By Trent Thomas and James Manning
• Changes ahead for MAFS (In a bubble?!), Hamish & Andy, The Voice
• How Stan secured NBCU, plus plans for radio, publishing & 9Now
After Seven and James Warburton revealed the impact of Covid-19 on its business on Tuesday, it was the turn of Nine and Hugh Marks to open the financial year 2020 books yesterday.
Nine started this week with SVOD platform Stan revealing its content acquisition team had been working hard with news about an ambitious Stan Originals plan and then a major output deal secured with NBCU.
Stan had an impressive set of stats for the full year with revenue growth up 54% to $242m against costs of $211 leaving an impressive EBITDA of $31m.
Subscriber growth has ballooned to 2.2m, up something like 500,000 in the past six months. Marks was careful to tell the market not to be surprised if that growth rate slows a little.
This growth came during a time on intense SVOD competition, most recently with Foxtel’s Binge.
As to whether Stan had seen Binge on the radar, Marks told Mediaweek: “We have not noticed any impact from Binge on subscriber acquisition. Stan has continued to be reasonably consistent through their launch period.”
Marks said Stan will be looking at a possible price rise in the next year for its top tier, but noted: “The business is growing in revenue quite quickly so we want to ensure that we continue to provide a premium service to customers. We will continue to invest in content where it makes sense to drive subscriber growth. The business is in a good position with revenue growing much faster than costs.”
Part of the content in the Stan deal with NBCU comes from the US video platform Peacock which launched with AVOD and SVOD options. Stan successfully pitched it would be more profitable and less work for NBCU to have a broadcast partner for a market like Australia.
“At this point NBCU has decided not to launch Peacock here. I’ve been saying for a while that if you’re a content supplier into this market, your best and optimal use of that content is to sell it to a service like Stan.”
In terms of percentage gains, 9Now was another big mover in the group. Revenue is still small in the overall Nine portfolio, but it grew 32% YOY from $62m to $82m.
9Now is claiming a 50% share of commercial BVOD revenue over the full year, in contrast to Seven’s recent audience growth. Marks explained how that worked.
“9Now was dominated by Love Island in terms of total viewing, which we didn’t have this year. I acknowledge Seven is doing a bit better recently, which is great since it supports the market. But you will definitely see our numbers continuing to grow.”
Marks said Nine is able to “better monetise 9Now because it is able to achieve a higher price for inventory because we are able to sell a targeted proposition based on having a sign in which 7plus have been unable to do to this point. Those things all contribute to us getting a power ratio on our audience.”
Marks remains confident of a significant outcome from negotiations to be paid for the use of content by digital platforms. He said that is based on the support from the ACCC and informal discussions Nine has been having with the platforms.
“Monetisation is one issue, but another issue is that Google seem to me more interested in finding objections with things to do with disclosure of algorithm changes and sharing of data.
“We’re very focused on the commercialisation aspect of the code and I still feel positive that there will be a really good outcome for us sometime in this next six months.”
Nine is continuing with an aggressive cost our program that will see in the range of $230m in reduced group costs across a five year period ending in 2024.
With regard to radio, Marks said: “A lot of the cost work in radio has been done.”
Ahead for the business are the first survey results for the three new breakfast shows at 3AW, 2GB and 4BC. “It will be interesting to watch out for two things. What happened to the size of the total audience and what is the shape of that audience. Have we been successful in building what might be a better demographic profile? It’s not a nervous wait, we are certain we will get there, maybe not today. Our programs are in very good shape generally and people are delivering to the brief. It is a business we anticipate returning to much greater profitability.”
Marks said there was a much bigger ad load in the breakfast shows which will help the bottom line.
Marks used The Voice as an example of expensive TV programming yesterday. Does that mean it is under review? “Every program is under consideration in this environment.
“The Voice is three times the cost per hour of something like The Block and maybe double the cost of an hour of something like Married at First Sight.
“It’s a world at the moment where every efficiency gain is necessary to continue to drive profitability. These are just decisions that we’re going to have to continue to look at.”
Nine is confident that Covid-19 won’t stop Married at First Sight for 2021. “We have got a pretty good plan in place. It’s not due to start production until October. The casting process actually was a lot better by video than it was in person believe it or not. They have got a really good cast for next year. Plans are in place to film the show in a Covid-safe environment in places that we can.”
