Mediaweek Roundup: Village Roadshow, The New Daily, Joe Aston + more

Village Roadshow

Twitter, YouTube, Universal Music Group, Kylie Minogue, AFTRS, and Fox Cricket

Business of Media

Backbenchers ask if Twitter and YouTube should pay media too

Coalition backbenchers have raised concerns about whether the government’s proposal to force Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news content is too narrow and should be broadened to include other platforms like Twitter and YouTube, reports The Australian’s Olivia Caisley.

A group of about 20 Coalition backbenchers signed-off on the final version of a new media bargaining code after receiving a private briefing by Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on Monday.

Attendees at Monday’s backbench committee meeting told The Australian the legislation included the public broadcasters – SBS and the ABC – and would have a compulsory arbitration mechanism to compensate media companies for their content used by the two tech giants. Facebook and Google will also be permitted to count the monetary worth of online readers they deliver to news websites in order to help calculate how much they owe.

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Village Roadshow takeover marks the end of an era

Village Roadshow’s lead independent director, Peter Tonagh, has capped a big year with the successful completion of the BGH Capital takeover of the cinema and theme park operator, reports The AFR’s Tony Boyd.

Tonagh’s success at Village comes less than six months after he was heavily involved in the rescue of AAP, the 85-year-old newswire. He was the public face of a successful takeover of AAP by a group of business people and philanthropists.

In the Village deal, Tonagh provided much-needed independent governance as the 66-year-old company founded by Roc Kirby moved into the ownership of private equity.

Tonagh, a former News Corp executive and former CEO of Foxtel, has witnessed plenty of disruption in his career. But he would never have seen an industry turned on its head in the space of nine months as happened with cinemas.

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Refreshed theme for Village parks after BGH takeover

Village Roadshow is planning a rejuvenation of its theme parks and cinema network after being taken over by private equity firm BGH Capital in a $586m deal that will see it taken off the Australian Securities Exchange, reports The Australian’s Ben Wilmot.

The takeover comes after years of infighting, and then peacemaking, among the founding Kirby family, which started receiving overtures from private equity suitors in the middle of last year before the pandemic struck.

Melbourne-based BGH, led by Ben Gray, knocked out rival bidder Pacific Equity Partners, but then slashed its own bid as the pandemic swept the globe. Investors revolted against its low-ball offer and forced it to sweeten it to get the deal done.

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Universal Music Group acquires Bob Dylan’s entire songwriting catalogue

Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), Universal Music Group’s, global music publishing division, has announced the acquisition of Bob Dylan‘s entire catalog of songs. This landmark agreement encompasses more than 600 copyrights spanning 60 years, from 1962’s cultural milestone Blowin’ In The Wind to this year’s epic Murder Most Foul.

UMPG Chairman & CEO Jody Gerson said, “To represent the body of work of one of the greatest songwriters of all time – whose cultural importance can’t be overstated – is both a privilege and a responsibility. The UMPG global team is honoured to be Bob Dylan’s publishing partner and I especially want to acknowledge Marc Cimino whose passion and perseverance were instrumental in bringing this opportunity to us. We look forward to working with Bob and the team in ensuring his artistry continues to reach and inspire generations of fans, recording artists and songwriters around the world.”

It has been estimated the deal is valued at as much as $400m.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said, “As someone who began his career in music publishing, it is with enormous pride that today we welcome Bob Dylan to the UMG family. It’s no secret that the art of songwriting is the fundamental key to all great music, nor is it a secret that Bob is one of the very greatest practitioners of that art. Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless—whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday. It is no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world. I have no doubt that decades, even centuries from now, the words and music of Bob Dylan will continue to be sung and played – and cherished – everywhere.”

UK music streaming startup backed by Kylie secures £13m funding

A British music streaming startup backed by Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams has secured multimillion-pound funding from investors including the former EMI chairman Guy Hands and the private equity firm Sun Capital, whose portfolio has included Pizza Express and Punch Taverns, reports The Guardian.

The investment puts the firm on track for a potential £200m flotation on London’s stock market.

Roxi touts itself as the world’s first “made for TV” music experience, offering products including karaoke and a 55m song catalogue, and is currently available on Sky’s Q service and Google’s Android TV.

Last month it announced Minogue as an investor in a three-year deal that includes fronting its advertising campaigns.

The funding round, the first to bring on an institutional investor, includes figures such as Henrik Holmark, the former finance chief at the music service Pandora, and Chris Wright, the founder of Chrysalis Records. Other backers include Lorna Tilbian, the chairman of Dowgate Capital and a former board member at the ad group M&C Saatchi, and Roxi’s chairman, Rupert Howell, a former senior executive at ITV and the publisher of the Mirror.

Existing investors include the McLaren Group founder, Ron Dennis, and Paul McGuinness, the former manager of U2.

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News Brands

AFR’s columnist Joe Aston defends calling businesswoman a cretin

A high-profile columnist at The Australian Financial Review has defended calling a businesswoman a cretin in a column at the centre of a Federal Court defamation suit and denied he was motivated to “push boundaries” to sell papers, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michaela Whitbourn.

