Mediaweek roundup: The Crown, Disney+, Sonia Kruger + more

• Stan partnership, Tom Tilley, John Fordham, Ben Fordham, AAP, 10, Q&A, The Australian, ACCC, Gerard Whateley + NRL

Business of Media

Masked Singer, Rugby World Cup help 10 secure October ad market lift

Network 10 has secured its biggest revenue share since the Big Bash League was on the free-to-air broadcaster’s screens in 2018, with the CBS owned broadcaster receiving a quarter of advertising dollars in October, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

The growth in the 10’s commercial television metropolitan ad market share largely came at the expense of rival Seven West Media, which secured 34.5 per cent over the month compared to a winning 41.9 per cent in September and 35.5 per cent the year before.

The October result was the lowest share for Seven since January 2018 but monthly data can be volatile and Seven grew its share over the July to September quarter to 39 per cent.

Seven chief executive James Warburton took over from Tim Worner three months ago and has committed to a shake-up of the network’s shows in 2020 to attract audiences back to the broadcaster after a series of programming flops.

Network 10 chief sales officer Rod Prosser said there had been growth in ratings and revenue share year-on-year.

“We’ve had great momentum in the second half with shows like Australian Survivor, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and The Masked Singer all drawing strong audiences, particularly in the demos,” he said.

Commercial shares

Network 10

October 2018 – 24.77%
September 2019 – 19.72%
October 2019 – 24.99%

Seven Network

October 2018 – 35.5%
September 2019 – 41.89%
October 2019 – 34.48%

Nine Network

October 2018 – 39.73%
September 2019 – 38.39%
October 2019 – 40.53%

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Disney explores Disney+ partnerships with local players

The Walt Disney Company has held talks with Australian telecommunications providers, including Optus and Telstra, to offer new streaming service Disney+ free to its customers as a tool to drive telco subscriber additions, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Sources said there had been talks since it became clear Disney+ would be launching in Australia, although no agreement was reached. However, following Disney’s deal with Verizon in the US in October, giving customers 12 months free Disney+, there had been renewed interest, though they cautioned it was early days.

Any deal would likely operate in a similar vein to the way local telcos, such as Optus, paid Netflix to be able to offer its customers the service for free when it launched in Australia in 2015.

Disney Australia and New Zealand managing director Kylie Watson-Wheeler confirmed the US entertainment giant is having a number of discussions with local players, but would not be drawn on who it was talking to and what plans they might action.

It is understood these talks have included bundling Disney+ and Stan, which has rights to a range of Hulu original programming in Australia. Disney has global expansion plans for Hulu, but the rights for a lot of programming have been sold to different players in different markets.

“Both Stan and Foxtel continue to be great partners for us here in this market,” Watson-Wheeler said. “They’re key partners for us with the non-branded content portfolio. In relation to anything we might do with Disney+ in the future, we are having a variety of conversations. There’s nothing yet to confirm or share.”

Watson-Wheeler also revealed Disney has clawed back rights to The Simpsons, where seasons 1 – 29 will be available on Disney+ for the service’s launch of Tuesday. Seven West Media holds rights to the first run of season 30.

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Sydney Opera House and Stan sign partnership for events & content

The Sydney Opera House and Stan have announced a new partnership, bringing together the Sydney cultural institution with the local streaming service and home of original productions.

Under the agreement, the organisations will collaborate on co-branded events and digital content that will promote and celebrate the best in Australian arts, culture and entertainment.

To kick-off the partnership, on Tuesday 26 November, Stan will roll out its blue carpet for a special event at the Opera House, showcasing four brand-new Stan Originals that will premiere this summer. The diverse line-up of Australian productions will include the second season of Matt Okine’s comedy The Other Guy, a thought-provoking vision of the near future, The Commons; a thrilling journey into crime’s dark heart, The Gloaming; and the outlaw legend as never seen before, True History of the Kelly Gang.

Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron said: “We are thrilled to welcome Stan to our family of partners. Together, we champion Australian performers, artists and our creative industries. As well as launching original Australian productions and content, this collaboration will give Stan’s growing community of more than 1.7 million subscribers’ access to the Sydney Opera House’s digital programming.”

Stan CEO Mike Sneesby said: “The Sydney Opera House is a global icon and the cultural home of Australian creative arts. We are thrilled to work with the Sydney Opera House to put a spotlight on Australian storytelling and talent. Our relationship is a natural fit and we’re looking forward to a collaborative partnership.”

Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron and Stan CEO Mike Sneesby with Bryan Brown, Stan Original Productions Bloom and Claudia Karvan, Stan Original Productions The Other Guy and True History of the Kelly Gang. Photo: Caroline McCredie

News Brands

Outgoing Q&A host Tony Jones reveals new role for ABC in Asia

Tony Jones is close to signing a surprise new deal that will ensure he continues to be heavily involved with the ABC as a roving elder statesman in the Asia-Pacific, reveals The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

Jones will shortly be based in Beijing with his wife, Sarah Ferguson, in China, where she will become the ABC’s new bureau chief. It had been initially thought that Jones would simply be writing books in China while Ferguson became the ABC’s big presence in the world’s most populous nation.

