By James Manning
New episodes of Top Gear return to Australian TV this week when Nine starts the engine of its newest multichannel, 9Rush.
Top Gear refreshed its hosts last year – Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness joining existing team member Chris Harris – and they have now been on air with their second season in the UK.
Nine has yet to show any of the two new seasons yet and will launch the new trio on 9Rush’s first night on air – Sunday April 5.
Flintoff told Mediaweek last month he has a “strange relationship” with Australia. Crowds used to love provoking the former England cricket captain during Ashes series. He later returned to Australia to play in the Big Bash League. Possibly the most success he had in a game in Australia though was in Network 10’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! which he won in 2015.
Motoring journalist and racing car driver Chris Harris is the Top Gear “veteran”, remaining from earlier series where the hosts included Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc. “I took all the pain in the reinvention, while the others just swanned in and took all the glory when we started doing well again,” he told Mediaweek with a grin. “They are not very modest about it either, claiming they made all the changes.
“But I can’t really argue about it can I? I am the one constant thing when it was shit. And now they have come along and it is good.”
He clarified quickly…“You know what? I am joking. There was always going to be a vacuum afterwards [when Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May left] and whoever took over in 2015-2016 was going to have a hell of a time.
“I remember signing up thinking this could be a bit tricky. And it was. If you look back, a lot of the content we made was much, much better than the public ever gave us credit for. They were just going to hate on it because it wasn’t Jeremy, James and Richard. For me I love working with Matt. He has become a good mate and we made some good films.”
Harris continued: “Credit to the BBC for persevering because it could have just strangled the thing, but now we are really flying. That’s largely because Freddie gets the lady’s vote as he is a bit of eye candy. And people think Paddy is funny…which is odd.”
Australian audiences will be least familiar with UK comedian and TV presenter Paddy McGuinness.
He told Mediaweek he has spent much of his life in and around cars and had his first driving lesson aged nine.
“I was involved in heavy plant machinery and driving big trucks. But when you get in a big truck with someone like Chris you realise you might need to brush up on a few things.”
Flintoff agreed: “When I was a kid I used to drive my dad’s car with mowers on the back to cut the grass at a cricket ground. Some of my earlier TV work has involved cars in particular drag racing. I too thought I was alright until I met Chris. I then realised I had some way to go.”
On the set even Harris relies on the work of a team of professional drivers. “They are important to help us with stuff because we want to stay safe. We are not about to fake the driving. In the past there has been some passing off. When you saw a great big slide and then it cuts to an interior shot of the presenter implying that was him. No it wasn’t, let’s not bullshit it was – we don’t want to go to that place.”
Harris emphasised Top Gear is now a more authentic product. “We are not going to pass people off doing things they actually can’t do. I can do certain things, and I think in a few years Freddie and Paddy will be able to as well. They need to be good enough drivers to do the job and they are more than good enough to do that. In the past we have had some people who weren’t.”
The basic Top Gear recipe has changed a little over various seasons. “But we are in a happy place now,” said Harris.
“There is a good blend of adventure with hyperbolic scenery when it can be almost like a travel show with cars. There is lots of humour and camaraderie. The review segment is quite stable and we will take one or two cars that are exciting, fast and quite expensive. Frankly people won’t watch a review of a 1.8L Ford Focus because it bores them.”
Flintoff said when he and McGuinness first started there was some nervousness. “Now people have more faith in us to go in, no script, and go on a road trip and see what happens.”
McGuinness: “The producers are already happy to leave us to it on some days. Around 90% of the dialogue you see is what we come up with when we are chatting.”
One highlight of recent episodes is when the show decided to have Flintoff bungee jump in a Rover Metro off the wall of a dam in Switzerland. “I had one bungee jumps before, but not in a car.”
The three hosts all realise the Top Gear brand is still very strong. Perhaps bigger than the stars of the show. “And that’s how it should be,” said Flintoff.
