Monday February 12, 2024

Harold Mitchell
Industry remembers media industry legend Harold Mitchell after his passing at 81

Leading figures from across the industry have paid tribute to Mitchell.

Tributes are flowing for Australian media industry icon Harold Mitchell, who has died at the age of 81.

Mitchell founded the communications group Mitchell & Partners in 1976 before growing it into a behemoth in the media industry and creating a formidable reputation both locally and globally. Mitchell spent years rejecting acquisition deals from all the global holding companies before selling the agency to Britain’s Aegis Group in 2012 for $363 million.

He also founded the Harold Mitchell Foundation in 2000 and was a major contributor to the arts and Australian public life.

The Harold Mitchell Foundation confirmed his passing on February 10, stating he died “whilst recuperating from knee replacement surgery.”

“He was a wonderful man who helped so many. He will be sadly missed,” said the statement. 

During his career, Mitchell served as chairman of Free TV Australia from 2013 to 2018, where he was involved in the repeal of the media ownership laws, the removal of commercial television licence fees, the transition to digital-only television, defeating the proposal to increase SBS advertising time limits, and maintaining the anti-siphoning list.

He also worked on the boards of institutions, including the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Opera Australia, and Tennis Australia.

Mitchell was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the community through leadership and philanthropic endeavours in the fields of art, health, and education, and as a supporter of humanitarian aid in Timor-Leste and the indigenous community.

In 2020, he was fined $90,000 by The Federal Court for committing “serious” breaches of his duties while serving as a director on the board of Tennis Australia. Mitchell was penalised for feeding secret information to the Seven Network during negotiations in 2012 and 2013 for the Australian Open’s television broadcast rights.

Leading figures from across the industry have paid tribute to Mitchell.

Seven West Media managing director and chief executive James Warburton said, “Harold was a fierce, tough competitor and a true legend of the Australian media and advertising industry. He loved media. He was passionate about selling the impact and value of advertising. He was a great friend to the TV industry and many of us learnt a lot from him. Our deepest sympathies go to Harold’s family at this very sad time.”

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said, “Harold was a visionary and a leader in the media industry over many decades. He will also be remembered as a great philanthropist and supporter of the arts and sports. Harold was a doyen of the industry and a great friend over the 40 years we had known each other. He had a wonderful sense of humour and a was groundbreaker in the way media was monetised. I enjoyed his company, and he will be missed by us all.”

Atomic 212° chairman Barry O’Brien OAM said, “This is an incredibly sad day with the loss of Harold Mitchell. My sincere condolences to his family.

“Harold was a powerhouse of the media industry and the platform for many people to start their own agencies. I had the privilege of working with him for several years, and I saw first-hand his philosophy that everyone at the table had to win: the client, the media and his business. As such, he was a true wealth creator.

“Harold was also known for the amazing support he gave to many charities and institutions, all of which benefited from his wide range of connections.”

Free TV CEO Bridget Fair said, “Harold’s contributions to the industry cannot be overstated. During his time as Chairman of Free TV, he was pivotal in some of the most significant developments in the commercial television sector and delivered superb leadership and advice. He left a lasting and important legacy at Free TV, having significantly changed the industry for the better and contributing to the sustainability and growth of free-to-air television in his time as Chairman. Harold’s strategic insights and steadfast commitment to the industry’s best interests contributed significantly to its resilience and relevance in an evolving digital era.

“Speaking personally, I am devastated at Harold’s loss. He was an outstanding Chairman for Free TV as well as being a personal friend and mentor. It was a great privilege to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from a respected business leader of his calibre with such a deep understanding of commercial television and the wider industry landscape. He was generous with his knowledge, his energy and his time in furthering the interests of Free TV broadcasters,” said Fair.

Former 3AW Mornings host Neil Mitchell said, “I wouldn’t for a moment doubt his commitment to Melbourne.

“Whenever we disagreed, and we disagreed quite often, it was on a point of principle to do with the city. I remember they were going to have Japanese war drums in the forecourt of the Shrine of Remembrance, and I thought that was a very bad look, Japanese war drums at a war memorial.

“He and I had an aggressive on-air debate about it; my recollection is that he complained to management about me, and then we went to lunch and sorted it all out,” said Mitchell. 

On air on Monday morning, 3AW Breakfast host Russel Howcroft told listeners “You could argue I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for Harold,” remembering the long list of achievements that Mitchell recorded throughout his life. 

Danny Bass, CEO, media, dentsu, said, “Arriving in Australia in the late ‘90s, it was clear the industry was defined by three: Murdoch, Packer and Mitchell. Harold Mitchell was a titan who defined Australia’s media landscape for many decades and must be remembered in the pantheon of Australian media legends. He was a powerhouse of our industry and passionately believed in the power of advertising.

“Harold was a fierce competitor, a passionate Australian and a passionate Victorian. I worked with him both on media side and as a competitor and once he retired, he was very generous with his time with on me a number of occasions. Harold Mitchell’s legacy is one that is hard to capture in a few short sentences, but it is one that lives on in those who knew him and the industry he helped shape into a competitive force on the global stage. His passion for the arts and sports and efforts in philanthropy will also be remembered,” said Bass. 

Sophie Madden, CEO of the Media Federation of Australia, said, “Harold Mitchell has accurately been called the father of the media buying industry in Australia. From launching the first independent media buying company in the country to growing it into one of the biggest and most powerful agencies we’ve seen, he has had a profound impact on the industry and many people working in it today.

“I have fond memories of working for Mitchells in the very early days of my career, and I’m grateful for everything I learned there. Harold was passionate about promoting the value of our industry to the economy and the broader community and will be remembered as a true pioneer,” said Madden. 

Michael Stephenson, chief sales officer at Nine, said, ”Harold Mitchell was a passionate advocate for our industry and dedicated his professional career over many decades to improving and supporting it. We extend our condolences to his family and those close to him at this sad time.” 

Director of The Florey Institute in Melbourne – where Mitchell served as the chairman for eight years – Professor Trevor Kilpatrick said, “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Mitchell.

“He was hugely proud of The Florey and was a very generous philanthropic donor whose substantial donations have supported scientists to conduct world-leading research here in Melbourne.

On behalf of all at The Florey, I extend my heartfelt sympathies and condolences to Harold’s family and friends.”

Top Image: Harold Mitchell

Jase and Lauren
Radio battle ground: Ratings claim first breakfast victim before Survey 1, 2024 release

By James Manning 

Melbourne FM radio wars: Gold & Fox the incumbents, but focus now on Jase and Lauren v Kyle and Jackie.

Jase and Lauren have inadvertently triggered a blow-up in Melbourne radio with a move to Nova 100.

The former KIIS 101.1 breakfast co-host Jason Hawkins and his on-air partner Lauren Phillips were quietly going about their business last year hosting a radio show that ratings indicated was performing quite well. (It ended 2023 the #2 FM show in the market!)

Then bang – ARN revealed its plan to take over the Triple M Network. Part of that bold expansion was a plan to network Kyle and Jackie O outside Sydney. First into Melbourne, and then perhaps other markets too.

The Kyle and Jackie syndication plan is connected to the ARN-SCA takeover because SCA shareholders would receive ARN shares as part of payment for their stock. The performance of Kyle and Jackie O as a national breakfast brand is one of the things that impact the ARN share price.

With Kyle and Jackie O going into Victoria there was no need for the Jase and Lauren show on KIIS 101.1 Melbourne.

Jason Hawkins and Lauren Phillips were taken off air and available to talk to other potential employers. Or were they?

jase & lauren

Despite having a year left on his ARN contract, Jason Hawkins signed with Nova

Domino effect

Nova Entertainment’s announcement last Friday that Jase and Lauren would be joining the broadcaster to host Melbourne breakfast has set off a chain of events.

The biggest question surrounding the new signing is when Jase and Lauren will start at Nova. It was unusual there was no mention of a start date accompanying the trumpeting of their arrival at Nova 100.

There have been reports that ARN had let Jason Hawkins out of the remainder of his contract. It now appears that may not have been the case. Lawyers representing ARN are now thought to be involved after it became public on Friday who his next employer would be. There could be a non-compete that needs to be honoured.

Jase and Lauren did a secret photoshoot for Nova 100 earlier in the week.

As to when Ben, Liam and Belle learned of their fate, that happened shortly before their replacements were snapped in a Nova studio.

Surprisingly the trio are remaining on air until the start date is sorted.

Ben, Liam and Belle continue hosting Nova 100 breakfast, but for how long?

Why Nova pounced

Ratings. Radio is all about breakfast. Jase and Lauren had a Survey 8, 2023 breakfast share of 9.1%. Ben, Liam and Belle were on 5.0%. Jase and Lauren were looking for work.

Who pulled the plug on Ben, Liam and Belle?

After Survey 8, 2023 Mediaweek reported in its summary of the Melbourne radio market:

[Nova 100] needed to get back above 6% to end the year and the recovery did happen. Breakfast too needed a lift, but that didn’t happen. Share slipped to 5.0% which is a new low.