When asked if they would have to film in a bubble, Hugh replied: “A MAFS bubble, that is terrible to think about! There will be some extra costs in what we have to do, but they won’t be significant.”
There was no Travel Guides series this year with international travel off the agenda. “We still have a series of Travel Guides we have yet to screen,” said Marks.
“Hamish and Andy weren’t keen to do another international series of Perfect Holiday, those two boys are really interested in exploring new formats.”
A perennial question that Fairfax used to get and one that is now directed at Nine is about the future of print. But a look at the sector revenues answers the question with print ad and circulation revenue still outstripping digital, although the gap is closing. Print combined generated $249m versus $144m for digital with print costs no doubt higher than digital.
“There’s nothing on the agenda at the moment to change print. Digital subscriptions are continuing to come through, but we can have a print model for quite some time.”
Nine monitors its print audience and advertisers as to their love affair with print. How often do they ask them? Marks: “Constantly, constantly. Some people prefer print. I prefer print when I’ve got the time to do it because it’s a really good experience. A lot of that audience have the time to consume the print format and I think it has a strong future.”
• “Prime’s result for the 2020 financial year is a resilient result”
• Total revenue $163.7M, down 14.7% on the prior year
• EBITDA $20.3M, down 47.3% on the prior year
• Operating costs down $2.1M excluding one-off transaction costs of $1.5M and pre-AASB 16 Leases
• Statutory profit after tax of $6.6M, down 10.0% on prior year
• Net Profit after tax $6.0M down 64.8% on prior year
• Net operating cashflow up $6.4M or 28.6% on prior year
• Net cash of $17.1M
Prime Media Group released its financial results for the year ended 30 June 2020:
Prime Media Group net profit after tax for the 2020 financial year of $6.0M, declined $11.1M or 64.8% on the prior year. Prime’s statutory net profit after tax of $6.6M, declined $737K or 10.0% on the prior year.
Total revenue of $163.7M declined $28.2M or 14.7% in the prior year. Revenue from contracts with customers was materially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, declining $16.7M or 34.7% in the final quarter of this financial year compared to the same period last year. Revenue declines were recorded across national agency and local direct advertisers, as consumer sentiment weakened and advertiser categories such as retail, household furnishings and the motor vehicle sector declined.
During the financial year, the company achieved a market leading revenue share in the aggregated regional market of New South Wales and Victoria of 41.0%. Advertising revenue in the aggregated regional market of New South Wales and Victoria declined by 16.4% on the prior year, compared to the market, which declined 15.4% in the same period.
Cost of sales, including affiliation payments to the Seven Network under the program supply agreement, declined by $7.9M or 7.8% on the prior year. Affiliation payments made to the Seven Network are based on a percentage of gross advertising revenue.
Operating expenses declined $2.1M or 4.1% on the prior year, primarily due to a reduction in employee benefit expense of $2.6M. The company took steps in the final quarter of the year to mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic including key management agreeing to a temporary reduction in base salary from May to September 2020; forgoing short and long term incentives in respect of this financial year; Non-executive directors agreed a temporary reduction in director fees; a hiring freeze was enacted and employees whose duties were curtailed by the pandemic worked reduced work hours.
Prime CEO Ian Audsley said, “Prime’s result for the 2020 financial year is a resilient result in what has been an incredibly difficult and challenging year. Regional markets were impacted as early as October 2019 when the company reported the fires in Northern NSW. The second half of the financial year has been underlined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime’s second-largest advertising market of Regional Victoria is currently subject to Stage 4 lockdown. Prime’s staff in Melbourne and Regional Victoria, media buyers and regional advertisers have been directly affected by the lockdown.
Regional advertising markets remain subdued and difficult to forecast. We appear to have turned a corner from the peak declines experienced from April through June 2020, and advertiser briefs, while encouraging for July and August, remain below the same time last year.
A positive outcome for the year has been the repayment of debt and Prime’s net cash at 30 June of $17.2M. Prime has significantly improved its balance sheet and is positioned to explore revenue diversification opportunities.
Prime’s Board once again reviewed the company’s ongoing capital requirements and determined not to re-instate the dividend program in light of the continued uncertainty in regional advertising markets.”
Melbourne-based, Sentius has launched its new look Sentius Digital website to better showcase the agency’s full-service, in-house capabilities across digital strategy, digital marketing, content & media production, website design and development, and digital transformation.