Jones says he will be filing stories for the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, but could also be deployed extensively across the ABC news and current affairs spectrum. While he won’t be reporting on China because of visa restrictions, he will be able to cover every other country in the Asia-Pacific.

“The ABC has some serious plans for a greater engagement with the region,” he said.

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ACCC calls on Facebook and Google to pay for journalism

Facebook and Google are undermining the economic foun­dations of journalism and should be subjected to a government-mandated bargaining code whenever they deal with news organisations, according to the nation’s competition watchdog, reports The Australian’s Chris Merritt.

This intervention is justified because the tech giants are damaging journalism, which is a public good that affects the community.

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he hoped the Morrison government would accept the commission’s call for a bargaining code to govern relations between the tech giants and the news media.

“For us, this is all about the future of journalism,” he told a conference in Sydney organised by the business law section of the Law Council of Australia on Friday.

“Journalism is a public good and whenever you have a public good, particularly one as large as this, government is inevitably involved,” Sims said.

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The Australian’s editor cuts a deal for readers to avoid cover price increase

News Corp’s The Weekend Australian lifted its price on Saturday from $3.80 to $4.00. But editor-in-chief Christopher Dore had a deal for readers to avoid the price hike:

While we are lifting the cover price, I want to present a special Editor-in-Chief offer: have The Weekend Australian delivered for just $3.50 a week for the next six months. You will also have full digital access every day of the week and bonus digital access to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition, we now send subscribers morning and afternoon email briefings, curated by me, on what’s making news – another subscription benefit that will make it even easier for you to stay up-to-date while you’re on the move.

We invest a lot in bringing you the best reporting, writing and analysis every weekend, wherever you live. Of course, we are the only newspaper in Australia that delivers to every corner of the nation, from the Top End to Tasmania and every town in between. We don’t do this often, but today we are increasing the cover price of The Weekend Australian to $4.

Whichever way you look at it, that is remarkable value: an unrivalled news section, unmatched depth and experience of news analysis within Inquirer, the best sports writing in the country and of course a Business section with a remarkable array of the best finance journalists and insightful and informed commentators.

Let’s not forget our gems in the middle of the newspaper – Review, our arts liftout, has more book, television, music and movie reviews than any other publication, written by the biggest names in the business; and The Weekend Australian Magazine, which features some of Australia’s greatest feature writers, and beautiful portraits.

You are doing well if you can get through The Weekend Australian in one session. It is exceptional reading.

Take up the offer, we won’t let you down, and thank you again for choosing The Australian and The Weekend Australian.

Take up the subscription of for The Australian here.

‘Governments are going to mandate’ fact-checking on Facebook: AAP boss

Australian Associated Press chief executive Bruce Davison says global governments are likely to force digital behemoths Facebook and Google to fact check more of the content being shared online and has called on local policymakers to tighten up copyright laws, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

The AAP has a fact-checking agreement with Facebook that started about three months ago, which Davidson is hoping to extend in the future. It includes a team of four full-time employees who check about 50 posts a month for the social media website.

The deal came after worldwide criticism against social media sites for allowing unchecked claims in posts and advertisements online, potentially swaying public opinion.

Google initially provided assistance setting up the AAP fact checking unit during the 2019 election, Davidson said. The news agency and wires service now has a deal with Facebook to take a close look at posts flagged as potentially being fake or incorrect.

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Media People

Sydney farewells celebrity agent John Fordham the way he’d have loved

It was just the sort of room that late agent and Mr Fix-it John Fordham would have loved: a sitting NSW Premier, a former Australian prime minister, sporting legends past and present, radio kings and even an underworld figure.

Friday’s funeral for Fordham was not about bold-type names but rather an extraordinary life – both professionally and personally – of a man who was intimately involved in some of the biggest sports, media and business deals that helped shape a city and a nation for half a century.

What a roll-call it was: John Howard, former league player Wally Lewis, Gladys Berejiklian, Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim, winemaker Brian McGuigan, Graham Richardson, broadcasters John Laws and Alan Jones, socialite Skye Leckie, former Liberal Party identity Michael Yabsley, Fran Macpherson (mother of Elle), TV identities Susie Elelman, Lisa Wilkinson, Sylvia Jeffreys and Peter Stefanovic.

Also present were former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor, NRL boss Todd Greenberg, Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and former News Corp boss John Hartigan, sports presenter Tony Squires, businessman MarkBouris, former AFL coach Paul Roos and Outback Wrangler Matt Wright.

Old rivalries were buried, for just a few hours at least, with Laws and Jones cheekily trading gibes outside the church. Indeed for many years it was Fordham who was the meat in the sandwich of the pair, who for decades have waged battles over egos and ratings.

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Triple J’s Tom Tilley quitting ABC to join 10’s The Project

Triple J host Tom Tilley has called time on the ABC and will head over to Network 10’s The Project in a new reporting and hosting role, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

The long-time host of Triple J’s Hack has told The Australian he will make the leap to commercial TV at the end of the year, coming just two weeks after fellow Project and ABC host Hamish McDonald was named host of the ABC’s Q&A program.