When interviewed about the Nova 100 end-of-year result, network program director Brendan Taylor admitted to Mediaweek: “We always knew it would take time bringing in Ben, Liam and Belle to what is the most competitive market in the country.”

That time has now run out with the show moving to an unusual 6-8pm timeslot.

While Taylor is the group program director, he works alongside former group PD Paul Jackson, who continues to consult to Nova after stepping away two years ago.

Jackson is thought to have been the person to break the news to Ben, Liam and Belle about their move.

One reason Ben, Liam and Belle have stayed with the station is that they are talented broadcasters. Another reason is that Nova has contracts with each that need to be fulfilled.

fitzy & wippa with Kate Ritchie

Fitzy & Wippa with Kate Ritchie lose their national 6pm daily Best Of package

Collateral damage: Smallzy, Fitzy & Wippa

Solving the breakfast problem has caused some other issues for Nova.

The very popular Smallzy’s Surgery loses its important first hour and is believed to now run for just two hours from 8-10pm.

An even bigger loss, perhaps, is the Best of Fitzy & Wippa with Kate Ritchie. That daily show, broadcast at 6pm weekdays, has been popular across the network.

It’s not yet clear what the existing drive team of Ricki-Lee, Tim and Joel think about Nova having a second drive show.

Long-term it would be very unusual to run “early” and “late” drive shows. Remember when there was testing of early and late breakfast shows? That didn’t last long.

What now for ARN, Kyle, and Jackie O?

If it wasn’t already, the ARN-Anchorage deal to acquire SCA is starting to look shaky. That’s not a widely held view, though, with many thinking it is virtually a done deal.

After nearly four months since the deal was first floated, Anchorage Capital has so far not shown any public indication it’s about to acquire seven or more metro FM licences. SCA and ARN have not updated the market about any progress toward a deal. SCA and ARN’s last ASX updates were both on December 19 when both warned: “There is no certainty a transaction will take place.”

Further news might be forthcoming this month when ARN gives their full-year results on February 22 and SCA its six-month figures on February 29.

The move of Jase and Lauren to Nova is a blow to KIIS breakfast networking ambitions. Ideally, Kyle and Jackie O would have started on air in Melbourne in January. Networking challenges apparently have kept them off air. Really? If ARN can network Will and Woody around Australia, surely Kyle and Jackie O’s entry into Melbourne should have been possible. Another delay was the Sydney show wanting to be networked from ARN’s new North Sydney facility.

It’s in ARN’s interests to keep Jase and Lauren off air as long as possible. Despite comments about it welcoming all competition, the last thing it needs is that show taking the KIIS audience across the dial to a new home especially before Kyle and Jackie start in that market.

The first radio ratings won’t be released by GfK until Thursday, March 14. It will be the start of a fascinating radio year. Grab the popcorn; it could be a wild ride.

Seven West Media
Seven West Media's The Nightly secures major advertising deal for launch

Seven West Media’s new evening online paper The Nightly aims to take on News Corp’s dominance.

Seven West Media‘s new evening online paper The Nightly, has secured a major advertising deal with Hancock Prospecting, the company owned by mining billionaire Gina Rinehart.

The publication, which is being led by editor-in-chief of West Australian Newspapers Anthony De Ceglie and headquartered in the offices of The West Australian, aims to take on the east-coast news titles with a national focus on politics, policy, business and culture.

The Nightly will publish a digital newspaper each evening as well as maintaining a news website. The publication will launch with advertising from Rinehart’s company, with the WA-based billionaire and Australia’s richest woman reportedly providing “some security for the publication’s launch in an increasingly challenged ad market,” according to reports in The Sydney Morning Herald

The publication has recruited a strong line-up of talent, including The Saturday Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph associate editor Sarah Blake as chief correspondent, and Daily Telegraph associate editor Matthew Quagliotto is also chief correspondent. 

The West Australian’s business editor Sarah-Jane Tasker is editor, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Dore, is a senior political columnist. The Australian’s investigative journalist Kristin Shorten, news.com.au culture writer Wenlei Ma, The West Australian’s chief of staff Kate Phillips and sports editor Ben McLellan are also part of the new team. 

The Nightly will target mainstream Australia and will also draw content from Seven’s news websites. It has reportedly secured deals with The New York Times and The Economist to republish content in its editions. The title aims to take on the dominance of the News Corp titles on Australia’s east coast.

The launch comes as news media continues to experience drops in advertising revenue; last week, News Corp reported a 9% decline in its Australian News Media advertising revenues caused by lower digital advertising and declining traffic to digital mastheads. 

See also: News Corp results Q2 2024: Australian News Media ad revenues dip 9%

Entain
Entain attempts to strike deal with the networks to reach free-to-air TV audiences

The move would give Entain the opportunity to break up Sky Racing’s monopoly on racing.

Entain has made efforts to reach free-to-air TV audiences through Nine, Seven and 10 in a bid to work-around the incoming ban on advertising in the wagering sector.
 
The Australian Financial Review reported Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes and Neds, was in talks with each of the commercial networks on whether they would sell space for a new place to watch the races.
 
The move would give Entain the opportunity to break up Sky Racing’s monopoly on racing, as well as broadcast to a bigger audience and promote gambling products.
 
Wagering and media industry insiders told the publication that the wagering giant offered $8 million to the networks to rent a channel, 10 was reportedly the closest to making a deal.

Although no agreement was made, insiders told AFR the betting giant was still keen on the deal. An Entain-operated racing channel would feature on TV alongside 9GO, 7mate or 10 Peach and would be based on the Racing.com channel model.

The Racing.com channel began as a partnership between the Seven Network and Racing Victoria in 2015. Seven ended its ownership of the channel in 2020 but struck a long-term commercial deal to show Australian thoroughbred racing live and free every Saturday.

online gambling

Last year, the Albanese Labor Government received the final report of the inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.
 
Australians spend the most in the world, per capita, on legal forms of gambling, losing $25 billion every year. Australians also lose the most money to online gambling, per capita, in the world.

The inquiry recommended a total ban on internet gambling ads, in media companies profit $300.5 million and $179 million of which goes to TV networks.

In response, Free TV  called for a measured response to the recommendations of the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in their inquiry into online gambling, and warned that gambling advertising bans will undermine the sustainability of commercial television services.

See also: Bridget Fair: Gambling ad ban would “hurt viewers and the television services they love”

Netflix expedia
Expedia inks advertising deal with Netflix as first global ad partner

Additional markets in the advertising partnership include the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Brazil.

Netflix has welcomed Expedia Group and its online travel agency, Expedia, as its first global advertising partner.

Expedia has activated a multi-market campaign on Netflix’s ad-supported plan throughout 2024 reinforcing the streaming giant’s multi-country advertising offering to advertisers and members, now reaching more than 23 million global monthly active users. 

This month, the collaboration begins in Japan as Expedia re-establishes its position with a significant national campaign.

Additional markets in the advertising partnership include the United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Brazil.

Expedia’s “Made to Travel” messaging was developed by an in-house creative team for each market. Netflix will air Expedia’s localised creative in each of the respective countries, with several launching through February.

The work will be delivered on Netflix through predominantly 60-second anthemic spots, featuring Expedia’s package price tracking tools. The film was directed by award-winning director Hiro Murai and produced in-house.

Amy Reinhard, Netflix’s president of advertising, said: “This first-of-its-kind partnership will offer our engaged ad-supported members contextually relevant ads, making the viewing experience even more enjoyable while also making Netflix a global destination for our advertising partners.”

Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Group, said that the brand is always looking for ways to innovative opportunities to showcase its brands and story-tell locally as global consumer habits rapidly evolve.

“Netflix’s sophisticated product allows us to target relevant audiences with impressive reach. We aren’t afraid to be first, and I look at this partnership as just the beginning.”

The global partnership between Netflix and Expedia comes after the streaming service’s agreement with AGL Energy in Australia.

In January, Netflix announced a partnership deal with AGL Energy, which gives the energy company’s customers access to Netflix Standard with Ads. 

The move aims to add value for customers while improving efficiencies by offering two services in one bill. It also serves as a technique to minimise churn, with consumers less likely to cancel the subscription once it is integrated into another plan. 

See also: Netflix signals more local partnership deals as it readies to battle for market share

The Brag Media - Luke Girgis CEO
How The Brag Media's $8m sale came together and what's next

By Trent Thomas 

The Brag Media’s Luke Girgis explains why he decided to sell 100% of the business.

Last year when many media pundits thought the year was over, The Brag Media dropped one of the biggest bombshells of the year by selling to the Vinyl Group

See also: Luke Girgis sells The Brag Media to ASX-listed Vinyl Group for up to $10m

The ASX-listed company paid $8m in cash to acquire 100% of The Brag Media and its subsidiaries, with a further $2m payable in cash or stock based on financial performance.

A statement accompanying the sale announcement revealed the unaudited financial year 2023 results saw The Brag Media generate $8.39m in revenues with a net profit of $334,824. The indicative combined Vinyl Group revenue as of June 30, 2023, would have been $9 million. Following the announcement, The Vinyl Group’s stock price has been up by as much as 40%. 