The redesigned website comes ahead of the agency’s fifth birthday and features a depth of content and information that’s rarely found on agency websites in a bid to educate and inspire potential and existing clients, as well as demonstrate the team’s capabilities and successes.
“We reviewed an extensive selection of competitor websites and best practice web design and applied the learnings, along with our signature strategy-first model to create a more approachable and balanced site, featuring softer brand colours and lots of white space, to reflect our brand values and vision for the next five years,” CEO, Mark Fraser explained.
“Alongside our strategy first model what differentiates us from other digital agencies is our commitment to and ability to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. We support clients with refreshing their marketing plan and websites regularly, and I think it’s important we do the same and lead by example, to demonstrate the importance and benefits of keeping up to date with the latest technology and online offerings.”
Fraser says the new digital site has been a long time coming, held back by intense growth over the last year. “The new site will be updated regularly with success stories, case studies, blogs and news articles, to help position Sentius as a knowledgeable leader and disruptor in the saturated and competitive digital marketing space, and to continue supporting the agency’s strategic growth plan”.
Sydney based creative studio LightRise has created a new on-screen brand and motion system for streaming news platform Ticker.
Ahron Young founder and CEO said: “Right from the outset, LightRise understood our project and what we were trying to do. They understood both our creative and commercial objectives connecting them with our brand narrative and editorial values. Ticker is a new concept in Australian media and their advice and creativity has propelled us leaps and bounds ahead of where we were.”
The studio undertook a series of initial design sprints to determine a visual comfort factor before embarking on a deeper exploration into brand and on-screen information design. The aim was a balance between the gravitas of a traditional broadcast news brand and a more progressive, cross platform streaming service.
Amelia Peacocke, LightRise executive producer, “The collaborative style of working that Ahron and Tim championed allowed for an open and inspirational base to work from. This project showcases the strength of the LightRise offering – from breathing life into an initial idea… right up through to delivering a polished end product”
A bespoke visual ‘source code’ inspired by the Ticker logo anchors the motion language across both the on-screen brand and information design.
LightRise creative principal Gavain Browne “We seized the opportunity to collaborate with one of the most exciting and disruptive media ventures operating in Australia today. Ticker’s vision is exciting and to be able to work with them to help shape their rapid trajectory was a lot of fun. It was exactly the way we like to work, collab- orative, nimble and smart”.
Independent creative agency Showpony Advertising has won Round 2 of the 2021 Siren Awards for a powerful South Australian Government radio campaign designed to break the cycle of domestic violence.
Created by Andy Scott, Parris Mesidis and Rory Kennett-Lister, the campaign draws from actual accounts of victims and perpetrators, depicting real-life domestic abuse scenarios.
The campaign, titled “Break the Cycle”, was awarded overall and campaign winner of Round 2, and the 30-second ad “Break the Cycle – Intimidation” won the best single ad category.
“Home can be an unsafe place for some. And with the need for physical distancing and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, South Australian women and children experiencing domestic violence are at an increased risk. Our job was to create a campaign that would encourage men to identify their own abusive behaviour and utilise a new, dedicated 24/7 men’s domestic abuse website and hotline created by the State Government,” the winners said.
“A radio commercial needs to build an instant connection with the listener and hold them there by whatever means – humour, drama, intrigue. In this case we needed to create scenes the listener could step straight into with recognisable performances, relatable environments and confronting scenarios. These ads also offer hope, a way out.”
A second ad in the campaign, “Break the Cycle – Domestic Abuse”, won the craft category for sound studio Seeingsounds and sound engineer Scott Illingsworth.
A third ad in the series, titled “Break the Cycle – Technological Abuse”, was highly commended in the single category.
Joan Warner, chief executive officer of industry body Commercial Radio Australia, said: “The Break the Cycle campaign highlights just how powerful and authentic radio can be in directly delivering important messages and effecting change.”
The Siren Awards are run by Commercial Radio Australia to recognise outstanding radio advertising. The awards are judged across five rounds, plus a final call round. Round 3 of the 2021 Siren Awards is now open, with entries closing on 5 September 2020. The 2021 Gold Siren winner will be announced in May 2021.
Listen to the Round 2, 2021 winning ads here.
By Andrew Mercado
How brave were those early Aussie TV shows that were made with an eye to the international market? It was a huge risk and cost to shoot on film. And in colour too, years before colour TV even started here. Those gambles paid off though, with series like Skippy (Nine, 1967), The Rovers (10, 1969) and Barrier Reef (10, 1970) showing Australia to the world.