Harris: “The brand will always survive beyond the presenters. It is much bigger than us. Perhaps not Paddy…he is pretty famous!” [Laughs]
Harris has a background as a motoring journalist and he talked fondly about working for ACP and Bauer on Wheels and Motor, in particular working under a former Wheels editor: “Peter Robinson is my hero.” Harris also still produces some YouTube content and is hoping to do a bit more in 2020.
Flintoff is also a regular on Sky’s A League of Their Own quiz show. He also involved in property development too.
Harris interjected: “I don’t even have a house.”
Top Gear new season highlights
Chris: “Sitting inside a VW campervan on a roadside in Peru with Freddie eating a guinea pig as Paddy and I looked on thinking, he’s not the same as us.”
Paddy: “You do that much stuff it’s hard to pick one. There’s even some great stuff that didn’t make it on screen and we are talking about making a Top Gear Extra show.”
Freddy: “Probably the episode where Chris is racing an F35 fighter jet in a McLaren Speedtail.”
Top photo: Top Gear hosts Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Freddie Flintoff
The animated series about a family of Aussie heelers, produced by Brisbane-based Ludo Studio, was announced as the winner of the Kids: Preschool Award at the 8th International Emmy Kids ceremony in New York on 31 March. Bluey was the only Australian recipient of this year’s global children’s programming awards, the nominees for which spanned 15 countries.
Bluey is the most-watched program in the history of ABC iview, with series one surpassing 241 million program plays since its launch in 2018. Series 2 is screening on ABC KIDS everyday at 8am or catch up on episodes via the new ABC KIDS app.
Libbie Doherty, ABC head of children’s content, said the Emmy Award showed that outstanding Australian stories, characters and voices resonate with children the world over. “It’s no accident that these hilarious Aussie heelers are the most popular family in the country, nestling their way into the hearts and homes of people here and overseas,” she said.
“Congratulations to the wonderfully creative team at Ludo for bringing Bluey, Bingo, Chilli and Bandit to life with such humour and care. ABC Children’s is proud to broadcast Bluey for our young viewers, helping them laugh, dance and play everyday.”
Daley Pearson, executive producer Bluey and director, Ludo Studio, said: “We’re so proud of Joe Brumm and the whole gang of beautiful artists at Ludo. They’ve created a beautiful show celebrating one of the most important things: imagination and game play. Bluey‘s created a special connection to people around the world and it’s a real privilege to be creating the show under one roof in Brisbane with our friends.
“It’s also been a secret dream of ours to create a bit of an industry in Brisbane that competes with the world. We’ve spent the last few years laying the first bricks down with Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, the ABC and BBC Studios and we’re excited to see what’s next together.”
Charlie Aspinwall, executive producer Bluey, said: “We’re so excited. An Emmy win is incredible recognition for Joe Brumm and each and every one of the fantastic team at Ludo Studio. They’ve poured their hearts and souls into making Bluey the show that everyone loves and we’re just so proud of this achievement and how far we’ve come.”
Bluey is produced by Ludo Studio for ABC KIDS and is co-commissioned by ABC Children’s and BBC Studios. Financed in association with Screen Australia and Screen Queensland, Bluey is proudly 100% created, written, animated and post produced in Brisbane.
Education website Kids News is helping parents across Australia who has children at home without access to online learning from their school due to COVID-19. Kidsnews.com.au is now offering free daily lesson plans for at-home students during the disruption.
Each school day, qualified practicing teachers prepare a full day’s lesson plan on kidsnews.com.au with a mix of fun and educational content, all linked to the National Curriculum for Prep-Year 2, Years 3-4, Years 5-6 and Years 7-9.
The lesson plans are linked to the National Curriculum and focus on literacy, numeracy, wellbeing, fitness, health, the arts and to help maintain students’ day-to-day school routines.
The Kids News brand has also expanded to support Kids@Home in the Hibernation section of News Corp’s metropolitan and regional papers. HiberNation which launched last week, contains practical advice and tips to help Australians with their lives during this crisis, including providing parents with much needed educational news, games, activities, recipes, fitness fun and viewing guides for all ages.