Vinyl Group, which rebranded from Jaxsta in December, also announced a second round of investment by WiseTech Global CEO & founder Richard White by way of an $11m placement and debt facility.

As part of the deal, The Brag Media Founder and CEO Luke Girgis entered into a full-time employment agreement with the company as publisher and managing director of The Brag Media. 

Speaking on the deal, Girgis said that despite the six months of negotiations that took place, he continued to operate like the deal wasn’t going to happen, which he stated can be seen in the company’s financial results. 

“It was a hard deal, for sure. All deals like this aren’t going to be easy to pull off, but we got there in the end. That’s a huge credit to Josh Simons (Vinnyl Group CEO), who never gave up on the deal, even when it looked like it was dead a number of times. I always say that the deal wouldn’t have happened without his enthusiasm and his hard work. I always ran the business and assumed mentally that the deal wasn’t going to happen. I never set myself up emotionally or operationally that we were selling. I was always operating like we weren’t.

“That resulted in us making a lot less profit last year intentionally because we invested for this year. We invested a lot of money last year, which chewed up our EBIT intentionally because we want to set ourselves up for 2024 and 2025. If I was operating the business like I was selling, I wouldn’t have made those decisions, and I would have made as much profit as I could because that might have made the deal even richer. Emotionally, there was no real change for me, because I wasn’t assuming the deal was gonna go ahead.”

Girgis revealed to Mediaweek that when he first reached out to Vinyl Group CEO Josh Simons, he wasn’t actually planning to sell 100% of the business.

“I didn’t go to them to sell, I went to them to see if they wanted to buy equity from my business partner (Sam Benjimen). Sam was the co-founder and started the business with me. He’s got a long history of building companies from scratch and then they get to a level where he kind of gets disinterested and wants to build the next company. He then sells them and he’s done some really massive exits in his history a lot bigger than this deal.”

When discussing the deal, Girgis revealed that he later found out that it was Simon’s first day as Vinyl Group CEO when he approached him about the eventual sale, which was a big first day on the job for Simon as he proceeded to negotiate the biggest deal in his company’s history. 

“From there, I was able to meet the biggest shareholders and the board,” said Girgis. “They were all super successful, smart, inspiring people and the kind of people I want to be around. I got excited about the deal after that. It was then a six-month negotiation and getting-to-know-each-other period. We then agreed to terms right before Christmas.”

When asked about what made him pivot from just selling some of his business partners’ share in the business to agreeing to a 100% sale, Girgis said the deal best set him up to achieve his global ambitions for the company.

“The thing that excited me the most is that our ambitions were aligned. My ambitions are far greater than being a small domestic publisher. I have global ambitions, and I have ambitions to grow The Brag Media in a lot bigger way. That’s reflected in our growth, we are much bigger now than we were two years ago. I want to keep that growth, I want to keep really aggressive growth. Their ambitions are aligned on that, and they have a public vehicle and other assets that will really help achieve that. That’s what got us excited and that’s why we ended up doing the deal.”

When speaking about Sam Benjimen’s exit from the business (who recently acquired food delivery service Providoor), Girgis called him his best mate and said that it was time for Benjimen to exit the business because there was one major problem, there weren’t enough problems.

“I could tell he was focused on his next business and he was working really hard on that. I could just sense that he was ready to work on something new. So I asked him ‘do you want me to try and see if I can get someone to buy some of your equity’. That was the conversation, it didn’t actually start with an acquisition at all.

“When a business is profitable and growing pretty consistently, and there’s no issues, that’s the moment he gets bored. He’s a fucking weapon when things are going wrong, and he gets really in there. He’s just so inspiring and creative in the way he runs companies, but once things are good he goes and finds the next problem.”

No alternative text description for this image

The Brag Media team at the Next of the Best Awards, with Luke Girgis front centre and Sam Benjamen to his right

 

When asked what he thought the motivation was for the Vinyl Group to acquire The Brag Media, Girgis said that it was aligned ambitions and the power of The Brag Media’s portfolio. 

“We can really help their assets. We’ve got quite a big media business with quite big ambitions. As we execute those ambitions and leverage the assets we already have, we can really support their other assets. We’re going to be a huge engine and flywheel for their tech company.

Girgis has always been one of the most open and candid CEO’s in the Australian media industry, and when asked about how he is finding life at a publicly traded company, he said he hasn’t noticed a change yet.

“I don’t know. I feel like I’m still myself. The full five weeks we’ve been in the business, everything that I’ve wanted to do, I’ve been doing. I don’t see a change yet but to be honest, that is probably a big credit to Josh (Simons) because Josh handles all the bullshit that I don’t understand. He’s doing a really good job at that. I think we can continue to operate at the pace we are because Josh is doing all the public-facing CEO work that a publicly listed company needs to do.”

federal government
Federal government master media account is up for tender after six years with UM

The federal government’s master media account is worth between $150 to $240 million.

The federal government master media account, worth between $150 to $240 million, is up for tender after six years with UM.

The Mediabrands agency has managed the government’s buying, planning and strategy since 2018. In 2021, UM was successful in retaining the major account, extending it for another three years until June 2024.

The master media account will be responsible for the placement of all advertising under the Central Advertising System – the coordinated procurement arrangement for government advertising that consolidates expenditure and buying power to secure optimal media rates. The Central Advertising System is administered by the Department of Finance.

This includes campaign (communication activities designed to inform, educate, motivate or change behaviour), non-campaign (recruitments, public notices, tender notices) and complex non-campaign (a series of recruitment or public notice advertising, generally to support an ongoing program or initiative).

UM initially won the federal government master media account back in 2002 and held it until 2014, when Denstu Mitchell (now dentsu X) won the account. Then, after four years, the Mediabrands agency successfully took back the account.

The timeframe of the account will be from 1 July 2024 to 30 June 2028, with options to extend up to four years. The tender will close on March 14.

UM declined to comment to Mediaweek.

UM Canberra is currently the media agency of record for the ACT Government, effective as of March 2023

See also: UM Canberra appointed as media agency of record for ACT Government account

OMD won the $100 million Victorian government master media account in 2021, which was followed by the $70 million NSW government in 2022.

EssenceMediacom (then Mediacom) has held the $60 million Queensland government media account since 2004. 

The South Australia government media account, worth between $40 to $50 million, is shared by Wavemaker Adelaide and Carat Adelaide retained the account which they have held since 2010. 

While last year, independent media agency Atomic 212° was reappointed to the Northern Territory Government and Tourism Northern Territory media services accounts, valued at $10 million.

See also: Atomic 212° is reappointed to NT Government and Tourism NT’s media services accounts

Mark Ferguson
Diary of a TV newsreader: Seven’s Mark Ferguson celebrates a media milestone

By James Manning

Fergo on good fortune, correspondent envy, influential colleagues, news desk secrets, studio robots.

Seven’s Sydney 6pm newsreader Mark Ferguson this week is quietly celebrating 40 years in the news business.

Never one to miss an opportunity, the Seven PR team has invited some of the media to the Festival of Fergo. Mediaweek was offered the chance to spend an afternoon with the newsreader at Seven HQ.

Ferguson has a key role at Seven News Sydney, presenting the highest-rating hour of the day. It’s a timeslot that attracts a premium for advertisers. In the new world of TV ratings, we can’t report on how the numbers fall in Sydney. What we do know though is that Seven News is the clear leader nationally with a weeknight reach of around 2m. It easily wins the 6pm hour. The only other program with a bigger reach is Married at First Sight.

We do know that Nine News won the year in Sydney in 2023. But Seven was closing the gap.

Mark Ferguson started in news on regional TV at NEN9 in 1984. He admitted to Mediaweek that a career in media wasn’t his initial plan.

Mark Ferguson aged 18 at NEN9 Tamworth

Ferguson fancied himself as a country vet, maybe in his hometown of Tamworth. That plan was stopped in its tracks by a careers adviser who, after looking at his physics, chemistry and maths marks, told him: “No you’re not.”

Journalism was next on the list, but there was never a plan.

“I have been making it up as I go along since day one,” he grinned.

“Initially I had planned a communications course, but a cadetship came up at the local station. Then I started as a 17-year-old cub journalist in Tamworth. I was very fortunate to get that opportunity and I feel like I’ve been lucky ever since.

Back then one of Ferguson’s Tamworth colleagues was Seven’s new Sydney news boss Neil Warren. Another Tamworth local in that newsroom was Seven’s Morning Show co-host Kylie Gillies.

The young Ferguson didn’t have to wait long until his first on-air stint. “Not much more than a week.” His first assignment – interviewing then-local member Ian Sinclair. “I was panic-stricken, and I still had a lot to learn.”

His good fortune is a recurring message he shares often during the interview. “I don’t look back much of the time. This anniversary though has made me reflect more than usual.

“The overall feeling is just how fortunate I’ve been to go on the journey I had. I’ve been to far-flung corners of the world, covered some pretty big events and met a lot of interesting characters.”

Reporting in Sydney in 2015

Correspondent envy

As we sat halfway up an office tower in a room with no view, I asked if Ferguson missed being out of the office. “Yes, I do.” He offered. “I get correspondent envy quite a bit. Especially when I am crossing to a reporter overseas or presenting a nice colour piece.”

