By James Manning
• 2Day breakfast in 2021, TV affiliation renewal, PodcastOne profits
Southern Cross Austereo chief executive Grant Blackley presented the FY2020 results yesterday. Like the financials of many businesses, and virtually all media companies, they make for sobering reading. On revenues of $540m the company made a profit after tax of $25.1m. Overall revenue plunged 18.2%, dropping as much as 50% toward the end of the financial year.
Grant Blackley spoke to Mediaweek yesterday morning about the result and a number of operational matters. We spoke before the release of the regional radio breakfast cull.
“April and May were expected to be the most impacted months because of Covid and they were. We have seen a recovery into June and further recovery into July and August is emerging similar to July. Outside of Melbourne, the rest of the country is performing well and compensating for the Melbourne lockdown. We are seeing a continuing positive recovery.”
“We have continued to see continued positive impact from Boomtown. We have been talking about this now for a few years, and before the Boomtown campaign, SCA in isolation was recording very solid numbers from national investment coming into the regions. There has been a four or five year trend of very positive growth of expenditure into regional markets. We have certainly seen that in radio and certainly it has increased progressively in TV as the Boomtown initiative came together.”
“We have a large set of talent working with SCA and we will continue to pay what we think is appropriate. We operate a return on investment model [with talent]. If we can see the benefit of particular talent performing in a certain market, and we have made recent changes on the Gold Coast and in Adelaide [with Lehmo at Hit 107], we will invest to achieve the right ratings and revenue result.”
“What we have said is we would take a year to have an all-music breakfast format to cleanse the breakfast slot. That would allow us to regear our branding and to regain the loyalty of our listeners. In so doing prepare it for a subsequent change. It is a little early to call anything for calendar year 2021, but we do think we will return to a host-led model at some point in the medium to longer term.”
“PodcastOne became cash flow positive in Q2 – September 2019 – and it is now an earnings contributor. We booked $4.6m in revenue across the course of the year, up 96%. Our instream (addressable) advertising grew 110%. Our digital assets are strengthening and perform well. We have increased the amount of podcast units we supply to the market. There is nearly an insatiable appetite for quality podcasts. In the next 12 months we will continue to see very strong growth across the platform.”
Blackley said PodcastOne looks after monetising SCA podcasts of its radio shows, something it didn’t do when the division originally launched. “In the early days PodcastOne was very focused on original content, but through the course of the last nine months we have transitioned all of the catch-up across to a centralised podcast sales model.”
“Melbourne represents about 12-13% of our group revenue. What we are seeing across a lot of markets across Australia is a very positive recovery. And we know that listening and consumption of on demand has been up during this year. The return of radio ratings surveys will underpin the value of audio across the board.”
“We read of Marty’s [Nova] departure with interest. I am not sure what Marty is doing. I’m sure in due course he will let us know.”
As to whether SCA might have been exploring any potential opportunities in the group for the departing Nova ratings machine, Blackley commented: “We talk to everyone all the time.”
“We have made more money for all of our TV partners. [In addition to Nine, SCA also has affiliation agreements for Seven in Tasmania and Seven and 10 in Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill]. Most importantly for Nine. In the next 12 months we will be renegotiating out terms for July 2021 onwards with Nine.”
Asked if his one-time business partner Hugh Marks is doing a good job at Nine, Blackley said: “Hugh continues to do a good job. He has brought that company together from its multiple assets into a very good business. I will be very interested watching next week Nine’s results.”
Regarding the Nine affiliation renewal, Blackley explained: “We have exclusive negotiation rights.”
Asked if SCA wanted to pay less and Nine wanted them to pay more, would Blackley settle for a renewal on existing terms, he replied: “On that note it is a good time to wrap up!”
By James Manning
Bendigo breakfast announcer Keeshia Pettit celebrates her birthday today. She certainly wasn’t expecting the birthday gift she got this week. Yesterday she and her temporary breakfast co-host at Hit 91.1 in Bendigo found out they would only be hosting one more breakfast show before the station became a relay station for the SCA brand.
