Mediaweek roundup: The Irishman, Seven-Prime, ABC + more

• Elton John, BBC, Israel Folau, Fetch TV + Disney+

Business of media

Catalano and Gordon ‘unrelated parties’ on Prime

Antony Catalano has distanced himself from media mogul Bruce Gordon, insisting they are not working together to block Kerry Stokes – backed Seven West Media’s acquisition of regional TV broadcaster Prime Media, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Catalano, who took ownership of the former Fairfax Media’s regional newspaper operations with billionaire investor Alex Waislitz mid-year, said Seven’s $64m offer, plus a 3c special dividend is “not good value” and it is not surprising that other Prime investors aren’t keen on the deal.

“No. We are unrelated parties,” Catalano told The Australian on Tuesday.

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The Australian also reports:

Regional television broadcaster Prime Media is in crunch talks with its prospective buyer Seven West Media after its two major shareholders, Bruce Gordon and Antony Catalano, rejected the $64m takeover.

[Read the original]

Dragons unleashed in regional TV’s answer to Game of Thrones

Antony Catalano was taking an early morning stroll along the beach in Bali on Tuesday when he heard the news that his plan to scupper Kerry Stokes’ proposal to buy Seven networks’s regional affiliate Prime Media was all but in the bag, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Elizabeth Knight.

On Monday Prime’s other major shareholder, the Bermuda-based billionaire Bruce Gordon, having flown into Australia, made public his own plan to torpedo the takeover by Seven.

By Tuesday morning, Prime had little choice but to raise a white flag and declare the takeover all but dead because, based on the numbers, the deal would be voted down by investors at the December 19 shareholder meeting.

The dragons have been unleashed in regional TV’s answer to Game of Thrones.

Meanwhile, Prime’s chairman John Hartigan and chief executive Ian Audsley delivered their pitch to Gordon over lunch on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to salvage the deal.

Seven now has two choices. It can either abandon its ambitions for Prime or recast the offer.

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ABC board delays decision on $84m cost-cutting plan

The ABC will continue to thrash out cost-cutting plans, which are expected to lead to at least 200 job losses in a bid to plug an $84m budget hole, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

After a two-day board meeting, led by chairwoman Ita Buttrose, at the ABC Sydney head­quarters in inner-city Ultimo, it was decided more time was needed to finalise the cuts.

“Over the course of the last two days, the ABC board and management have discussed potential areas of cost savings to address the $84m budget shortfall,” an ABC spokesman said. “We continue to refine those plans and expect to be able to provide more specific details publicly in the new year.”

The decision comes as the ABC faces a $23m hit after underpaying up to 2500 casual staff over six years, and a week after The Australian’s Media Diary revealed the broadcaster was examining a redundancy program.

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BBC fee could be scrapped for Netflix model, says Boris Johnson

The BBC annual licence fee could be scrapped and replaced with a pay-to-watch subscription model under a Conservative government, Boris Johnson says, reports The Times.

Speaking at a campaign rally, the British Prime Minister questioned whether the present funding model “still makes sense” in a digital world.

In an unexpected move, he announced he was “looking at” decriminalising non-payment of the licence as Tory sources suggested that a fully subscription-based service, such as Netflix, would come under consideration.

The plan, which is not in the party’s manifesto, will face resistance from the BBC and be seen by opponents as a political attack on the broadcaster.

A leaked BBC document warned that viewing by young people was “dangerously close to the brink” because “output is not standing up well enough to tough international competition”.

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Disney+ deal has ‘exceeded our expectations’: Verizon CEO

Verizon’s deal with Disney+ has exceeded the telecom giant’s expectations, president and CEO Hans Vestberg told an investor conference in New York on Tuesday without sharing user figures, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

“It has exceeded our expectations” in terms of pushing existing users to unlimited plans and acquiring new customers.

He declined to share how many Disney+ users Verizon has reached or what kind of expectations Verizon had had. “I cannot comment on our figures, they have commented on their figures,” Vestberg said. Disney said a day after the launch of its streaming service that it had hit 10 million signups.