Elaine Stead, former managing director of venture capital at the now-defunct fund manager Blue Sky Alternative Investments, is suing the Financial Review and its columnist Joe Aston over two columns in February and October 2019, the first of which labelled her a “cretin”.

The US-based Aston returned to Australia to give evidence in the proceedings on Monday and agreed he was fearless in his use of language. He disagreed he was shocking or offensive, preferring the term “colourful”.

Asked if he needed to push boundaries to sell papers, he responded: “No, it’s not an imperative of mine, no.”

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Elaine Stead defamation trial: I’m Joe Aston and she’s clearly a cretin

“You describe yourself as a columnist; what kind of columnist are you?” inquired Elaine Stead’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou SC, of Joe Aston.

“Not a very popular one,” he cheerfully replied.

It was a nice, light quip, one of several to punctuate the evidence being given at a Federal Court defamation trial involving The Australian Financial Review’s star columnist and the venture-capitalist, reports The Australian’s Caroline Overington.

Aston has come halfway around the world – he lives and works in Los Angeles these days – to defend what he says is his right to publish an honestly held opinion about Dr Stead, who says her reputation was irreparably damaged when Aston called her, among other things, stupid, and a cretin.

And yes, he told the court, he knows that’s a tautology.

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The New Daily loses $2.8m, Industry Super to inject fresh worker funds

The union-backed industry superannuation movement has pumped another $4 million of workers’ money into The New Daily as the media outlet’s losses widen, reports News Corp’s John Rolfe.

The site was $2.8m in the red in 2019-20 – believed to be its worst-ever result – bringing total deficits over the past four years to nearly $11m.

Revenue fell to just $225,000 last financial year while expenses increased to more than $3m.

The website’s financial performance is disclosed in the accounts of parent company Industry Super Holdings Pty Ltd (ISH), chaired by former ACTU boss and Labor federal cabinet minister Greg Combet.

Keeping The New Daily afloat since 2011 appears to have cost as much as $28m, although ISH wouldn’t give an exact figure.

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Television

AFTRS partners with producers/broadcasters for 2020 Graduate Program

• 2020 Partners ABC, Endemol Shine Australia, Fremantle Media, SBS and Sky News Australia

AFTRS has announced the five recipients of its expanded 2020 AFTRS Graduate Program, an industry partnership between AFTRS, Australia’s leading screen and broadcast school, and the ABC, Endemol Shine Australia, Fremantle Media, SBS and Sky News Australia.

The Graduate Program creates employment pathways for the most creative, skilled and motivated AFTRS graduates from the Bachelor of Arts (Screen). In a fiercely competitive industry, the program gives them exposure, training and a chance to experience roles in everything from development and production to marketing and programming during a 13-week paid engagement with a participating host organisation.

In 2020, five AFTRS graduates have secured places in the Graduate Program. Belinda Parry will join the ABC, Jaimie Conlon will join Endemol Shine, Grace Anderson will join Fremantle Media, Danielle Abou Karam has joined SBS, and Otto Khoo will join Sky News Australia’s Sydney bureau.

Nell Greenwood, AFTRS CEO, said: “AFTRS is so delighted with the expansion of the graduate program this year and the commitment and generosity of our partners. Internships are critical to building robust pipe-lines for Australian talent, and this program is an exciting opportunity for some of our most talented graduating students to hone their professional skills and creativity with the support of world-class production leaders.”

Previous host organisations supporting and fostering emerging talent from AFTRS have included Discovery Networks, Disney Channel, Foxtel, Fox Sports, TVSN, BBC Worldwide Australia, ESPN, Nickelodeon and Aurora Community Channel.

Photo: Top (L-R): Grace Anderson, Belinda Parry, Danielle Abou Karam; Bottom (L-R): Otto Khoo, Jaimie Conlon

Sports Media

Indian tour of Australia smashes more ratings records for Fox Cricket

Australia vs India T20I Game Two is now the most-watched cricket game ever on subscription television.

Australia’s second T20I vs India on Sunday night attracted an audience of 623,000.

With a live audience of 623,000 across all Foxtel platforms, the second Australia vs India T20I bettered previous record STV audience set just last weekend with Australia’s second ODI vs India. The opening two games of the T20I series are up 49% for total viewing, and 18% for TV only against the 2018 T20I series played on India’s 2018/19 Tour of Australia.

A consistent audience tuned in for Sunday’s game two with session one averaging 624,000 and session two averaging 622,000 across all Foxtel Group platforms.

Steve Crawley, executive director Fox Sports, said: “The summer of cricket is in full swing and we couldn’t be happier. After a cracker ODI series it went down to the wire last night, and our audiences are loving it.

“More white ball has proven to be a hit with the fans, and we’ve got plenty more cricket to come. Test team spots are up for grabs in the Australia A vs India A tour match this week, we’ve got one more T20 on Tuesday night, the Big Bash beginning on Thursday and the First Test on December 17 with a day-night game at Adelaide Oval – bring it on.”

India’s tour of Australia continues with the final T20I match on Tuesday from 6.30 pm AEDT, leading into Australia A v India day-night Tour match on December 11 and the first Test on December 17.

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