They weren’t the only ones. SCA gave notice to the hosts of 19 regional breakfast shows around Australia they were no longer needed with all of them also hosting their final shows today.
Keeshia still celebrated her birthday with her Bendigo audience today. She has worked in radio for six years and commented on getting the bad news on social media:
Redundant. Adjective: not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous. You know, at the start of the second lock down I joked “well nothing could be as bad as the first lockdown” (I had a lottttt of shit going on), but today we got news that most of hit breakfast radio shows in the country have been made redundant. Tomorrow, I’ll be turning 27 and for the first time in my life I will be unemployed. I’m not really sure what to do or how to feel with the border closed and lockdown still going on. We will be on air tomorrow. We haven’t planned a thing so please jump on air with us if you’d like to. We’ll be giving away just about everything in the office. I’m determined enough to know that this won’t be my last time turning on the mic. I’m just not sure where or what the next “mics on” will be.
Near the end of the Bendigo show this morning, the content director at SCA Bendigo Leroy Brown came on air to farewell his breakfast radio superstar, wishing her well for her next gig.
Breakfast shows around the Hit Network went out with their heads held high, explaining to their listeners “an internal restructure” meant the shows were coming to an end.
Some of the shows we listened to this morning included Josiah and Herbie booming out across the Goulburn Valley, the Coff Coast’s Hit 105.5 with Ben, Mike and Gia in the Central West of NSW at Hit 105.9, and Krysti and Bodge as they farewelled their Fake News segment. What wasn’t fake news was the farewell to their audience.
Bronte and Sam hosted their final show reaching out across the Riverina with a defiant Queen with We Are The Champions after the 7am news at Hit 93.1. Also with one less local breakfast show is Australia’s biggest inland city, Toowoomba, where Nik and Beth went out with the help of radio royalty at Hit 100.7. Jamie Dunn was a guest on their show, telling his infamous story about Jamie Angel and the missing Weetbix!
In his final break, Hit 105.5’s Ben Stevenson was philosophical about his departure, pointing out he was only one of many suffering at present: “You can’t be bitter when you are dealt a crap hand.”
The final edition of Mount Gambier’s The Border Watch has been published today.
The black front cover of the newspaper had a special message for readers: Thank You.
This farewell from the newspaper on its final day:
“For decades employees were determined to not be the ‘first’ to miss an edition – current staff did not dare miss the last.
“That deep sense of pride in their work epitomises The Border Watch.
“It never has been about the individual or the brand.
“Each edition – and the mountain of work behind it – has always been for the community.
“We were here for you. Thank you for being here for us.”
The Border Watch 1861-2020
This was a message from the publishers about the closure released earlier this week:
For 159 years The Border Watch Newsgroup has been the voice of the Mount Gambier and district community, so much so it became known as the “Community Watchdog”.
During those 159 years it fought to protect society against any wrongdoing and look after the interests of its readers and local community.
It has always remained proudly locally-owned by firstly, the Laurie and Watson families and since 1977 it has been owned by the Scott family.
It has also had the distinction of operating for 159 years without missing an edition – that will no longer be the case.
Sadly, today, the Board of Directors of The Border Watch Pty Ltd, which includes The Border Watch, South Eastern Times (Millicent) and The Pennant (Penola) announce that these newspapers, along with Millicent Print and the company’s associated digital platforms will cease production as of Friday, August 21.
The 38 staff employed by the company were told of the decision today.
They will receive all redundancy, annual and long service entitlements.
Like regional newspapers in the United States and Europe over recent years Australia’s regional newspaper network has struggled in the past few years with many downsizing or closing.
The Border Watch Board of Directors said every effort had been made to keep the presses running.
“As currently experienced throughout the regional media industry the recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened the financial viability of TBW that was already severely impacted by declining advertising revenues and newspaper sales as well as increasing competition from a variety of digital media platforms.