Another was Spyforce (Nine, 1971), a WWII drama starring Jack Thompson, Bill Hunter and Chips Rafferty. Spyforce is now moving to a regional network (Saturday on WIN Peach) because they don’t accept that Nine owns it, despite Nine having had broadcast rights, in perpetuity, since making the show.
That’s why Spyforce (and Skippy) have both been staples on Nine for nearly five decades. No Aussie show has ever been repeated more times on Australian TV than these two. In fact, there has never been a year when Spyforce and Skippy have not been on Nine.
How fascinating that WIN will screen a Nine series they don’t own but refuse to air anything from the Crawfords back catalogue they do own, which includes over 30 x Aussie TV classics like Homicide, Matlock Police and The Flying Doctors. <
Plate Of Origin (Sunday on Seven) wants you to believe that it is something new. It’s not. Former Masterchef judges Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston want you to think they left Ten because it was “simply a matter of timing”. Yeah, right. MKR’s Manu says his latest gig is like having “a new pair of shoes” which must mean he wore out his last pair running the fuck away from Pete Evans.
The only good thing to say about Plate (because Seven will get really upset if anyone calls it POO) is that it has a diverse cast, just like every other cooking show it steals ideas from. And how convenient that the first episode should be Australia vs China. Wow.
For a cooking show with a difference, check out Further Back In Time For Dinner (Tuesday on ABC) which goes back to the 1900’s, where a calf head gets boiled so the tongue can be used for a Federation celebration “mock turtle” soup. Eek.
Despite the offal, Further Back In Time For Dinner is delightful, thanks to the gorgeous Ferrone family and host Annabel Crabb. The BBC original has also had Christmas spin-offs and series that focus on ye olden workplaces, schools and corner shops. Yes to Australian versions of all, please.
Raised By Wolves (Thurs on FoxShowcase) sounds like it could be about Donald Jr, Eric and Tiffany Trump. Instead, it’s a big budget Ridley Scott sci-fi series, although it’s hard to figure out which is more far-fetched or dystopian these days, Raised By Wolves or the 2020 Republican Convention.
By Trent Thomas
• Gogglebox returns with 611,000 as The Bachelor gets
• Seven wins the night as AFL gets 501,000 as The Front Bar gets 337,000
Seven News 1,049,000/965,000
Nine News 898,000/846,000
ABC News 731,000
A Current Affair 625,000
The Project 303,000/458,000
10 News 363,000/207,000
The Latest 249,000
News Breakfast 159,000
The Drum 173,000
SBS World News 182,000
Seven: Seven’s Thursday Night Football lineup saw the channel win the night with a 20.0% primary share and 31.6% network share. Richmond Tigers v the West Coast Eagles had 501,000 viewers while it was followed by The Front Bar with 337,000.
Nine: 317,000 tuned in to see the South Sydney Rabbitohs upset the Parramatta Eels in the NRL as the football code was the #1 non news program in Sydney and Brisbane. Nine had a 17.2% primary share and 24.0% network share which was good for #2 for the night.
10: The Bachelor had 538,000 which was down on the 591,000 that it had last Thursday but was supported by Gogglebox which had 611,000 for its return as it also won all key demos. Gogglebox‘s season premier is down from its previous launch in February of this year which had 685,000. The one-two punch led 10 to a 13.9% primary share and 20.6% network share.
ABC: ABC had a primary share of 9.5% and a13.8% network share with its best performers being its news bulletin (731,000) and 7:30 (471,000).
SBS: SBS has continued to find more success with railway content this time with The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys being the top performer for the night. SBS had a 6.3% primary share and a 10.0% network share.
|ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY||2.0%||7TWO||4.6%||GO!||1.3%||10 Bold||4.3%||VICELAND||1.6%|
|ABC ME||0.6%||7mate||4.8%||GEM||2.0%||10 Peach||2.3%||Food Net||1.1%|
|9Rush||0.9%||SBS World Movies||0.9%|
|ABC||Seven Affiliates||Nine Affiliates||10 Affiliates||SBS|
|ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY||2.8%||7TWO||8.2%||GO!||1.4%||WIN Bold||5.2%||VICELAND||2.2%|
|ABC ME||0.8%||7mate||3.1%||GEM||3.2%||WIN Peach||2.8%||Food Net||0.6%|
|ABC NEWS||1.3%||7flix (Excl. Tas/WA)||2.7%||9Life||3.2%||Sky News on WIN||2.0%||NITV||0.1%|
|THURSDAY METRO ALL TV|
16 – 39
18 – 49
25 – 54
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
Nine Network is looking to dump some of its more pricey television shows such as The Voice and squeeze more sports rights savings as part of a cost-cutting drive, reports News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich.