Chairman of the Herald & Weekly Times and News Corp Australia’s Community Ambassador Penny Fowler said: “The website was launched in 2017 as part of our News in the Community program and what better way to help the community than to assist families with their education needs at a time like this.”
Kids News publisher Toni Hetherington said: “Educators and parents have found the at-home plans and resources provided by Kids News to be invaluable. Parents appreciate that it’s written in appropriate language for children and matches the curriculum needs for their child’s age and learning levels.”
Barrie Cassidy is returning to ABC News for the interview series, One Plus One with a special 8-part series to explore the concept of leadership
The series will revolve around intimate half-hour conversations with people from all walks of life who have shown what it takes to be a leader. Amongst the interviewees will be:
Charlie Magnuson – Bawley Point Rural Fire Brigade Captain
Justin Langer – Coach of the Australian Cricket Team
Sally Scales – Chair, APY Lands Executive Board Council
Dennis Richardson – Former Defense Secretary, DFAT Secretary, and Head of ASIO
Kate McClymont – Investigative Journalist
For the first episode on Thursday 9 April Charlie Magnuson, Captain of the Bawley Point Rural Fire Brigade will join Cassidy after steering his team through the recent fire season. Viewers will hear first-hand how he managed to handle the situation as things escalated, and what was required to keep him and his team safe.
The One Plus One: Leadership series will provide a chance for viewers to get a deeper understanding of the challenges, risks and difficult decisions that these remarkable Australians have taken.
Ticker is expanding live news and analysis programming, as Australian businesses deal with the changing landscape caused by the coronavirus crisis.
From Monday, Ticker will launch two extra live news programs a day, focusing on the business impact from coronavirus. Ticker Newsroom will broadcast live at 10 am as the market opens, and live at 2 pm weekdays, in addition to Ticker Today at 8 am.
Ticker Newsroom will feature the latest news for business owners, which goes beyond how the ASX is responding. We speak directly with the people impacted by the crisis, and those businesses inventing ways to overcome it.
Broadcaster Alana McLean will join Ticker as an anchor and will host Ticker Newsroom daily at 2pm. McLean has previously worked for some of Australia’s leading media companies including Seven West Media, Southern Cross Austereo and Grant Broadcasters.
McLean said: “I’m thrilled to be joining such an innovative media platform. During these uncertain times, I think our appetite for information has never been stronger.”
“Ticker has created a fresh voice in locally produced news and I look forward to being part of that conversation with our viewers.”
McLean will also handle Ticker’s social media news content, working alongside Ryan Jon who oversees the social media strategy.
Ticker CEO Ahron Young said: “Alana is a well established broadcaster who has been part of the Ticker family so she was the obvious choice for the role. Ticker is all about social media, so we are creating the role of Social Media Presenter.
“Live broadcasting is in our DNA and we want to be the voice of business and startups during this crucial period, no matter how or when they tune into Ticker content.”
In the coming weeks, Ticker is launching SEVEN new programs:
• Change Inc with David Banger.
• Spotee with Elio D’Amato
• All Founders with Christian Cunningham and Laura Racky
• The Trade Chick with Kiki Makrogiannis
• A brand new eCommerce program hosted by Scott Kilmartin – The Impossible with Tima Elhajj and Belinda Agnew
• The Frontline with Cate Schreck
Ticker Commercial Director Jed Bertalli said: “Ticker knows that business content goes well beyond the shareprice and market data. Everyday, we’re determined to tell the stories of real Australian businesses. Our increase in programs allows us to feature more voices, either directly or via public relation agencies.”
By Trent Thomas
In a mirror of last week Star Trek: Picard has topped the Digital Original charts in Australia and New Zealand while Brooklyn Nine-Nine has topped the Overall TV charts in both countries.
Both shows are currently airing overseas on US networks CBS and FOX but can be seen in Australia on Amazon (Picard) and SBS/Netflix (B99).