“Taking these issues into consideration TBW has made the very difficult decision to close its operations.
“The company employs 38 staff and their loyalty during some difficult times in the past year is of the highest order and directors paid tribute to these talented, hard-working and in many cases, long-serving members of The Border Watch family.
“To our loyal readers and advertisers we say a big thank for your support over many years.
“Finally to our loyal and dedicated staff who have given so much to this company and its various media operations over so many years, we say a big thank you and our hearts go out to them and their families during this difficult time.
“Today is a sad day for everyone.”
102.9 Hot Tomato on the Gold Coast has confirmed that all national adverting sales for the Brisbane market will now be handled by The Radio Sales Network (TRSN) from September 2020 onwards.
Hot Tomato was purchased by Grant Broadcasters in December 2018, TRSN is the national sales division of Grant Broadcasters which currently handles the advertising sales for Hot Tomato in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Hot Tomato’s general manger Graham Miles praised the incumbent sales team, ARN Brisbane, for their excellent service. “Jamie Wood and all the team at ARN have done a fantastic job over the past 12 years and have never failed to promote Hot Tomato in the most positive ways in the Brisbane market. We have been part of the Grant Broadcasters family for over 18 months and the time is right for us now to consolidate our national agency sales representation under the one TRSN banner in all markets. Hot Tomato’s dedication to live and local shows resonates with the local Gold Coast community and we have been the most listened to radio station* on the Gold Coast for the past 2 years.”
This appointment completes a picture for TRSN’s head of sales Jeremy Simpson. “We have been servicing Hot Tomato for more than a decade via the other TRSN offices and we can now deliver the complete footprint of Queensland radio markets to Brisbane agencies as well. Combining Hot Tomato with our Ipswich and Sunshine Coast stations gives us a potential audience of over 1.4m people in the south east of Queensland alone.”
Felicity Smith and her team from TRSN Brisbane will be looking after Hot Tomato in the Brisbane market for all bookings and enquires from September 1 onwards.
*Source: Cumulative Audience Ppl 10+, GFK Research – Survey 3 2018, Survey 1-3 2019, Survey 1 2020.
Top Photo: Hot Tomato’s Galey, Emily Jade and Christo
By Andrew Mercado
A mammoth week of TV is coming and no, I am not talking about The Block (Sunday on Nine). An Aussie classic has been brilliantly rebooted in Halifax: Retribution (Tuesday on Nine), and drama double The Salisbury Poisonings and Hungry Ghosts (Monday to Thursday, SBS) is great event viewing next week.
Nine ruined Seachange when they brought it back last year, but they have redeemed themselves with Halifax: Retribution. The original Halifax f.p. (1994 – 2002) was a series of 21 standalone telemovies, but Retribution is superb and eight hours long. Having watched the first four hours, the quality never dips and the story never lags.
The original Halifax (9Now) is a who’s who of acting icons and this new series maintains that standard with Anthony LaPaglia, John Waters and Claudia Karvan. Jacqueline McKenzie reprises her original guest role from 1995, but it’s one of the only nods to the old days. This is Nine’s best Aussie drama since Doctor Doctor (2016) and they would be mad not to do another series.
Hungry Ghosts (Monday on SBS) draws heavily on Vietnamese mythology and the horror of war and the first episode is impressive. Bryan Brown, Justine Clarke and Ryan Corr star alongside Asian-Australians like Catherine Van-Davis, Lap Phan and Suzy Wrong.
The first episode sets up some spooky family dynamics and Susie Porter is a hoot when she starts daubing herself in blood. Being a ghost story, it might descend into silliness, but horror fans should lap it up while they wait for weekly episodes of HBO’s hot new scarefest Lovecraft Country (Foxtel).
To turn Hungry Ghosts into an event, SBS are screening it over four nights alongside a brilliant BBC true crime drama. The Salisbury Poisonings (Monday on SBS) is about the nerve agent attack on former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal in 2018. It’s a tense watch, with good performances from Anne-Marie Duff, Rafe Spall and Mark Addy.
