Mediaweek Roundup: Today, 2GB, Seven restructuring + more

Carrie Bickmore

• NBL & Facebook, 2GB’s Alan Jones, 3AW, Seven’s Melissa Doyle, Australian content, Anjali Rao, Film Victoria + Macquarie Media

Business of Media

Seven to undergo restructuring as TV networks prepare for ‘upfronts’

Seven West Media is set to unveil a significant restructuring program that will include job cuts, in James Warburton‘s first major act as chief executive of the broadcaster, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Sources with knowledge of the plan, who did not wish to be named as full details have not been finalised, said the restructuring would come ahead of the broadcaster’s annual ‘upfronts’ event on October 23 where the year’s upcoming programming schedule is showcased to advertisers.

The restructure is expected to include some redundancies. But it will also involve the creation of new divisions within Seven, the sources said, alongside more investment in content for the upcoming year.

About 50 staff members have already been cut from Seven in recent weeks. There was speculation when Warburton took over the role that he would move quickly to reshape management and potentially change his senior executive team.

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Big tech undervalues Australian content from TV broadcasters

Nine Entertainment’s Love Island reeled in hundreds of millions of YouTube views worldwide, but only earned in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars from online advertising through the Google-owned platform, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

At the 10 Network, bespoke social media content for the popular MasterChef and Survivor programmes help generate buzz, but goes largely unmonetised.

Examples like these show how broadcast quality Australian content is undervalued by Facebook and Google, according to local free-to-air television broadcasters.

Free TV says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission needs to step in with regulation to make sure platforms such as Facebook and Google negotiate fair revenue and data sharing arrangements, to ensure the long-term viability of the media industry.

Both Facebook and Google have slammed the proposal. Facebook argued in its submission there is no imbalance of bargaining power with Australian media companies and claimed it is not an essential gateway for Australians accessing news and information.

Google argued the proposal overlooked more than three billion referrals the search giant sends Australian publishers’ way every year.

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Geoff Wilson lashes Macquarie board on Nine deal for radio group

Wilson Asset Management chairman Geoff Wilson has rejected PwC’s independent expert report, which backs Nine’s takeover of Macquarie Media, and is pressuring the radio broadcaster’s board to get a better deal for minority shareholders, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Wilson wrote to the Macquarie board’s independent directors on Sunday. He outlined reasons he believes Nine’s $1.46 per share offer for the remaining 45.6 per cent of the radio broadcaster isn’t good enough.

He said the offer is opportunistic following a bad earnings result, which was hit by a NSW state election and a federal election.

He said WAM’s analysis found there are more savings and potential revenue gains than what the offer represents to shareholders. He also said Macquarie shareholders will miss out on $14.4 million in franking credits under the current deal structure.

WAM has increased its holding in Macquarie to around 4.7 per cent, or 8.1 million shares, since the offer was made.

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Film Victoria appoints new board members: CFO and studio boss

Chris Oliver-Taylor and Liz Grainger have joined the Board of Film Victoria, bringing to the table a wealth of experience in production, business operations, strategy and financial management.

Chris Oliver-Taylor is the CEO Asia Pacific of leading production and entertainment company, Fremantle, where he leads development and production in all genres across Australia, New Zealand, India and Indonesia. He sits on the Fremantle Global Board as well as on the Board of Easy Tiger Productions, the drama arm of Fremantle.

Formerly the Managing Director of NBCUniversal’s Matchbox Pictures and Head of Business and Head of Production at the ABC, Oliver-Taylor has held directorships at Screenrights and Screen Producers Australia.

Chris Oliver

A chartered accountant by profession, Liz Grainger provides independent consultancy services to public and not-for-profit organisations in the areas of strategy, governance, and financial management.

She has held senior executive roles at Deloitte in London and in the Federal and Victorian public sectors, including as General Manager Operations/Chief Financial Officer of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Liz garinger

Grainger has held directorships at Craft Victoria, Arena Theatre Company and Geografia, and she currently sits on the Audit and Risk Committee of Victoria Police. She was an external member of Film Victoria’s Audit and Risk Committee for four years from 2015.

The new appointments replace Debra Allanson and John Rundell whose terms on the board completed in August 2019.