The popular Tilley is a big loss for the ABC at a time when the national broadcaster is in a battle to keep talent from defecting to commercial rivals.

“I decided about a year ago that 2019 will be my final year of Hack. So last year was my seventh year of hosting the program and heading into my eighth,” Tilley told The Australian. “I’m going to open up the next chapter, make the most of what I’ve been able to build, making the most of what I’ve learnt working at Triple J and the ABC and moving to the next phase.”

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Sonia Kruger arrives at Seven, columnists reveal contract details

Seven will this week formally unveil the multi-talented Sonia Kruger, who had her last day on Nine’s Today Extra on Friday, as one of the faces of the network, in a deal believed to be worth $1m a year, or $3m over three years, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

At that rate, Kruger’s package will surpass the salaries of talent like Seven’s breakfast stars David Koch and Samantha Armytage. But insiders are adamant that she will not be the highest paid on-air personality at Seven, with suggestions talent like Hollywood star Rebel Wilson (who will front Seven’s new reality dog show Pooch Perfect) are on bigger coin.

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Annette Sharp reported in The Sunday Telegraph:

Seven is said to have offered Sonia Kruger a three-year-deal – which according to reports was worth $500,000-a-year – which Nine was prepared to match.

When Seven improved its offer, Nine offered no further financial sweetener, prompting Kruger to give notice, sources claimed yesterday.

She finished up on Friday – earlier than might have been expected and without much network fanfare, unless you happen to be one of Today Extra’s meagre audience who were treated to packages of Kruger clowning on set with co-host David Campbell.

Kruger’s contract with Nine expires on December 31 – meaning Seven’s announcement concerning their new star could be weeks off.

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The Crown is one of the most ambitious gambles in TV history

In creative terms, it might go down as one of the most ambitious gambles in television history: to recast the world’s most successful drama series after just two years, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Idato.

The Crown, Netflix’s fabulously expensive and critically acclaimed royal soap opera, is a textbook case of a hit show. With House of Cards it confirmed Netflix’s place at the apex of content creation in the streaming age, and then with The Crown and made superstars of its actors: Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby, who played the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret.

But as the series continues its slow unfurling of royal family history, the highly anticipated third season shifts the story into the 1970s, requiring that Foy, Smith and Kirby be “aged up” and replaced with three new actors, Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies and Helena Bonham Carter.

The impact of those changes, and the gamble in swapping out the perfect cast, is lost on no one, least of all Colman on whose head rests the new crown: “It’s horrendous,” says the 45-year-old actress of taking on the role. “Everyone loves Claire, so I have got the worst job in the world at the moment.”

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Ben Fordham returns to radio days after dad John’s funeral

Broadcaster Ben Fordham will be back on air today after originally taking the rest of the year off to spend time with his celebrity agent father, who died last week, reports News Corp’s Matthew Benns.

“The timing of dad’s departure was a little faster than any of us anticipated,” Fordham said yesterday.

John Fordham died last Sunday surrounded by the family he loved so dearly. His celebrity-client packed funeral was held in Paddington on Friday.

“I think he would have wanted me to go back to work,” Fordham said of his return to the 2GB microphone.

Originally Fordham had thought he would still take the rest of the year off but has decided to return to work, taking a cue from his “workaholic’’ father, adding: “Dad worked up until 15 hours before he died”.

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Sports Media

Gerard Whateley signs new contract with Melbourne’s SEN

Respected broadcaster Gerard Whateley has extended his deal with sports-focused radio station SEN, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

The Herald Sun reported last month that Channel 7 tried to poach the SEN caller and Fox Footy host to lead its 2020 sports coverage, including the Tokyo Olympics, but the plan fell through due to a change of management at the network.

Now Whateley, who left the ABC to launch a morning show under his own brand on SEN in 2018, has confirmed his future is with SEN.

“I have recommitted at SEN for a further three years, which was always the plan,” Whateley said.

“When Hutchy (Craig Hutchison) and I sat down we thought the first phase would be a five-year phase so there was never really any doubt that we would add the three years to it (his current deal).

“We have built the program that we intended to, which was a daily program that would reflect what the news of sport was and have the key people at the key time to answer the key questions.”

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Simply too much: NRL won’t pay $1m for Tina Turner anthem

The 2019 NRL grand final coverage closed with a shot of a microphone and Simply The Best playing over the top of the coverage, writes Nine reporter and The Sun-Herald columnist Danny Weidler.

It was a none too subtle hint that Tina Turner is on her way back – or at least the game’s greatest anthem was. The idea is a great one – bring the tune back 30 years after it enjoyed a league life.

But the talk around Turner has gone quiet.

This column has been told the reason for this is the $1million price tag that Turner or her management has placed on the deal. There is a view from the NRL that they could get Taylor Swift for that kind of money – but the sentiment Turner would bring with her would obviously not be part of the price.

The NRL have confirmed that they are still in talks with her management – and they didn’t deny the $1million asking price. The word out of the NRL is that they “won’t be breaking the bank” to do the deal. In other words, Turner won’t get what she wants or anything close.

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