The busy Mark Addy also stars in the addictive White House Farm (BBC First), another harrowing true crime drama about the murder-suicide of a family of five. Or was it? Great that Foxtel put up all episodes to binge online while it screens weekly on TV.
So that is a pretty long list of things to watch, but add to that the return of Gogglebox (Wednesday on Foxtel, Thursday 10) and Brad Pitt in something called Celebrity IOU (Monday on Nine). Not sure what that is but it doesn’t matter because it’s Brad Pitt.
And check out Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky (SBS On Demand), Steven Oliver’s wonderful take on the famous explorer. It was funny, moving and also hit some sweet musical moments spots. More like this please.
By James Manning
• No live footy, but Seven still wins Thursday with The Front Bar
• NRL blowout but Nine still #1 in Sydney and Brisbane
• SBS’s latest hit, you guessed it, Scenic Railway Journeys
Seven News 1,091,000/1,054,000
Nine News 969,000/945,000
ABC News 778,000
A Current Affair 739,000
The Project 306,000/548,000
10 News 362,000/249,000
The Latest 316,000
News Breakfast 220,000
The Drum 199,000
SBS World News 186,000
Seven: Ninety minutes of Home and Away followed the News with 510,000 watching after three nights over 600,000.
It was a footy-free Thursday again for Seven. Almost. The AFL quota was supplied by The Front Bar with guests Eddie Betts and Kevin Sheedy for the metro audience of 342,000 – 230,000 of them in Melbourne.
The 2019 movie Hidden Figures did 129,000 in Sydney and Brisbane.
Nine: A Current Affair held above 700,000 on 739,000 after audiences of in the high 700,000s to start the week.
Nine’s NRL Thursday featured the Eels easy victory over Melbourne Storm with 377,000 watching – 203,000 in Sydney and 107,000 in Brisbane.
10: The channel’s best was again an episode of The Bachelor which was on 591,000 after 604,000 on Thursday last week.
The Project was on 548,000 after a week of 550,000+ audiences on its first three nights.
The final of Celebrity Gogglebox USA then did 310,000.
ABC: The Heights did 204,000 at 8pm. Escape from the City was searching for property on the Central Coast for a young Melbourne couple and helped grow the channel’s audience to 331,000.
SBS: Another wonderful new series for train buffs with The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys with Bill Nighy providing the voiceover. The episode featured Norway by rail which turned out to be a fascinating trip from Oslo travelling north to cross the Arctic Circle. The audience of 362,000 pushed the episode well into the top 20.
|ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY||2.7%||7TWO||3.9%||GO!||1.4%||10 Bold||4.5%||VICELAND||1.3%|
|ABC ME||0.7%||7mate||3.7%||GEM||2.4%||10 Peach||2.3%||Food Net||0.9%|
|9Rush||1.0%||SBS World Movies||1.1%|
|ABC||Seven Affiliates||Nine Affiliates||10 Affiliates||SBS|
|ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY||2.7%||7TWO||7.0%||GO!||1.3%||WIN Bold||4.9%||VICELAND||1.7%|
|ABC ME||0.9%||7mate||3.9%||GEM||3.4%||WIN Peach||2.1%||Food Net||0.6%|
|ABC NEWS||1.5%||7flix (Excl. Tas/WA)||2.1%||9Life||2.9%||Sky News on WIN||2.2%||NITV||0.1%|
|THURSDAY 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
Domain chief executive Jason Pellegrino says property markets outside of Melbourne are improving and he expects listings volumes to bounce back quickly as various lockdown restrictions are lifted, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.
Pellegrino said up to the time of Melbourne’s lockdown, the city’s property market was performing better than Sydney with strong listings growth.
“It’s difficult to predict and we don’t want to crystal ball the outcome,” he said.