With the free-to-air television market struggling in the wake of a double digit drop in advertising revenue during the coronavirus crisis, the broadcaster’s parent Nine Entertainment is focused on slashing costs.
On an investor call after Nine delivered full-year results on Thursday, chief executive Hugh Marks singled out its singing competition show The Voice, featuring singers Delta Goodrem and Boy George, saying it was a “$40m cost in the schedule”.
“As you go forward those shows just, you know, get a little bit more difficult to hold onto,” Marks said Thursday, adding that Nine is working through its TV program slate for the next couple of years.
Marks later told The Australian that Nine’s long-running renovation competition reality show The Block is “a third of the cost per hour of something like The Voice”, yet delivered an equivalent audience.
“If you look at news and current affairs, it delivers a higher audience than The Voice at significantly reduced cost,” he said.
Nine Entertainment Co boss Hugh Marks has pledged to drive a hard bargain in talks with the NRL over the extension of a key rights deal as he looks to trim more costs from the company’s core television business, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.
While Nine was able to secure a reduction in the amount it currently pays the NRL it did not extend its deal with the code beyond 2022.
“Everything needs to pay its way,” Marks said. “What we’d hope is that maybe we can lift NRL performance and maybe that will justify the price. But if it doesn’t perform for us, then everything has to pay its way. That’ll be part of the negotiations when they happen.”
Earnings at the company’s biggest segment, broadcast, which includes its television and radio operations, fell by 35 per cent to $197.3 million.
The volatile atmosphere around sports rights during the COVID-19 pandemic has taken another twist, with Nine arguing its deal to televise cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia is no longer valid because of the postponement of the tournament, reports SMH‘s Chris Barrett, Andrew Wu and Zoe Samios.
The news comes as a defiant Cricket Australia stood its ground in its high-stakes feud with free-to-air partner Seven West Media, adamant it will not follow in the footsteps of the country’s major football codes by reducing its broadcast riches.
Nine was to be the free-to-air broadcaster of the 16-nation men’s event in October and November but last month it was postponed until 2022.
The way Nine CEO Hugh Marks sees it, the television rights can’t simply be kicked down the road because of the unforeseen events that have pushed the Australian tournament back and led to the World Cup organising committee being disbanded. He has previously questioned the value of one-off sports events but indicated he was open to bidding again for the T20 World Cup in 2022.
“Our view is that the contract has been frustrated,” he said on Thursday as Nine announced its financial results for the past year. “We had a contract for an event held in October-November this year. That is not happening. That event has been cancelled and our contract has been frustrated.
“So we will talk to all relevant parties about those rights when they become available again but at this point there is no concrete details, so for the moment we are out.”
Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, said on Wednesday that he was resigning after the company came under sustained pressure from the Trump administration over its ties to China, reports the New York Times Mike Isaac.
In a note to employees, which was reviewed by The New York Times, Mayer said that a series of changes to TikTok’s structure prompted him to leave. The app, which is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance, has been ordered by the White House to sell its U.S. operations by mid-September. Mayer, 58, did not address the specific timing of his departure.
“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” he wrote in the email. “Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”
The leading caravan and touring magazine celebrates 50 years of publishing amid the backdrop of a changing industry which is set to be reshaped again post-COVID.
First published in 1970 and having produced over 600 issues, Caravan World has played a critical role in shaping the RV and camping industry in Australia with a loyal readership which has helped the title thrive in the toughest of times for publishing.
Retail sales and digital audiences for Caravan World have been strong through the COVID period with sell through rates at 50% (up from 39% for the last 12 months) and web traffic up 60%.
“The ability to continue publishing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is testament to the strength and value that the Caravan World brand has in the market,” Emprise Group CEO, Rob Gallagher commented.
While many other titles have gone into hibernation or closed over the past six months, the touring magazine is seeing some positive growth in reader numbers and advertising support coinciding with its birthday celebrations.
“It has been a tough time for businesses and consumers over this past year with bushfires, floods and now COVID. We have been buoyed by the support we have received from our industry partners and consumers who love the brand like their own,” Gallagher added.