In a fairly quiet week on the charts, the most notable change is the entry of an iconic family, The Simpsons, which is currently airing its 31st season with the first episode being released in September of last year. The show is already renewed for a 32nd season which will include the show’s 700th episode.
The show has mostly kept the same formula over the years except for rare changes such as the death of Maude Flanders and the fewer appearances of Apu. The biggest change was the show moving to Disney after Fox’s sale in 2019. The Simpsons was one of the flagship programs for the launch of Disney + last year with 29 seasons available to Australians on the platform.
There is no Australian-made programs on the charts this week while the highest-ranking non-English speaking show is My Hero Academia which is third on the Australian Overall TV chart.
By James Manning
• Married at First Sight reunion dinner party hits the sweet spot
• Penultimate episode hits a series high with final ep now Sunday
• Dining table daggers push Nine to highest share since Aus Open
• Best of the rest: News, ACA, 7.30 & Foreign Correspondent
Nine recorded its best share since the men’s final at the Australian Open. Seven recovered after a tough Monday and 10 had a rare Tuesday misstep with share in single figures.
Tuesday news bulletins
Seven News 1,256,000/1,178,00
Nine News 1,231,000/1,165,000 (Highest weekday since 2017)
ABC News 966,000
A Current Affair 913,000
Nine News special COVID-19 759,000
Foreign Correspondent 676,000
The Latest 582,000
The Project 426,000/581,000
10 News First 521,000/333,000
Seven News at 4 273,000/295,000
ABC Late News 296,000
News Breakfast 258,000
Nine’s Afternoon News 243,000
The Drum 238,000
The Morning Show 220,000
SBS World News 209,000
Today Extra 193,000
Nine: A Current Affair was over 900,000 for a second consecutive night this week.
The reunion dinner party did big business for Nine as the penultimate episode of Married at First Sight. It was episode 35 and highlights included more mud-slinging and news that perhaps the only successful “marriage” partners Lizzie and Seb are moving in together. The episode pulled the biggest MAFS audience of the year – 1.317m.
Seven: After a shocker on Monday, the channel recovered with 10 feeling the heat. Seven News and Sunrise were the key timeslot leaders. After The Latest, which dipped below 600,000, Border Security was on 345,000 and then the 2016 movie Jack Reacher: Never Go Back did 401,000.
10: The channel was hurting with no Survivor as Monday’s 16.6% share dropped to 8.1%. Coronavirus: How to Isolate Yourself was on 304,000, hopefully not an indication of how many Australians think they are infected. How Clean is Your House? couldn’t find an audience at 8.30pm with 179,000 watching.
ABC: Eric Campbell reported on Singapore’s early success fighting COVID-19 which delivered Foreign Correspondent a big audience of 676,000. The second episode of Revelation then screened to 420,000.
SBS: The channel has started Great Canadian Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo last night travelling from Alaska to Vancouver. The series has launched with 282,000.
Marc Fennell did double duty last night, first stepping in for Jenny Brockie hosting Insight which did 163,000 and then co-host The Feed with Alice Matthews which did 107,000.
|ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY||2.4%||7TWO||2.1%||GO!||1.8%||10 Bold||3.0%||VICELAND||1.6%|
|ABC ME||0.5%||7mate||2.5%||GEM||3.9%||10 Peach||2.3%||Food Net||1.0%|
|SBS World Movies||0.8%|
|ABC||Seven Affiliates||Nine Affiliates||10 Affiliates||SBS|
|ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY||2.4%||7TWO||3.6%||GO!||3.0%||WIN Bold||3.9%||VICELAND||1.5%|
|ABC ME||0.6%||7mate||4.9%||GEM||4.7%||WIN Peach||2.1%||Food Net||0.6%|
|ABC NEWS||2.1%||7flix (Excl. Tas/WA)||1.3%||9Life||1.9%||Sky News on WIN||2.3%||NITV||0.1%|
|TUESDAY METRO ALL TV|
16-39 Top Five
18-49 Top Five
25-54 Top Five
Shares all people, 6pm-midnight, Overnight (Live and AsLive), Audience numbers FTA metro, Sub TV national
Source: OzTAM and Regional TAM 2018. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM
Foxtel has this week been contacting sports fans without a movies package to let them know they now have access to Foxtel’s full selection of movie channels and movies on demand until 30 June at no extra charge.
