB after being axed by Network 10

It was a crazy 20 minutes that changed Tim Bailey’s life, reports News Corp’s Amy Harris.

First he received a phone call from Channel 10, his employer of 28 years, informing him that his services at the network where he began his career as a weather presenter at Good Morning Australia were no longer required.

The weatherman whose boundless energy and limitless enthusiasm had elevated him to something of a cult figure in Sydney TV was, suddenly, a lost soul.

“In that moment you begin to doubt everything you’ve ever worked for and ever done,” said Bailey, who does not elaborate on his sacking at Network 10, adding only that it was “sudden and unexpected”.

Just 20 minutes later he picked up a call from 2GB’s breakfast host Ben Fordham, freshly installed in the coveted slot occupied for 35 years by Alan Jones and looking for a weatherman.

Bailey had agreed to terms within minutes and a verbal deal was struck – he would start delivering weather bulletins both for both Fordham at breakfast and Jim Wilson on the drive shift.

Ten’s “Tim The Weatherman” was suddenly 2GB’s “Daily Bailey”.

[Read more]

Nick Tabakoff reveals Nine’s new radio deal with FM rival

TV sources tell The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff that Seven bid upwards of $500,000 in cash and contra to exclusively advertise its state-based 6pm news bulletins in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne on Nova FM’s high-rating national Kate, Tim & Joel 3-6pm drive time radio show.

But Seven was told by Nova a fortnight ago that it had been beaten in the bidding by none other than Nine, which of course already owns the country’s most valuable radio stations.

[Read more]


Ratings war forces Sam and Kochie back to work five days a week

Sunrise hosts David Koch and Samantha Armytage have had their four-day working week cancelled and been ordered back to work five days following a recent surge in the ratings of rival breakfast show Today, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The Sunrise stars were last week instructed to head back into Seven’s Martin Place studios from Monday to see off Nine’s Today, which has closed the ratings gap on the still dominant Sunrise on the strength of heightened viewer interest in COVID-19.

Seven News director Craig McPherson confirmed the reshuffle on Friday: “They are back five days a week,” he said, wasting no words.

Also said to have been ordered back into the studio control room is long-time Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell, who has spent most of this year enjoying a stretch in a newly expanded role overseeing prime-time light entertainment at Seven and leaving the day-to-day EP responsibilities on Sunrise to two more junior producers.

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When The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff caught Koch on Sunday, the Port Adelaide president gave him a “game summary” of the 2020 breakfast TV season so far.

“Had a very strong first half, the opposition improved during the third quarter,” Koch started. “So we’ve adjusted at the start of the fourth quarter and changed our rotations off the interchange to finish the game solidly.”

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Creative Arts Emmys: Australia’s campaign for Emmy glory stumbles

Australia’s campaign for Emmy glory was dealt a blow with the shock defeat of comedian Hannah Gadsby on the final night of the Creative Arts Emmys in Los Angeles. Gadsby was nominated for her Netflix special Douglas in two categories: variety special and writing for a variety special, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato.

But in the final moments of the telecast Gadsby was denied Emmy glory with the award going to American comedian Dave Chappelle who won in both categories for his own Netflix special, Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones.

With the five-night creative arts Emmys wrapped, all that remains is the 72nd annual “prime-time” Emmys, which will be staged on Monday, Sydney time. The Creative Arts Emmys focus on artistic disciplines within television, such as casting, cinematography, make-up and hair styling, costuming, picture and sound editing and music.

Australia went into this year’s Emmy season with its strongest line-up in memory.

Glory came early for cinematographer Greig Fraser, who shared the Emmy for cinematography for a single-camera half-hour series with his long-time collaborator, New Zealand-born director of photography Baz Idoine. The pair won last week for their work on the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian.

Others were not so lucky.

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Noni Hazlehurst’s hosting role: “It’s what reality television should be”

It was her episode of Who Do You Think You Are? that led Noni Hazlehurst to hosting Every Family Has a Secret for SBS, reports TV Tonight.

Revelations about her own family tree, and home truths her own mother had not shared, still resonate for the industry doyen.

But the other genealogy series has one very big difference, in not casting celebrities.

“Because they’re not well known, I think it’s easier for an audience to relate, to empathise and to really go on the journey with the subjects,” she explains.

“These are high stakes outcomes for these people. To me, it’s what reality television should be, because it’s actual reality for these people. It’s not exploitative, or manipulative of the subject or of the audience. I think that’s one of the reasons it stands apart and it encourages connection and empathy between human beings. We think, ‘How would I feel in this situation?’”

Every Family Has a Secret, now in its second season, is produced by WA-based Artemis Media, which previously made Who Do You Think You Are? Each episode profiles two Australians who trace their family tree to answer long-held questions, or even missing jigsaw pieces, of their family.

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Sports Media

Summer of discontent awaits cricket with TV deals in jeopardy

Cricket sources acknowledge that the BBL has lost its lustre and is in need of an overhaul, reports The AFR’s Max Mason. However, they argue that the decline is not as dire as Seven and Foxtel make out, pointing to the league averaging 185,000 more viewers per match on TV than the big winter football games, AFL and NRL, and the third season in a row of 1 million-plus attendance.

They also point to the TV deal being a legal agreement, and dispute Seven’s assertion that Cricket Australia is in breach of contract. They say Seven knew about the BBL’s expansion and was desperate to sign up little more than two years ago.

TV executives describe the expansion as greed: it has diluted the family-friendly format, ratings have fallen and just two summers into the TV deal a review of the competition was called.

Foxtel seems happy to let Seven wage the public war and exert pressure behind the scenes – Foxtel only wants a discount and has never raised the idea of terminating its contract.

“These things are not just about the quantity of matches,” News Corp global chief executive Robert Thomson said of Australian sports rights generally on Friday.

“They are about the quality of the experience for our customers. And we all know which teams are the big drawers and the importance of exclusivity. And that for us is a big factor.”

[Read more]

Start your engines: Foxtel and Seven poised to sign Supercars deal

V8 Supercars is poised to sign a new five-year agreement with Foxtel and Seven West Media as early as this week, in a deal which will see the motorsport return to the Kerry Stokes-controlled broadcaster for the first time since 2014, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Sources were conflicted on what the agreement was worth, with one suggesting the deal, which includes cash payments, contra (free advertising) and revenue sharing arrangements, would be worth more than $200 million over five years. Other sources suggested it would be lower.

Indicating the deal is close, Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer will speak at a Foxtel event on Tuesday: Sport 2020, Breaking All Records showcase event.

The current six-year $241 million deal between 10 and Foxtel, signed in 2013, began in 2015 and finishes at the end of the 2020 season.

[Read more]

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