Although he didn’t have an initial plan, after he started, he told Mediaweek: “Being a foreign correspondent was always something I aspired to.

“There was one person who stood out for me and that was Robert Penfold. Leigh Hatcher was another one. I used to see them in their big trench coats outside Buckingham Palace.”

When Nine gave Ferguson his chance overseas he replaced Penfold. “His wonderful run in Europe was coming to an end and I went over and got to spend a bit of time with him for the first month.”

The beat then for the London-based reporter also covered Europe, Africa and the Middle East. “There were different workloads during my time. I look at Hugh Whitfeld and his colleagues and they are flat out churning out content on sometimes limited resources. The news cycle can be punishing for a foreign correspondent.”

Influential colleagues

Ferguson shared the names of just some of the key people he worked with over the years.

Robin Barlow my first boss in Tamworth after offering me my first job.

Larry Somerton was my first cap city news director at Seven in Brisbane. He took a real punt on a raw, country-sounding sort of kid.

“Other wonderful people I have worked under include that late news director Ian Cook. Peter Meakin was also very supportive of me over a long period.

David Leckie the same, as was David Gyngell. One that really does stand out is Ian Ross. He was a wonderful guy and a terrific newsreader.

“Media can be a very competitive business and not everybody wants the young bloke to come through. Ian Ross helped me into newsreading and he spent some time with me. He gave me some wonderful advice that helped me along.”

Newsreader musical chairs

Ferguson remembered back to the time when he was reading the National Nine News and his former colleague Ross was reading the news for Seven. “He was doing better than I was, but he was still in touch telling me I was doing a great job. I have very fond memories of what he did to help me through.”

Ross said he still has friends at Nine. “I still bump into Damian Ryan every now and then. Mark Burrows too.”

Festival of Fergo

Features this week The Daily Telegraph and Woman’s Day

Newsreader popularity

3AW’s Ross Stevenson told a story recently about how Nine did phone research once into who should replace newsreader Brian Naylor in Melbourne.

Ferguson understands the value of research to make sure a channel has the right talent.

We used to have Q-scores. They would often also be research sessions where viewers are asked about a newsreader’s strengths and weaknesses.

“The daily ratings too are there to pass judgement. From my point of view each and every day I do what I can to make the bulletin shine.

“We have a great team and put out a really good product.”

Changing channels

Ferguson recalled when he left Nine for Seven close to 15 years ago. “Money didn’t come into it. I had sat in the main chair at Nine and sadly that didn’t last. I didn’t want to take a step back, I wanted to keep moving forward.

“Having had the support of David Leckie and Peter Meakin, who were now at Seven, and knowing Ian Ross was stepping down, that’s what got me across the line.”

Ferguson said he’s very happy where he is with no thoughts of moving again. “I think this might be my last stop on the train,” he admitted.

About what eventually might be next, Ferguson said: “As a young bloke from Tamworth, one day I’d like to spend a little more time in the country, but that’s a long way off for me.”

Mark Ferguson’s daily diary

Apart from four weeks of annual leave each summer, Ferguson likes to stay in touch with the news daily. “I still read four printed newspapers each day.” He’ll watch Sunrise and The Morning Show, also consume ABC news programs to see what the news cycle is looking like.

“Emails start about 8am from news about what the day is looking like. Things start to get busier as the day wears on.

Before the main bulletin goes to air, Ferguson promotes the 6pm slot with crosses to radio stations and TV updates from mid-afternoon.

Mark Ferguson in the new Sydney news studio

Reading the rundown

“I like to be organised and know where I’m going and I spend a fair bit of time with the rundown on the computer going through intros and crosses. I like to put my stamp on it when I can.”

When asked what time he gets a script to start reviewing, Ferguson replied:
“Good question, James. The earlier the better. There must be some sort of reason if it’s not available by 5.30pm.

“Some days some of the detail about intros and live crosses start arriving from 3pm. That keeps me busy from then on.”

At about 5.50pm Ferguson will arrive in the studio, maybe do a quick run-through of the opener before the bulletin starts.

Both Seven and Nine 6pm bulletins run ad-free for at least the first 15 minutes to make sure the viewers don’t get an opportunity to leave. Ferguson shared that the longest start he’d seen recently was 21 minutes before an ad. “Fifteen would be quite short these days.”

Getting the content right

“It’s a balancing act each and every day,” said Ferguson about the news director’s job of choosing the items to start the bulletin and deciding what else to tease at the top.

We have to decide what yarn is of most importance to the community we serve. We get it right most days I feel.

As to differences between Nine and Seven, Ferguson doesn’t immediately think of any. Is Seven more local maybe? “Possibly. If you go back maybe 20 years there were a few differences. Seven may have looked a little more local back then.

Part of the era of David Leckie and Peter Meakin [at Seven] was to raise the importance of news within the Seven network. That is still the case today.

“Our news is just about what happened that day and what is of the most importance to Sydney and then the wider community. That guides news decisions across the day.”

State of the art studio

Robots have replaced humans on many studio floors where news is produced. Although he misses the presence of the camera operators, Ferguson said: “the robots are doing a good job so far.”

At Seven’s news facility at its Sydney HQ, also gone are the days of floor managers cueing the presenter with fingers counting down to the start of the bulletin.

Before hidden earpieces were introduced, a host would have a phone on the desk if the control room needed them in a hurry. Now there are voices in the earpiece.

For Mark Ferguson, there are three people he may hear from during a bulletin in addition to sports presenter Mel McLaughlin, weather presenter Angie Asimus or any reporters who may join him during the hour.

The only people on the studio floor these days are the teleprompter operator and a floor manager to mic up guests and reporters who join Mark at the desk during the bulletin.

The first of three people in Ferguson’s earpiece during a bulletin is an automated voice counting down to the start of the bulletin.

The other two are stationed in Seven News’ control room. “Sometimes they both want to talk at once,” grinned Ferguson.

“One of them is the director and is the main point of contact regarding which camera I should be looking into. The other is looking after line-up and they sit beside the executive producer. They will share decisions made about stories that are dropped or others that have been added.”

When it comes to receiving instructions, Ferguson noted he “was not one who likes a lot of chatter in his ear. I liked to be locked in and know where I am going.

“We have a great team who know what they are doing and who get it right every night.”

The planned run sheet often changes and sometimes the pressure to finish the bulletin by 7pm is down to the skill of Seven’s weather presenters. “Angie and David Brown are two fabulous operators who can cut 20 seconds out of a weather bulletin and you’d never know.”

In 2023 Seven News was closing the ratings gap with Nine in Sydney

We’re going live

Treating the microphone as if it was always live and thinking the audio could end up on social media are good rules, said Ferguson. “But it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes something might catch my eye and I can’t help making some sort of comment.

“I am trying to be more disciplined from here on. I have read a few horror stories in the last year.”

The autocue going on the fritz would be a horror story which is why the newsreader still has a hard copy backup of the script on the desk in front of him.

Seven’s news boss

Mediaweek interviewed Seven’s head of news and current affairs Craig McPherson in September last year. Ferguson gets on well with the news boss.

“I find Craig McPherson a good operator with good instincts. He has made some great hires. A very steady presence. Very cool, very calm. He just gets on with the job which is similar to my approach I would like to think.”

The decision to move Seven News from the Sydney CBD to the inner west is something Ferguson also approves of. “The studio we get to work from every night now is an example of the amount of change in our industry. It’s so different to where we were at Martin Place. It’s a wonderful vote of confidence in the future of Seven News. To spend that sort money on the studio…I couldn’t believe it the first time I walked in. I initially thought I was on a Hollywood set. It’s superb.

Watching the ratings

As to how the ratings look daily, Ferguson said he keeps on top of the numbers. “We get emails each morning. We still get the state figures, but not the overall figure that is released publicly later in the morning. I will go looking to see how we went overall.

Anyone who says they are not checking those numbers most days is probably telling you a furphy.

“It remains a very competitive business and you like to think people are watching.”

 

The Morning Edition
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age partner to daily podcast, The Morning Edition

The daily podcast is hosted by journalist Samantha Selinger-Morris.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have joined forces to launch The Morning Edition, a daily podcast series that aims to reveal the stories behind the stories making headlines.

Hosted by journalist Samantha Selinger-Morris, the podcast, which will drop every weekday at 5am, will feature the likes of Kate McClymon, Nick McKenzie, and Ross Gittins.

The Morning Edition will have two regular episodes: Peter Hartcher every Thursday to dissect the biggest issues at home and abroad, and on Friday, Jacqueline Maley and David Crowe take listeners behind the biggest stories in Canberra.
 
Selinger-Morris said: “I have a burning desire to understand what’s going on, and here I get to speak to some of the finest – and most experienced – minds in the business. What a joy and relief it is when they help me, and by extension our listeners, to understand the swirling political, environmental, and often criminal forces that surround us.”
 