The details are:
Access to Foxtel’s 10 dedicated Movies channels – Movies Premiere, Movies Action, Movies Comedy, Movies Drama, Movies Romance, Movies Thriller, Movies Hits, Movies Greats, Movies Family and Movies Kids along with Movies Ultra HD.
Access also to Foxtel’s thousands of hours of movies on demand drawn from Foxtel’s movies catalogue of over 1,000 movies.
Foxtel also reminded those sports fans the sports channels are still being curated while major sports codes are on pause with a refreshed sports line up including archive specials, new documentaries, pop-up channels and live shows.
Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany told subscribers:
“We know nothing replaces live sport but we believe the combination of sports archive specials, new documentaries, pop-up channels and live shows together with access to all our movies is a real alternative.
“As Sport subscribers stay safe and settle in at home, we want to make sure they all get to experience the amazing depth and breadth of our movie offering.”
Foxtel’s continuing sport programming includes:
Live shows including Fox Footy Live, Fox League Live, The Late Show with Matty Johns plus new episodes of Bounce and The Fan.
The dedicated football channels are also hosting re-calls of some of the greatest AFL and NRL matches from the past across the weekend with live commentary.
Socialite Roxy Jacenko, the founder of one of Sydney’s most prominent public relations firms, Sweaty Betty PR, has lost 85 per cent of her multi-million dollar business in just three days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports News Corp’s Mibenge Nsenduluka.
Jacenko built the business from the ground up 16 years ago and told Confidential she’s devastated after having to let some of her staff go.
“We have been hit extremely hard, as at today 85 per cent of the Sweaty Betty PR business fell over within just 72 Hours off the back of COVID-19 seeing four extremely loyal and dedicated team members sadly lose their employment as a direct result,” she said.
“It’s been an extremely sad and surreal week for me as a small-business owner, when you watch something you have worked quite literally seven days a week for 24 hours a day tumble down in a matter of days with no certainty on when you will be able to exercise the plan on rebuilding.”
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo said Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with Covid-19, reports CNN’s Brian Stelter.
He is feeling well, and will continue to anchor his 9 p.m. program Cuomo Prime Time from his home.
“In these difficult times that seem to get more difficult and complicated by the day, I just found out that I am positive for coronavirus,” Cuomo wrote in a message on Twitter.
“I have been exposed to people in recent days who have subsequently tested positive and I had fevers, chills and shortness of breath,” he wrote. “I just hope I didn’t give it to the kids and Cristina. That would make me feel worse than this illness!”
Cuomo was most recently at CNN’s offices in the Hudson Yards neighbourhood of New York City last Friday. He anchored from his home on Monday, and interviewed his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The two men traded brotherly barbs about the anchorman’s basement live shot location.
Cuomo said Tuesday that he is “quarantined in my basement” and will “do my shows from here.”
Facebook announced yesterday it would invest US$100m to support the news industry – $25 million in emergency grant funding for local news through the Facebook Journalism Project, and $75 million in additional marketing spend to move money over to news organisations around the world.
Facebook VP of global news partnerships Campbell Brown said:
“Through the COVID-19 Community Network grant program, direct funding is helping journalists cover important stories when we all need them most. We’re building on this work and will direct a portion of these funds to publishers most in need in the hardest hit countries. The first round of these grants went to 50 local newsrooms in the US and Canada.”
“Local news organizations, especially hyper-local news organizations including those serving black and other underserved communities, have experienced challenges with the sustainability and distribution of news and information in the current media environment. COVID-19 has exacerbated an already existing crisis and our jobs have just gotten tougher. With such a sizable infusion from Facebook, local news organizations across the country will benefit as will our readers, our viewers and our listeners,” said Janis Ware, publisher of The Atlanta Voice.