The companies’ agreement gives some of the phone giant’s wireless and Internet customers a year of Disney+ for free. The offer applies to Verizon’s wireless unlimited customers and new Fios Internet and 5G home internet customers. Approximately 17 million Verizon wireless accounts are unlimited, and “a pretty significant number” of those are expected to take advantage of the Disney+ offer, Verizon previously said.

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Entertainment

Sir Elton John’s final shows the perfect ending to a stellar career

Everyone wants to go out on their own terms, reports News Corp’s Cameron Adams.

And Sir Elton John is doing the most British of farewell tours – an extended global victory lap where supply can barely meet demand.

That means spending three months in Australia.

His first Melbourne show was back in 1971; he’ll clock up 49 Victorian career shows by the time he leaves the stage at AAMI Park on February 22.

There’s obviously extra emotion on this farewell tour – fans seeing songs they’ve grown up with (or had passed down to them) for the last time.

And that emotion is tenfold for John. Some artists stop touring because their voice is shot or they’ve lost the passion. That’s not the case here; John and his sterling band are playing like men possessed.

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Television

10 All Access now available on Fetch TV platform

Fetch TV, CBS Interactive and Network 10 have announced that 10 All Access, CBS and Network 10’s direct-to-consumer subscription video on-demand service, has launched on Fetch TV.

10 All Access offers more than 9,500 episodes of commercial-free entertainment from CBS and 10. For $9.99 a month plus a month free for new subscribers, 10 All Access features exclusive original series, like Why Women Kill, The Twilight Zone and Tell Me A Story, current and previous seasons of select CBS and 10 shows, including Australian Survivor, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Charmed, Madam Secretary, SEAL Team and The Neighborhood, as well as the ability to live stream CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 streaming news service.

Network 10 has never released subscriber numbers for its paid-for service in Australia. In the US it has been estimated the CBS All Access service had around 4m subscribers earlier this year.

The addition of 10 All Access represents an expansion of Fetch TV’s partnership with CBS and Network 10. Fetch subscribers already have access to the 10 FTA channels (10, 10 Bold, 10 Peach) and 10’s live streaming and broadcast video on-demand platform, 10 Play.

Rob Gelick, Executive Vice President and General Manager, CBS Entertainment Digital: “The expansion of 10 All Access to Fetch TV is a fantastic opportunity to introduce 10 All Access’ unique offering to new audiences. We look forward to bringing 10 All Access to even more connected device platforms in Australia in the coming months.”

Network 10’s general manager – digital Liz Baldwin said: “10 All Access continues to grow with the platform achieving its biggest month ever in October. This momentum continues with an expanded reach on Fetch, making the great content we produce available to more Australians.”

Fetch TV’s CEO TV Scott Lorson said: “Fetch is committed to providing the very best in entertainment, all in one place. As a master aggregator, we focus not only on the what, but also the how. The launch of 10 All Access, complete with integrated search and carrier billing, is another great addition to the Fetch platform, with more to come. Now is a great time to be a TV viewer, and of course, a Fetch subscriber.”

Netflix reveals The Irishman viewed by 26m in first seven days

Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman was viewed by 26.4 million households in its first week on Netflix, according to content chief Ted Sarandos, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

The executive, speaking at the UBS Global TMT Conference on Tuesday, also predicted that the mob drama will reach an audience of 40 million households within its first 28 days.

Based on the disclosure, that means about 16 percent of all Netflix global account holders watched the film in the week following its Nov. 27 release. While that is a significant portion of the company’s user base, especially for a three-and-a-half-hour movie, it’s still not as large of an audience as for Sandra Bullock starrer Bird Box, which drew 45 million viewers in its first seven days last December.

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Sports Media

Former News boss Hartigan: Folau saga has hurt rugby rights talks

One of the key figures in Foxtel’s long-standing relationship with rugby union in Australia says the Israel Folau saga has damaged the struggling code’s ability to strike a lucrative rights deal with broadcasters, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke and John McDuling.

Former News Limited Australia boss John Hartigan said the long-running Folau controversy has hurt rugby’s standing at a grassroots level “very much”, and there was “no question” it would make broadcasters cautious about backing the code.

“I have little doubt Optus is genuine [in their interest]. They have been looking for local content to support the EPL [English Premier League],” Hartigan said. “That said rugby wants to appeal to people beyond rusted-on supporters so to have a free-to-air broadcaster is important.”

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