The Morning Edition is the latest iteration of the Please Explain podcast, which launched in 2018. Originally a weekly insight into the news, it has evolved into Australia’s best daily news podcast and recipient of Best Daily Podcast at the 2023 Australian Podcast Awards.
 
Chris Paine, head of premium content for the metro mastheads, said: “Our podcast has evolved considerably over the past six years and we’re incredibly excited that evolution continues today as the name becomes The Morning Edition.”
 
“It may be a new name and a new look, but the DNA remains: the story behind the story with the best journalists in the country. And with Sam behind the microphone, I cannot wait to see The Morning Edition grow to become every Australian’s news podcast of choice.”
 
Head of podcasting, Ruby Schwartz, said: “I am looking forward to seeing where Sam takes The Morning Edition in 2024. She is a brilliant and inquisitive host who helps me better understand the big stories of the day through her rigorous and thoughtful questions. And with a US presidential election just around the corner, and geopolitical struggles not seen in generations taking place, that’s never been more important.”
 
The Morning Edition is available through The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times, WAToday and major podcast platforms Spotify, Google and Apple

Guardian
Guardian Australia appoints a new political editor as parent company issues profit warning

Katherine Viner says Guardian group making a loss is a worry, but staff told not to panic.

Guardian Australia has appointed Karen Middleton as political editor. She takes over the role from Katherine Murphy who has joined the staff of prime minister Anthony Albanese. The move coincides with a report the parent company has made a loss in the past year.

Middleton arrives from The Saturday Paper

Karen Middleton has covered federal politics for over 30 years as a reporter, analyst and commentator. She will join the Guardian from The Saturday Paper, where she has been chief political correspondent for the past eight years. Prior to that, she was chief political correspondent for SBS and political editor for The West Australian.

Middleton is also a regular panellist on ABC Insiders and is a commentator on Australian politics for several domestic and international outlets.

She is the author of two books, a biography of Anthony Albanese, Telling it Straight, and An Unwinnable War about Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Middleton will join the Canberra office where she will oversee Guardian Australia’s political coverage.

Commenting on the new appointment, Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor said:
“Karen brings decades of experience, judgement, a significant record of news breaking and excellent analytical skills to Guardian Australia. I am delighted that she is joining our brilliant Canberra team.”

Karen Middleton added:
“I’m thrilled to be joining Guardian Australia after eight years with The Saturday Paper. It’s already a big year in politics and l look forward to working with the great team in Canberra to try and make sense of it all.”

Guardian

Katharine Viner

 

Guardian group reporting a loss

The London Sunday Times has reported the parent company of the Guardian is set to make a £39m ($75.5m) loss amid a slump in the digital advertising market.

Guardian staff were told last week the Scott Trust, the charitable organisation that owns the newspaper and its sister title The Observer, considers the current finances “beyond acceptable or sustainable”, sources said.

The publisher lost £36m in the last nine months of 2023 and is projecting a cash outflow of £39m by the end of the financial year next month. Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief, is said to have told her troops they “should worry but not panic”.

See also: How The Guardian Australia continues to grow without going behind a paywall

Nine rejects ABC Radio attempt to secure Olympics sub-licensing deal

It is the second time since 1952 that the ABC will not provide any live radio coverage of the Olympics. 

A last-minute approach by ABC Radio to secure a sub-licensing deal to air live commentary from the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympic Games has been rejected by rights-holders Nine

Nine has stated it will not sub-license any content for the Games, with listeners able to stream content via Nine’s radio apps. 

Nine is spruiking its exclusive coverage of the games to brands and advertisers as providing reach to 98% of Australians through Nine’s TV, streaming, audio, digital publishing and digital assets. 

The move marks the second time since the 1952 Helsinki Games that the public broadcaster will not provide any live radio coverage of the Summer Olympics. 

Nine won exclusive rights for the next three summer Olympic Games, as well as the 2026 and 2030 Winter Games, in a deal reportedly worth $305m. The deal included TV and audio rights, with content to be broadcast on Nine’s 2GB, 3AW, 4BC and 6PR radio stations.

While no content will be able to be licensed, Nine told The Australian that “commercial regional stations will be able to simulcast our feed if they wish”. 

Last month, Nine revealed the major premium partner sponsors for the Paris Olympics and Paralympic Games as Toyota, Woolworths, Harvey Norman, and NRMA Insurance.  

The broadcaster announced the full subscription of its exclusive premium partnership positions six months ahead of the games, claiming it will be “the biggest exclusive total television, total audio and total digital publishing media event Australia has ever experienced”. 

At the time, Michael Stephenson, chief sales officer at Nine, said, “No other media company in Australia can reach all Australians like Nine can. Nine’s Olympic and Paralympic Games coverage will not just be world-class, but world-leading, and we are thrilled to partner with some of the biggest brands to ignite the Olympic spirit, engage and connect Australians like never before.” 

See also: Nine announces full list of sponsors for the Paris 2024 Olympics

 

Seven's Sunrise welcomes Peter Daicos, pictured with son Nick
Sunrise welcomes Neil Mitchell and Peter Daicos to the lineup

Natalie Barr: “One of the things I think people are craving right now is the ability to say what they think and not be shot down in flames for it.”

The Seven Network’s hit breakfast show, Sunrise, has announced that Victorian locals Neil Mitchell and Peter Daicos will be joining its lineup, citing a commitment to covering important news and issues for Victorians.

Daicos, a former Collingwood footballer, joins Sunrise as its AFL Insider for the 2024 season, leveraging his extensive career with the Magpies to offer insights into AFL discussions.

Daicos said, “This year promises to be an unpredictable and exhilarating season of AFL football and I am so delighted to be joining the talented Sunrise team for some insightfully different footy discussion and plenty of fun for season 2024.”

Seven's Sunrise welcomes Neil Mitchell

Neil Mitchell

Mitchell, a prominent broadcaster, returns to morning television on Sunrise to provide insights into news, politics, and everyday issues affecting the state.

Mitchell said, “I truly am delighted to be back with the Sunrise family after some years away.

“Something I have really missed in my brief time away from morning radio is the opportunity to have an opinion and argue it. You may agree, or not, but believe me I am ready to go!

“I am also keen to be unashamedly Melbourne, which is who I am. Much happens in Melbourne that sets the place for the nation, and I hope to be on top of that.

“I have known Nat for a long time and worked with her often. It will be terrific to return to that. And I have watched Matt from afar – look forward to stirring him up occasionally.

“Best of all, I understand Sunrise has a very loyal and engaged audience and I am very keen to speak with them, even to represent them when relevant. Yes, there will be opinions and debate and news explained. But there will be fun too. There should always be fun in life, and I am sure we will manage that.”

Sunrise co-host Natalie Barr added, “We warmly welcome Neil and Peter Daicos into the Sunrise extended family and if we all disagree, great! Should be more of it.

“One of the things I think people are craving right now is the ability to say what they think and not be shot down in flames for it.

“As he’s shown over the decades, Neil Mitchell is certainly not afraid to share his opinions.”

See also: “Beyond a television show”: How Sunrise achieved two decades on top

Top Image: Peter Daicos with son, Nick

BINGE original series 'High Country' starring Leah Purcell
BINGE drops 'High Country' trailer starring Leah Purcell as Aussie dramas surge on streaming sites

The series is set to premiere with a double episode on Tuesday March 19 on BINGE followed by weekly episodes.

BINGE has unveiled the official trailer, key art, and premiere date for the streaming service’s upcoming original mystery series “High Country,” featuring acclaimed actress Leah Purcell, alongside internationally names Ian McElhinney, Sara Wiseman, and Aaron Pedersen.

Earlier this month, Mediaweek highlighted how the Australian scripted drama has undergone a significant shift, with streaming services emerging as the primary platform for such content. It was predicted that in 2024, audiences are more likely to find scripted Aussie dramas on a streaming service than free-to-air

The enduring popularity of shows like Offspring, McLeod’s Daughters, Packed to the Rafters, Neighbours, Home & Away, and the recent hit Boy Swallows Universe on Netflix, is testament to Australians’ love for scripted drama. This is despite the 2023 TV ratings favouring sports and reality TV, suggesting otherwise.

Looking ahead to 2024, it seems streaming services will be stepping in to fill this gap.

See also: Where’s the Drama? Why streamers are scooping up scripted series

Australian viewing habits have been evolving, but with the most recent Emmy Awards recording their highest-ever share of nominations from streamers, where is the drama on FTA?

High Country is an 8-part mystery thriller centered around detective Andrea Whitford (Purcell), who finds herself thrown into a baffling case of five missing persons in the Victorian High Country.

The series is set to premiere with a double episode on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, on BINGE, followed by weekly episodes.

 

High Country was produced by Curio Pictures, commissioned by the Foxtel Group for BINGE, with backing from Screen Australia and the Foxtel Group in partnership with VicScreen.

Creators Marcia Gardner and John Ridley lead the series, supported by executive producers Jo Porter, Rachel Gardner, Lana Greenhalgh, Penny Win, Marcia Gardner, and John Ridley, with Pino Amenta and Sue Edwards as producers.