Brown added: “This commitment builds upon $300 million Facebook committed already to serving journalists around the world through diverse and inclusive news programs and partnerships, including Report for America, the Pulitzer Center, the Community News Project and the Facebook Journalism Project’s Local News Accelerator training program.”
Free-to-air broadcasters have called on the government to relax quotas on local content as the ongoing impact of COVID-19 makes it harder to produce Australian television, report News Corp’s Jonathon Moran and Sally Coates.
Seven, Nine and 10 are unified in putting pressure on federal authorities to provide some relief after countless productions including The Bachelor and Home and Away have been shut down to prevent spread of the illness.
“We’ve flagged with the government that it is unlikely that we will meet regulatory requirements for local content this year and the next due to the impact of COVID-19 on our productions and sports broadcasts,” a spokeswoman for Channel 7 told Confidential. “Separately, it is more important than ever that the government moves forward with its content review, so all sectors of the industry have clarity and certainty about their regulatory obligations once we are on the other side of COVID-19.”
Studio audiences have been cut too on shows like Studio 10, The Project and Have You Been Paying Attention?
“We are committed to keeping our audiences entertained and connected in these challenging times,” a 10 spokeswoman said. “It is important to us that we ensure the continuity of employment for our production partners whenever possible.”
The Rugby League Players Association is expected to agree on Wednesday to an interim 75 per cent pay cut but has demanded an explanation from the NRL on how and when it intends to repay $10 million in redirected retirement funds, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Chammas and Adrian Proszenko.
The players are expected to agree to a basic deal on payment, which will guarantee them two months of wages over seven months, and will work through the details in the coming weeks.
It comes as the NRL accepted a loss of almost $75 million due to both Nine and Fox Sports being expected to not make their quarterly broadcast payments on Wednesday.
Rugby’s darkest day came with a resounding thud, leaving most of its workers unemployed for the next three months as the game faces a crippling $120 million loss in revenue this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, report News Corp’s Jamie Pandaram and Jim Tucker.
Around 140 staff members at Rugby Australia were left in shock after chief executive Raelene Castle announced on Tuesday that 75 per cent of them would be stood down from April 1 until June 30.
Castle read a prepared five-minute statement to her employees, then directed them to speak to their individual managers regarding their temporary job losses. Many of their questions could not be answered.
Soon followed the culls at Australia’s four Super Rugby franchises; nearly all employees either stood down, or given drastically reduced hours and wages.
Castle said if no Super Rugby or Test matches can be played this year, RA faces a “worst-case scenario” of $120 million in lost revenue. And there is no broadcast deal secured beyond this year.
Golf fans can settle in and enjoy a week-long celebration of The Masters, when Fox Sports presents a special pop-up channel commencing Monday, April 6 on Foxtel and Foxtel Now.
Coinciding with when the now postponed 2020 Masters tournament had been scheduled to be played, Fox Sports 503 will pay homage all week to the prestigious event staged at the famed Augusta National Golf Club.
Fox Sports’ Drummond Golf Masters Channel will feature Masters Official Films, a series of documentaries which look back on some of the greatest moments and biggest wins throughout Masters history, from Jack Nicklaus becoming the oldest winner to Greg Norman 1996 heartbreak and much, much more.
The channel tees off on Monday, April 6 focusing on the decade of the 90s before re-living all five of Tiger Woods’ Masters victories on Tiger Tuesday.
In a special treat for golf fans, the channel will re-live two of the greatest Masters victories with full replays scheduled from Thursday to Sunday of Australian Adam Scott’s maiden win in 2013 and Tiger Woods’ historic fifth Green Jacket victory in 2019.
Another highlight will be re-watching the traditional Par 3 Contests, featuring the greats of the game as well as special guests, with the past six years of the event to be aired across the week, many in prime time.