“No doubt there is going to be some attrition or rationalisation within the caravan manufacturing market as businesses grapple with the financial impact of the pandemic, however, we see a positive future for the market and its consumers.”
“Some businesses will be looking over the precipice with trepidation, we are looking over the edge and seeing a booming domestic touring market and an energised manufacturing base. The brands might just look slightly different to what they do today.”
Published by content and marketing agency, Adventures Group Holdings (AGH), Caravan World will run a series of editorial focused on the changing shape of the industry over the past 50 years.
Gerry Ryan, founder of Jayco, commented, “When I first started, the only buyers were the holiday market. Then came the retiree market when people had the money to travel for long lengths of time and wanted to travel around Australia and wanted bigger caravans. Now in the last few years people are into the adventure market where they want to go off road and take loads of gear with them.”
“The issue is that the industry is so fragmented at the moment. You could be building a couple a week or bringing them in from China and putting a fridge in it and call it Australian made. The industry needs to make sure that the companies that do a great job are supported.”
CEO of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, Richard Barwick said, “On behalf of CMCA, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Caravan World on 50 years of publication. To reach such a milestone is such an achievement, especially in this environment.”
“CMCA members now have the opportunity to access the online version of the magazine as a part of its membership which has been very well received. The RV industry has evolved so much over the years and now it encompasses more lifestyle opportunities than ever before.”
“A big congratulations to Emprise Group on producing such an informative, professional publication which gives a fantastic recognition of the lifestyle available to consumers.”
Stuart Lamont, Chief Executive Officer of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia said, “The continuation of Australia’s love affair with caravanning shows no sign of slowing. In today’s digitally connected world there is nothing better than escaping from the troubles of the world and reconnecting physically with family and loved ones through a caravanning and camping experience in the great outdoors.”
“A big driver of the current success of the industry is the specialised industry publications which provide information and inspiration to those looking to go caravanning and camping. The fact that Caravan World is now celebrating its 50th Anniversary is testament to the enduring nature of the industry, and the relevance that our consumers place on Caravan World. Well done, and we look forward to the next 50 years.”
“Even though it’s a difficult time for both publishing and the caravan industry at present, heading up Caravan World during this anniversary year has been a real privilege,” said Caravan World Editor at Large John Ford.
“With overseas travel curtailed, caravanning is spearheading local travel in a way that we haven’t seen for decades. It’s important that our magazine continues to inform the new breed as well as long time owners with an authority backed by 50 years of know-how.”
Caravan World‘s 50th anniversary issue is on sale on the 3rd of September.
Rugby Australia boss Rob Clarke has hit back at accusations the code’s broadcast offering is a confused “show bag” of competitions as Nine refused to rule out bidding for the rights, reports SMH‘s Georgina Robinson.
With only a week to run before RA’s September 4 deadline for broadcast bids, Clarke retaliated against News Corp columnist Alan Jones‘s characterisation of the code’s proposal as “rubbish”, saying he had been encouraged by feedback from broadcasters.
“I’m more than happy for the rugby ‘show bag’ to be put to broadcast partners because, just like the Easter Show bags, it’s full of great goodies that people love and that’s what we’re putting in our show bag,” he said.
Clarke’s comments came as Nine chief executive Hugh Marks was cool about the free-to-air broadcaster’s appetite for rugby but did not rule out a tilt at the sport.
Foxtel and Optus are still considered the main contenders for the bulk of the sport’s 2021 offering, which includes a national club championship, a Super Rugby competition that will be a trans-Tasman or domestic affair, a Champions League-style ‘Super 8’ tournament to be played at the end of Super Rugby, Wallabies Tests and a State of Union series pitting Queensland against NSW.
Optus has made no public comment on its appetite for the game but industry sources suggested the telco had gone far enough down the road with Castle that it might be reluctant to throw away the work put into those negotiations. The code’s political stability and leadership will be under the microscope, as will the quality of its Super Rugby replacement and the ongoing impact of travel restrictions on Test fixtures next year.
Foxtel will still see rugby as key to stabilising its declining subscriber base but is under severe financial pressure and will be limited in what it can offer to pay.
Current free-to-air broadcast partner Ten is believed to be interested in renewing, and there are suggestions Seven could also be looking over the tender documents.
The game’s main challenge will be convincing potential partners of its value in an era where almost all networks are re-negotiating their rights deals at substantial discounts.