Live Nation Brand Loyalty Study February 2024
Live Nation: Three quarters of Australians would join loyalty programs offering music perks, study reveals

63% of respondents would increase their spending with brands that offer live music perks.

75% of respondents were likely to enrol in a brand loyalty program offering live music perks, according to a recent study conducted by Live Nation Entertainment that shed light on the significant impact of live music in bolstering brand loyalty among consumers.

The global study, Driving Loyalty, performed by the multinational entertainment company, revealed Australia and New Zealand boast some of the most engaged consumer groups worldwide in terms of brand loyalty programs.

77% of responses, collected from individuals aged 18-54, indicated that they felt valued by companies when enrolled in a loyalty program, with 94% perceiving such programs as money-saving endeavors.

91% were already members of retail loyalty programs, followed closely by 59% in fast food chains, with a third redeeming rewards on a weekly basis. Additionally, 57% participate in clothing apparel loyalty programs, and 55% in travel-related loyalty schemes.

Discounted tickets emerged as the most desirable perk among Generation Z, while “comfort” VIP experiences held significance for older millennials and Generation X.

Moreover, over half of all participants indicated a willingness to switch to a loyalty program with live music benefits, citing such programs as more innovative and relevant to their lifestyle.

Furthermore, 63% intend to increase their spending with brands that offer live music perks.

Frances Deighton, strategy lead at Live Nation Entertainment, said, “Live music has the power to generate emotion and consumer passion like nothing else, and there’s an incredible halo effect for brands that include live music perks in their loyalty programs.

“You never forget the experience of a live music event, and based on survey responses, this includes the brands that help bring these events to life.”

Globally, 67% of music enthusiasts regard live music events as the setting for some of their most memorable moments, with two-thirds associating their emotions with the brands, products, and services encountered at such events.

Kristy Rosser, senior vice president marketing solutions and client services for Live Nation Australia and New Zealand, added, “Maintaining relevance will be key for brands in 2024, and ensuring the right customer needs are consistently met will magnify a brand’s perceived value.

“Introducing music perks into a loyalty program is a surefire way to boost customer engagement and retention. With so many epic live music experiences coming up in 2024, there’s never been a better time to engage customers with music.”

See also: Scentre Group and Live Nation announce new partnership across Australia and New Zealand

Outbrain News Corp
Outbrain and News Corp Australia sign multi-year agreement to leverage AI-powered Smartlogic

Outbrain’s Smartlogic aims to improve the content discovery experience and how audiences explore and consume media.

Outbrain and News Corp Australia have signed a new multi-year agreement to leverage the platform’s AI-powered recommendation technology.

The agreement commenced in January with a phased rollout across early 2024. Outbrain’s Smartlogic aims to improve the content discovery experience and how audiences explore and consume media across News Corp Australia’s digital properties.

This agreement will see the integration of Outbrain’s advanced publisher suite, including monetisation, audience development and total revenue optimisation technology across News Corp Australia’s diverse online portfolio. Outbrain’s suite will enhance the content recommendation experience on high-traffic sites like news.com.au and taste.com.au

Outbrain and News Corp Australia’s arrangement aims to deliver an enriched digital experience to Australian audiences, combining its premium publisher content with the tech platform’s expertise in predicting engagement to drive sustainable, year-round revenue.

Eve Solomon

Eve Solomon, vice president and managing director of publisher business development at Outbrain, called the collaboration with News Corp Australia “a monumental milestone for Outbrain.”

“It epitomises our commitment to innovating and growing alongside leading media houses,” she said.

“We are thrilled about the opportunities this opens up for advertisers aiming to reach premium audiences. Our advanced predictive technology, combined with News Corp Australia’s extensive online footprint, will usher in a new chapter of digital excellence and audience engagement, creating meaningful experiences for readers and advertisers in the Australian market,” she added.

Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn, director commercial data video and product at News Corp Australia, explained: “Outbrain’s sophisticated technology, experience and focus on audience engagement complements our vision for growth and innovation. We are delighted to be working with them and eager to see the positive impact it will have on our digital platforms.”

With News Corp Australia available through Outbrain’s network for content discovery, advertisers gain unprecedented opportunities to reach a diverse and engaged audience.

Outbrain is already working with a number of publishers in Australia, which includes major Nine Entertainment properties, Daily Mail Australia, and Australian Community Media, further solidifying its position in the Australian market.

Hello Down There for Squarespace Super Bowl 2024, directed by Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese makes Super Bowl debut directing 'Hello Down There' campaign for Squarespace

“Let’s do something out of this world.”

Squarespace has unveiled its 10th Super Bowl campaign, directed by Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese. The 90 second version of the ad, Hello Down There, has already been released, with the 30-second set to run during the first half of Super Bowl LVIII on February 12, 2024.

“At my age, it’s a stretch finding a directorial debut. When Squarespace first approached me to create a spot, I thought this was my shot,” said Scorsese.

See also: Super Bowl ads of 2024: Squarespace, Uber Eats, Mountain Dew, BMW, BIC

“Let’s go big, let’s do something out of this world – space guys building a website. I’m a New Yorker. We’re busy, always on the move. Would we even notice extraterrestrials living among us? It’s going to launch on this show called Super Bowl? Supposed to be big!”

Hello Down There shows people engrossed in their screens, unaware of the aliens’ attempts to make contact. Frustrated by their lack of success, the aliens turn to Squarespace, creating a website in hopes of connecting with Earthlings for the first time.

David Lee, chief creative officer at Squarespace, said “At Squarespace, we have always said that an idea isn’t real until you make a website for it.

“It’s been an honour to work alongside the cinematic legend Martin Scorsese to bring this insight to life through his lens for our 10th Super Bowl campaign.

“Our focus on design and creativity has always been at the heart of our business and the reason why people choose us – and nothing illustrates this more than our Super Bowl campaigns.” 

'Hello Down There' Squarespace Super Bowl ad directed by Martin Scorsese - Feb 2024

‘Hello Down There’ by Martin Scorsese for Squarespace, Super Bowl LVIII

Additional elements of the campaign include an extended version of the in-game spot, special edition movie posters, as well as additional video content, including a comedic short featuring Martin Scorsese and his daughter Francesca Scorsese discussing the creation of a Squarespace website.

Francesca also directed a behind-the-scenes look at the in-spot production process.

See also: TV Guide: 2024 Super Bowl on Seven and ESPN

Aubrey Plaza having a blast by Mountain Dew, Super Bowl LVIII 2024 ads
Super Bowl ads of 2024: Squarespace, Uber Eats, Mountain Dew, BMW, BIC

Super Bowl LVIII advertisers are spending an average of $7 million for a 30-second spot.

Advertising’s annual extravaganza, the Super Bowl, has launched some of the most highly anticipated ads of the year. This year advertisers are investing an average of US$7 million to air a 30-second commercial, as they vie for their share of attention from audiences across the globe.

Last year, around 113 million viewers tuned in the United States tuned in to witness the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, according to Nielsen. This places the game as the second most-watched Super Bowl ever.

According to nfl.com, over 56 million viewers worldwide watched the Kansas City Chiefs secured a 38-35 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. This marked a 7% uptick from the previous year, indicating a growing international enthusiasm for the NFL.

In Australia, 329,000 metro viewers tuned in to watch the Bowl, which was broadcast on Seven.

Here’s the list of Super Bowl ads so far set to air during one of advertising’s (and sports’) marquee events:

Hello Down There by Squarespace (directed by Martin Scorsese)

See also: Martin Scorsese makes Super Bowl debut directing ‘Hello Down There’ campaign for Squarespace

 

Don’t Forget by Uber Eats

See also: Did Uber Eats just win the Super Bowl?

 

Aubrey Plaza Having a Blast by Mountain Dew

 

Talkin Like Walken (ft. Usher) by BMW

 

EZ Reach: The Most Borrowed Lighter by BIC

 

Gummy Clusters ft. Addison Rae by Nerds

 

Doctor on the Plane by Drumstick

See also: Andy Allen fronts Peters Drumstick Clean Up Australia Day campaign via Sick Dog Wolf Man & Wired.Co

 

Mr. P by Pringles

 

Dareful Handle by Toyota

 

Less Likes. More Love. by Snapchat

 

Copilot: Your everyday AI companion by Microsoft

 

Gift mode by Etsy

 

Life is a Ball by Lindt

 

Twist on it by Oreo

 

Yes! by Reese’s

 

Tina Fey books whoever she wants to be by Booking.com

 

All the Ads by DoorDash

 

The Wait Is Over by Popeyes

 

Old School Delivery by Budweiser

 

That T-Mobile Home Internet Feeling by T-Mobile

 

It’s Time To See Other Sodas by Starry

 

Picklebabies by E*TRADE

 

Hold My Oikes by Oikes Yogurt

 

The TurboTax Super Bowl File by TurboTax

 

Bathroom break by Opendoor

 

Chill Train by Coors Light

See also: The Taylor Bowl: What brands and advertisers can learn about the power of Taylor and her Swifties at the Super Bowl

Top Image: Aubrey Plaza

EssenceMediacom - Alex Williams
EssenceMediacom names Alex Williams as head of planning for its Sydney office

He has over 14 years of experience in the media industry and worked across a variety of categories and international markets.