Domain reported a net loss of $227.7 million for 2019-20, largely related to $249.9 million worth of significant items, including the write-down on the value of goodwill, which generally covers elements such as brand, reputation and intellectual property, associated with Domain’s core digital business.
Excluding significant items, Domain reported a net profit of $22.2 million, down from $37.4 million in the prior corresponding period. Revenue was down 18.3 per cent to $280.4 million.
South Australia’s largest regional newspaper, The Border Watch, will cease publication on Friday after 159 years, reports The Advertiser’s Erin Jones.
The award-winning newspaper’s board of directors said the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly worsened the financial viability of Mount Gambier’s paper.
The company’s associated digital platforms and other newspapers, The South Eastern Times in Millicent, and The Pennant in Penola will also cease on Friday.
Thirty-eight staff are employed by the company and were only told of the decision yesterday. In a statement, the directors added that declining advertising revenues and sales, as well as increasing online competition, had contributed to the decision.
“To our loyal readers and advertisers we say a big thank for your support over many years,” the statement said.
“Finally to our loyal and dedicated staff who have given so much to this company and its various media operations over so many years, we say a big thank you and our hearts go out to them and their families during this difficult time.”
Founded in 1861, The Border Watch has remained locally-owned – first by the Laurie and Watson families and more recently the Scott family.
Allan Scott, the late trucking tycoon bought the paper in 1977 and ramped up its production to four-times-a-week.
Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin was shocked at the news. “It’s a travesty that we will no longer have this local media representation. The paper has provided our history over 100 plus years and we won’t have that record in the future,” she said.
Lawyers acting for former high-profile ABC journalist Emma Alberici have accused the broadcaster of kowtowing to personal complaints by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and senior ministers, alleging editorial managers had repeatedly tried to silence her reporting so as not to upset the government, reports The Australian’s Simon Benson.
In a legal letter sent in July to managing director David Anderson, obtained by The Australian, ABC news director Gaven Morris is accused of telling Alberici that the prime minister was constantly calling him to make complaints.
“Mr Morris has complained to our client that she is the cause of the ‘prime minister ringing him’ with complaints,” the legal letter from McArdle Legal says.
The Australian can reveal that Alberici has settled her dispute with the ABC after a protracted negotiation, which ended up in the Fair Work Commission, after she was targeted in a recent purge of 250 staff.
Her lawyer, Chris McArdle, said last night the “idea of a prime minister ringing an employee of the ABC is beyond precedent”.
ABC last night refuted the claims. “The allegation that former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull made a phone call to ABC director news Gaven Morris on any matter is incorrect,” a spokesman said. “The ABC has no further comment to make.”
News Corp columnist Miranda Devine has not responded to a defamation claim brought against her by nine-year-old Indigenous boy Quaden Bayles and did not brief a lawyer to attend court, the Federal Court has heard, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michaela Whitbourn.
Quaden, who has achondroplasia dwarfism, is suing Devine for defamation over a series of tweets from her Twitter account in February this year that raised questions about whether a viral video in which he cried after being bullied at school was “a scam” to make money.
At a preliminary hearing on Thursday, the family’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, told the Federal Court Devine “unfortunately” had not acknowledged the claim.
Quaden and Yarraka are also suing Nationwide News, the publisher of The Daily Telegraph, alleging the company is Devine’s employer and is responsible for the tweets.
Devine, a columnist at the Telegraph in Sydney, is on secondment at The New York Post. Legal questions arose on Thursday about the identity of Devine’s employer while she is working in the US.
Ashurst partner Robert Todd, acting solely for Nationwide News and not Devine, told the court the company’s position was that the tweets were “private” and unrelated to material it published.
He said he had not been instructed to accept service of legal documents on behalf of Devine.
The parties return to court at a later date.
Former SBS and CNN news anchor Anjali Rao has spoken out about the rejection and hurt of being told she was “too brown” for commercial TV, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.
Rao says the news industry refuses to embrace diversity and it reduced her to tears to realise she would never be accepted.