News Brands

Nine denies plans to poach Carrie Bickmore to host Today with Karl

Nine executives responded angrily to a Sunday Telegraph news story about the future of the Today show.

This is the report that started the fuss:

Nine executives are formulating secret plans to poach Carrie Bickmore to co-host the Today program alongside former anchor Karl Stefanovic, reported News Corp’s Amy Harris on Sunday:

High-level talks between Bickmore, the golden girl of 10’s The Project, and Nine bosses are said to be well under way, with Bickmore believed to be considering an offer worth $1.5 million annually – a deal which would put her among Australia’s highest-paid TV stars.

The pair, described as the network’s “ultimate dream team”, would replace current hosts Deb Knight and Georgie Gardner.

Today is currently pulling in its lowest ratings in 25 years under Gardner and Knight and is consistently beaten by its Channel 7 rival Sunrise in every major city.

A Nine spokeswoman described the proposition as “fantasy”, but when asked if the present hosts’ jobs were safe for 2020, she declined to comment.

Not surprisingly 10 is believed to be desperate to hold on to Bickmore, who is popular with viewers.

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After the story was published, Nine’s executive producer of Today, Steve Burling, posted on social media:

The answer is NO Amy Harris! You were sued for defamation last week and now completely fabricating a story this week. What agenda sees you create such a fiction about Today?! I’m not sure which talent agent fed you this tidbit – but you’ve been used and played for a fool!

Nine then also released this statement from Darren Wick, Nine director of news and current affairs:

The story published by News Corporation in its Sunday newspapers and online stating as fact that Nine has approached Carrie Bickmore to join the Network is a lie.

Nine has not approached, and does not intend to approach, Carrie Bickmore or her representatives about joining Nine as a host of the Today show, nor in any other role.

Carrie is an outstanding broadcaster and an inspirational person. She’s terrific. But she does not factor in our plans for the future.

News Corp’s story is not a beat up – it is completely made up.

The reporter, Amy Harris, who wrote this lie was told yesterday by a Nine spokesperson that her allegation was incorrect. Yet, News Corporation has chosen to publish it regardless without corroborating sources or facts to support this fantasy. In fact, the story does not contain any sources on the record. And the anonymous sources it quotes will not stand up to scrutiny under any possible legal examination.

Anjali Rao blames lack of diversity in TV for death of her career

News anchor Anjali Rao has slammed Australian commercial TV’s lack of cultural diversity, claiming it has killed her media career, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Rao moved to Melbourne in 2012 after working at Sky News and Channel 5 in the UK and five years as a news anchor with CNN International.

In the seven years she has been here she has been unable to land a full-time role on a commercial network because, she says, of her accent and skin colour.

She says she was regularly told: “There is always SBS.”

Rao, 45, said: “I am Australian but because I don’t have an Aussie accent and also I am a woman of colour, it has been very hard, extremely hard, in this country for me. It basically killed my career.

“People like SBS and Channel 10 have been really good to me and I can’t thank them enough. But Australian TV, as we all know, is just not representative of the social make-up of this country. The people in charge do not care and they are quite open about it.”

While her media career has slowed, Rao has worked on SBS’s Dateline and appeared on The Project and Studio 10.

[Read the original]


Mel Doyle’s uncertain future at Seven: axe hangs over Sunday Night

Will Melissa Doyle survive the cost cutting begun at Seven last week under new CEO and broom James Warburton, asks News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

As news swept the industry on Friday that the axe had fallen on Seven’s head of sport and Tokyo Olympics’ supremo Saul Shtein, the industry held its breath for an announcement concerning Seven’s flagship public affairs program, Sunday Night.

The news program’s card was marked four months ago when its executive producer Hamish Thomson left the program following suspension for allegedly telling a female staffer, at a party, she was in need of a “good f**k”.

Along with Doyle, also attached to the show are reporters Angela Cox, Matt Doran, Steve Pennells, Denham Hitchcock and Alex Cullen as well as producers, plus camera and sound crew.

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Could Nine Entertainment force John Burns off air at 3AW?