EssenceMediacom Australia has appointed Alex Williams as the new head of planning for the agency’s Sydney office.
 
Williams joins the agency from PHD, where he spent four years and most recently was head of planning and effectiveness.
 
He has over 14 years of experience in the media industry, has worked across a variety of categories and international markets and is known for his evidence-based marketing strategies and collaborative approach among diverse teams and stakeholders.

In his new role, commencing in April, Williams will report to EssenceMediacom’s national head of planning, Jack Graham, who welcomed his appointment and added: “The craft of planning is fundamental in helping our clients breakthrough in the new communications economy. We are invested in delivering this capability for our clients’ brands by attracting the best talent and leadership.”

Williams also will join EssenceMediacom’s Sydney leadership team under the guidance of managing director Stephanie Douglas-Neal, said Williams is “the full package”.

“Smart, collaborative and passionate. He brings a great energy to the team, and a great perspective on media to our clients. He’s the ultimate optimist and exactly the person we need to help us continue to build the best possible ‘breakthrough’ agency in Sydney. Personally, I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with him again.”

Williams said he was looking forward to joining EssenceMediacom and collaborating with Graham, Douglas-Neal and the agency’s wider planning team.

“The chance to partner with such a distinguished team, working alongside the world’s biggest brands and an exciting agency proposition, is simply irresistible. Their momentum in market speaks volumes, and I cannot wait to get started.” Williams added.

Williams’ appointment comes after EssenceMediacom won Google’s local media account, expanding its remit as the tech company’s global agency of record for digital media.

See also: EssenceMediacom wins Google’s local media account

Top image: Alex Williams

Seven - Big Bash
Seven claims prime-time total TV audience share of 42.1% over the 2022-23 summer

The network reached more than 11.5 million people a week nationally over the summer season.

Seven is claiming a prime-time total TV commercial audience share of 42.1% in total people, up one percentage point on the 2022-23 summer.

As the 10-week OzTAM summer season draws to a close this weekend, the network is claiming the top spot nationally.

The network’s commercial audience shares were up among 25 to 54s and grocery buyers, and in terms of average audience, the network reported an increase of almost 2% over the summer.

Since the start of the summer season on 3 December, Seven has reached more than 11.5 million people a week nationally. This was due to the Test cricket, the Big Bash League, 7NEWS, Sunrise and new seasons of Australian Idol, Home and Away, The Chase Australia and Better Homes and Gardens.

Seven’s coverage of the Australia v Pakistan and Australia v West Indies Tests reached 9.87 million people, including 6.64 million in the capital cities

The summer Test coverage grew year-on-year, including a 4% lift in metropolitan markets, and had an average audience of 686,000 nationally and 443,000 in the capital cities.

Seven - Australian Idol

BBL|13 reached 9.4 million people nationally on Seven, including 6.3 million in the capital cities, despite several rain-affected matches.

The BBL’s national season average was 492,000 viewers. Seven’s BBL audience was up 3% nationally year-on-year and up 7% in the capital cities, including a 33% jump in Brisbane and a 10% lift in Adelaide.

7NEWS remained Australia’s most-watched evening news across the summer months, while Sunrise and The Morning Show continued their dominance of breakfast and morning TV, respectively.

Australian Idol has increased its audience year-on-year since it returned on 29 January, The Chase Australia continued its streak as Australia’s #1 game show and Home and Away is the country’s most-watched local drama series, according to the network.

Angus Ross, Seven’s chief content officer, entertainment programming, said: “Seven is number one for summer, delivering a record audience share and growing audience.

“This record start has put us in a great position to launch our entertainment schedule and deliver further growth across the year. A big shout out to our 7NEWS and 7SPORT teams, who were relentless across summer to deliver this result.”

Paralympics Australia unveils 'Imagine What We Can Do' campaign via Publicis
Paralympics Australia unveils 'Imagine What We Can Do' campaign via Publicis Worldwide

“We’re aiming to engage sports organisations, coaches, businesses and all levels of government to make the change needed.”

Paralympics Australia has launched a new campaign with Publicis Worldwide Australia to rally support for the Australian Paralympic team ahead of the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

The integrated campaign is inspired by Paralympics Australia’s new brand positioning, ‘Imagine What We Can Do.’ 

This initiative comes at a time when statistics reveal that while 18 per cent of Australians live with a disability, only a quarter engage in sports-related activities on a weekly or more basis, citing barriers such as limited coaching and facilities.

The campaign’s focus is on dismantling these barriers, with a particular emphasis on sharing the personal and professional journeys of prominent Paralympians.

Athletes like Chris Bond (wheelchair rugby), Paige Greco (para-cycling), Taymon Kenton-Smith (para-archery), Rowan Crothers, Katja Dedekind, and Ruby Storm are featured in the campaign, reflecting on their triumphs and the challenges they’ve conquered.

Paralympics Australia’s chief executive officer, Catherine Clark, said, “At Paralympics Australia, we envision a society where all Australians have the opportunity to play sport, regardless of their ability.

“As we head towards Paris 2024, we hope this campaign encourages our fellow Aussies to get behind these phenomenal high-performance athletes as they step onto the world stage. 

We also hope to inspire every person with a disability to imagine what they can do and participate in sport. And to enable them to take part, we’re aiming to engage sports organisations, coaches, businesses and all levels of government to make the change needed to remove the barriers currently in our society so they can play, train and compete for our nation.”

Simone Waugh, managing director of Publicis Worldwide Australia, added, “When speaking to Paralympic athletes, they all describe the incredible barriers they have overcome both in life and to play their sport.

“They’ve encountered people who have said, ‘You can’t do that’. So, we wanted to inspire athletes and Australia to imagine what we CAN do if all of us got behind our Paralympic athletes on the path to Paris 2024 and beyond.”  

Credits:

Paralympics Australia
Cameron Murray, head of commercial, communications and brand
Brendon Harrington, general manager, brand, marketing and digital
Amy Miller, senior manager, brand, marketing and digital

Publicis Worldwide Australia
Michelle Sakzewski, client partner
Simone Waugh, strategy
Ryan Petie, executive creative director
Chris Moore, producer

Production
Oliver Sindle, director/editor
Karen Hayward, producer

See also: Nine announces full list of sponsors for Paris 2024 Olympics

The 2024 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Industry Awards presented by Foxtel Group winners
AACTA 2024: Talk To Me, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Deadloch, The New Boy take top honours

Amanda Laing: “Our creative community is flourishing.”

The 2024 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Industry Awards, presented by Foxtel Group, saw Talk To Me, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Deadloch, The New Boy, and The Australian Wars clinch top honours.

The event by AACTA, a non-profit organisation representing professionals in the Australian film and television industry, celebrated another successful year of local screen content with host Harry Connick Jr. Standout performances from Talk to Me, The Australian Wars, Deadloch, and The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart received outstanding recognitions.

Presented by respected figures of the Australian screen industry, including Warwick Thornton, Kate McCartney, Kate McLennan, Darren Gilshenan, and Zoe Coombs Marr, the awards acknowledged excellence across film, television, documentary, short film, and digital production, with 15 productions securing 28 awards.

In television, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Deadloch, and The Australian Wars each secured three awards.

See also: Prime time: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart sets Australian Amazon Original records

The Australian Wars clinched both Best Documentary or Factual Program and Best Direction in Nonfiction Television.

Talk to Me led the film categories, securing five awards, including Best Screenplay and Best Editing. Additionally, The New Boy claimed two wins, including Best Cinematography.

Australian filmmaking veteran Ivan Sen’s Limbo secured the title of Best Indie Film, while the VFX team behind Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny received the award for Best Visual Effects or Animation.

AACTA chief executive officer Damian Trewhella said, “We applaud the exceptional craftsmanship and dedication of Australia’s screen industry showcased at the 2024 AACTA Industry Awards.

“Congratulations to all the deserving winners, whose talent and innovation continue to push the boundaries of storytelling. These awards not only honour the outstanding achievements of our industry’s finest but also serve as a testament to the vibrant creativity that defines Australian cinema and television.”

Foxtel Group chief commercial and content officer, and BINGE managing director, Amanda Laing said, “Our creative community is flourishing, and the world-class talent we have here in Australia is at the heart of this vibrant industry. Congratulations to all the winners today, and to everyone that was nominated and recognised.”

The remaining AACTA Award winners will be announced at the 2024 AACTA Awards Ceremony on February 10 at HOTA, broadcast on Channel Ten.

VML's Vanessa Tout and Jake Barrow. VML defends Monash University - Feb 2024
Monash University renews partnership with VML, expands services under WPP team impact model

“We refuse to settle for the status quo.”

Following a competitive pitch, Monash University has opted to continue its longstanding collaboration with creative services partner VML. In addition, the university is broadening its ties with WPP to encompass paid media planning and buying as well as social strategy.

See also: WPP announces merger of Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R to create VML

VML will now oversee creative, paid media, and social responsibilities within a newly established Team IMPACT integrated framework, powered by WPP. Specialised capability will be provided by GroupM, Wavemaker, and Hill+Knowlton.