“I basically kept my trap shut for years because I knew that if I said anything the fear of the backlash is real,” Rao told the Herald Sun.
“Look at the make up of telly here and really, if you are diverse here you are a brunette and that’s what it comes down to.
“One particular head of news once told me, and this was not very long ago, that Australian audiences are not ready for Australians of colour to front news.
“The things I would get told to my face were so painful.
“I’m too different, too brown, got a funny name, too foreign, too risky, that my British accent will never work in this country. If that happened to me at the top of my game I cannot imagine how awful it is for Australians of colour who are just starting out or trying to.”
David Schwarz has opened up on his “devastating” sacking from SEN with co-host Mark Allen, accusing owner Craig Hutchison of “ruining the station” and driving down its ratings, report News Corp’s Jon Ralph and Glenn McFarlane.
Former Melbourne star Schwarz, who now works at 3AW radio, says he has not spoken to Crocmedia boss Hutchison since he and Allen lost their jobs in December 2017.
Allen and Schwarz abandoned a $1 million lawsuit because of former pro golfer Allen’s health battle as he successfully fought stage four cancer.
But Schwarz told the Herald Sun’s Sacked podcast a thriving and popular station had become a shadow of its former glory and that staff were “walking zombies” because of their workload.
“Hutchy came in and he bought into SEN or they merged (with Pacific Star Network) and we got our marching orders, which was devastating on many fronts, and then we went over to Macquarie Sport,” Schwarz told Sacked.
“We came off air at seven o’clock on the last day (of the year) and then we were told to get our stuff together and get out of the building, and that was by Cathy Thomas, who was the CEO at the time. She started crying and carrying on, but Hutchy had pulled the trigger. We were out.”
Sima Taparia claims to be Mumbai’s “top matchmaker”. Dubbed the “human Tinder”, she jets between India and the US, using her “biodata” – spreadsheets outlining her clients’ resumes and vital statistics – in a bid to help them find love, writes The Australian’s Rosemary Neill.
Taparia, known as Sima Aunty to her clients, is the patient, pragmatic yet often spectacularly politically incorrect star of Indian Matchmaking, a Netflix reality docuseries that is proving to be a surprise hit for the streaming giant, even as it has caused uproar.
In the series’ opening minutes, Taparia declares that in the matchmaking business, “in India, you have to see the caste, you have to see the height, you have to see the age”.
Released last month, the reality show has been heavily criticised for glossing over the “harsh realities of arranged marriages” (Elle magazine); being “cringe-worthy” (BBC) and indulging in “caste-ist glee” (The Atlantic).
It also has been accused of endorsing colourism (discrimination based on skin colour), sexism and focusing solely on upper-caste Hindus. Predictably, the controversy has served only to entrench the reality series’ popularity in India where, according to Bloomberg, Netflix previously struggled to attract eyeballs to its US-dominated programming.
For the past 10 years, among the nearly 500 steel poles outside ANZ Stadium which form an abstract art installation called “Games Memories”, an empty plinth has stood as a constant reminder of a crime which, to this day, remains unsolved, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Vince Rugari.
It was once home to a small fibreglass statue of Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat, the unofficial mascot who took the Sydney 2000 Olympics by storm.
At some point on the night of the 2010 NRL grand final between St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters, Fatso was stolen. The perpetrator has never been found and the plinth has been bare ever since.
For Fatso’s forefathers, “Rampaging” Roy Slaven and HG Nelson – or John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver – the mishandling of the case by NSW law enforcement remains a sore point.
As Roy and HG, Australia’s favourite fictional sports broadcasters, Doyle and Pickhaver have made long careers out of straddling the fine line between honouring Australia’s obsession with sport and ridiculing it.
The Dream with Roy and HG, which aired every night at 11pm during the 2000 Olympics, remains their undisputed peak – and their first hit, having spent the previous 15 years carving out their own niche on radio and television with mock calls of rugby league grand finals and State of Origin, and the cult variety show Club Buggery.