Ross and John [at 3AW] are kings of [Melbourne] breakfast radio, reports News Corp’s Alice Coster. Every ratings survey sees the talk titans on top with more than 100 No.1 ratings.

So why is Burns’ name on the guillotine list, again?

Sydney top brass think Melbourne has been resting on its reputation for too long and needs to be more dynamic.

Radio’s a cutthroat game. Just look at Sydney’s bloodied landscape. Macquarie was happy to see the back of “shove a sock down her throat” Alan Jones. Nine chairman Peter Costello apparently owed him a favour and the favour was duly called in.

But Ray Hadley and Steve Price’s exorbitant new contracts had to be honoured, hence the salary shuffle taking place in the Harbour City.

Word is Price’s afternoon show may go national, across all markets, including Melbourne, which may be a problem for Denis Walter, whose baritone voice is starting to sound a shade shriller.

But Burns is a stayer and proves time and time again why people tune in. He tells it like it is. In a world of fluff and puff, the booze-lock blowing barrister is a golden goose. Melbourne listeners back the breakfast radio kings, although there is always speculation around Hamish McLachlan, Stephen Quartermain, Glenn Robbins and A Moveable Feast co-host Kate Stevenson as replacements.

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Court instructs 2GB producer Chris Bowen to undergo evaluation

The radio producer suing 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley over historic bullying and harassment allegations has been instructed by a court to submit to an evaluation by a psychiatrist nominated by Hadley’s legal team, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Chris Bowen, a panel operator at 2GB who worked for Hadley for 15 years, was instructed at a directions hearing in the District Court on Friday to submit to an examination by psychiatrist Dr Alex Apler next month and to present medical records before the court will decide if the high profile case will proceed.

Neither the plaintiff, Bowen, nor the defendant, Hadley, were in court for the matter.

Bowen’s legal team, led by top industry lawyer John Laxon, has until October 12 to present the records while Hadley’s team has until February 21 to file a final defence.

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John Singleton blasts ‘weak’ brands for pulling ads over Alan Jones

Macquarie Media shareholder and former adman John Singleton has lashed out at brands for pulling advertising from the radio network but says 2GB breakfast host Alan Jones also needs to be more careful in his commentar, reports The Australian’s Zoe Samios.

Singleton, who has revealed he will sell his share in the network to Nine Entertainment, said it was “lunacy” that advertisers had pulled out after being criticised by social media activist groups such as Mad F..king Witches and Sleeping Giants. “The advertisers themselves are so weak,” he said in an interview with The Australian. “They get an anonymous letter … and they fall for it.

“Alan said a couple of things that were expressed poorly. Haven’t we all? Three-and-a-half hours of live radio a day every day, five days a week – in Ray’s (Hadley) case seven days a week.”

Singleton said Jones had done a lot of good, but needed to be more careful about the comments he made. “Alan Jones has a strident temper, which can exaggerate the points he makes, but there is a change now where we all have to be more careful of what we say. We’ve got to be more careful because there is now pressure groups and they work whether we like it or not,” he said.

“You can’t criticise women, full stop. That’s the way it is. Jeez, he pays a massive price. But I guess that’s the price he pays for being so harsh in judging others.”

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Sports Media

Facebook deal slams NBL into the big time with live games weekly

The National Basketball League could soon earn more broadcast revenue outside Australia than from local sources after striking a deal with Facebook to show 52 matches live in the US during its 2019-20 season, reports The Australian’s John Stensholt.

The partnership with Facebook, to be announced on Monday, will see 52 NBL games featuring young American prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton streamed on Facebook Watch via the NBL Facebook page.

NBL owner Larry Kestelman said Facebook was paying a rights fee for the deal and, while he would not reveal the exact number, said it was “a significant amount”.

“This is part of our strategy of making the league the second-best in the world. As a result of that, it means we get more eyeballs from overseas watching the league, and there is a buzz about us now. So what that means is we think that it will not be long until we are generating more rights revenue from overseas than we do here.

“We are shown in 33 countries now, across various platforms, which we are very happy about.”

The deal covers 23 regular-season games (one per NBL round), finals and other highlights will be streamed in Australia and New Zealand on Facebook Watch as part of the new agreement.

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