Fabian Marrone, chief marketing, admissions, and communications officer, and Vice-President of Monash University, said, “After seven years of partnership with VML, we were blown away by the fresh thinking and the quality of Team IMPACT’s proposition.

Looking ahead, we are excited to continue to amplify Monash’s brand growth across our paid, owned and earned ecosystem. We are confident Team IMPACT will deliver against our strategic objectives in a challenging  economic climate.”

Jake Barrow, group executive creative director at VML Melbourne and Sydney, said, “We know change is constant and, like Monash, we refuse to settle for the status quo. So when the opportunity came up to not only  defend, but also expand our relationship – we leapt at it.

“Having collaborated with Monash University to create and embed the ‘Change It’ brand platform since 2016, we’re excited by the opportunity to continue delivering game-changing work and push the boundaries of  university brand building.”

Vanessa Tout, managing partner at VML Melbourne, added, “Our entire team is  incredibly proud of this win. We’ve evolved our strategic and creative approach as well as our connected agency operating model, which will create more value for Monash by having a single centre of gravity across all work streams.

“Being able to work hand in glove with Wavemaker and H+K as an  integrated team means we’ll be levelling up the quality of our work, driving  brand growth and cut-through in different and innovative ways.”

See also: VML unveils its new APAC market leadership team

Top Image: Vanessa Tout & Jake Barrow

WARC - sports media
Spend on sports media rights to reach $61billion as the sector faces fragmentation, WARC reports

The report examines the new sports media landscape, the challenges and opportunities for brand advertisers.

At a time when marketers are increasingly reliant on sports for mass reach, Sports media is facing fragmentation, according to WARC Media’s Global Advertising Trends report.

The research found live sports rights are splintering between broadcast, over-the-top (OTT or streaming) and mobile apps, while social platforms are rising in importance for fans.

The Global Advertising Trends report examines sports new media landscape, the challenges and opportunities for brand advertisers and how rights holders plan to sustain the economics of sports in the years ahead.

Alex Brownsell, WARC Media’s head of content, said: “Sport is one of the last providers of true ‘water cooler moments’, and this year’s bumper schedule of major sporting events, such as the summer Olympics and Paralympics in Paris, the UEFA European Football Championships, and the T20 Cricket World Cup, will provide advertisers with unrivalled means to achieve mass reach.

“However, these enduring qualities are under threat as consumption fragments. In this report, we take a closer look at the current state of sport advertising at a time when media consumption poses a dilemma for brand advertisers.”

Adrian Sutherland, vice president of Publicis Sports, said: “Sports is the one constant within media plans. Live sport is getting the eyeballs and sport content is getting the engagement.

“However, in some sports, local fans may need at least three separate subscriptions to watch a full season of games. It is imperative platforms keep a strong content plan in place to keep consumers engaged,” he added.

The WARC report forecast global spending on sports media rights could reach $60.9bn in 2024, per SportsBusiness data, up 18.9% on pre pandemic levels.

This year is also predicted to be a major one for live sport and mass audience reach with the return of Summer Olympics and Paralympics, UEFA Euro 2024, and the T20 Cricket World Cup.

Meanwhile in the US, brands are expected to spend an additional $2 billion on the Paris Olympics while Euro 2024 will drive €250m in incremental ad spend across Europe. 

The WARC report noted that sport will not reverse declines in linear TV ad spend in the UK (-1.6%) and Germany (-0.6%), spend with linear TV is forecast to remain in decline throughout the summer of 2024, although France bucks the trend (+4.9%).

In the US, a recovery of linear TV spend (+6.3%) will owe more to favourable year-on-year comparisons and the upcoming US Presidential election than to sport. The report also noted that 73.0% of those planning to watch Super Bowl LVIII on 11 February intend to watch the commercials.

Among the key insights highlighted in WARC’s Sports media are:

• Major live sport moments still deliver mass audience reach: 
Over 115 million viewers tuned in across Fox properties to watch Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII last year making it the most watched US telecast of all time, the WARC report found. 

• TV firms are spending ever greater sums for sports rights:
Global spending on sports media rights is forecast to reach $60.9bn in 2024, per SportsBusiness data, up 18.9% on pre pandemic levels, with traditional broadcasters digging deeper to retain access to prime sports assets.

• 2024 will be a major year for live sport, as the Olympics returns:
Broadcasters and streamers will be buoyed by the return of blue chip sports competitions this year, including the Paris 2024 Summer Games, UEFA Euro 2024, and the T20 Cricket World Cup.

• However, sport will not reverse declines in linear TV ad spend:
In the UK, spend with linear TV is forecast to remain in decline (-1.6%) throughout the summer of 2024, according to WARC Media data. A similar picture emerges in Germany (-0.6%), which will host Euro 2024, although France bucks the trend (+4.9%). In the US, a recovery of linear TV spend (+6.3%) will owe more to favourable year-on-year comparisons and the upcoming US Presidential election than to sport.

• Fragmentation of sports rights threatens mass reach moment:
NFL coverage spans broadcast and cable TV (NBC, ESPN) as well as OTT (Peacock, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV) and mobile app (NFL+). It is becoming costlier and more complex for fans to follow all live games.

• Social media is taking centre stage as a sports channel:
93% of 18-24s engage with sport on social media at least weekly. However, Gen Z fandom is more ‘fluid’. Younger cohorts are often more interested in athletes’ stories, rather than teams or competitions, according to the WARC report.

• Streamers are tapping into a passion for sports stories:
Amazon and Netflix are beginning to acquire live sports rights. However, they are also capitalising on a desire for behind the scenes storytelling, with documentary series such as Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive.

• Advertising remains a key part of the Super Bowl experience:
Nearly three quarters (73.0%) of those planning to watch Super Bowl LVIII on 11 February intend to watch the commercials. Last year’s broadcast earned Fox an estimated $650m in gross ad revenue, with brands spending up to $7m for a 30 second spot, the WARC report noted.

Collins MAFS
TV Report February 11, 2024: Collins and John go head-to-head on MAFS while Jack admits to a huge indiscretion

By Anita Anabel

Top 30 week has begun on Australian Idol.

• A castaway was out for revenge on Australian Survivor
• Collins shows his true colours during the first MAFS Commitment Ceremony

Nine

It was drama, drama, drama as Nine’s evening kicked off with the first Commitment Ceremony of the season on Married at First Sight.

Expert John Aiken wasted no time in addressing the article about Jack’s ex-girlfriend, demanding answers about when the relationship ended. Despite his attempts to deflect John’s inquiries, Jack reluctantly admits that he was still in a relationship whilst meeting with the experts. 

Meanwhile, Natalie and Collins began their couch session by addressing Natalie’s decision to leave the experiment at the last Dinner Party. Natalie reveals feeling isolated at the Dinner Party and then speaks of her deep doubts about her husband’s authenticity. Collins admits to not showing his wife affection but becomes defensive and combative when John asks how he could begin to build a connection with Natalie. Natalie reveals she would like to leave the experiment, but after a long and emotionally charged deliberation, Collins reveals he has chosen to stay for another week, meaning they will both remain in the experiment to work on their relationship. 

Seven

Kicking off the night over on Seven was Australian Idol. Top 30 Week has begun and contestants had to face three epic challenges to avoid elimination to ultimately earn their place at the live shows. 

Then, on Ron Iddles: Good Cop. In 1985 Dominic Marafiote disappeared before his parents were shot dead in their Adelaide home. Ron takes a tip-off from a small-time crim to help crack the case.

Another mystery was investigated in What the Killer Did Next. After joining a church with very specific beliefs, a woman goes missing and police believe one of her fellow worshippers is responsible for her murder.

Then viewers watched The Disappearance of Gabby Petito. Gabby Petito was a “van life” blogger and had been updating her socials throughout their trip, so her disappearance captured the attention of the media and set off a nationwide search.

10

On 10The Project welcomed Aussie singer and icon Jessica Mauboy who revealed she was a party girl, but reckons she’s never hit the headlines for it because she wants to take pictures with everyone while she’s out! Meanwhile, Advertising guru Dee Madigan told the panel what makes a good Super Bowl ad as the world prepares to watch the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers.

Then, it was time for Australian Survivor. As the sun rises in Samoa, our tribes wake up to the aftermath of a classic Tribal Council twist. After a castaway was blindsided, another is out for revenge. A divided tribe fight for votes and after a chaotic scramble where no one believes anyone, we’re once again shown that anything can happen at Tribal Council. 

On NCIS: Hawaii a Navy petty officer is murdered and Jane and the team investigate while protecting the victim’s friend and colleague.

ABC

The 12-month experiment is now complete on ABC’s Muster Dogs as the Australian Border Collie siblings reunite to face their final challenge. It’s neck and neck but one dog shines brighter than the pack and is crowned Champion Muster Dog. 

Determined to reform youth justice, Alex pushes forward with her radical plan in the House of Representatives on Total Control, before Rachel seizes the opportunity for her own advantage.

Then on Silent Witness, Sam Ryan recruits the Lyell team to investigate the assassination of the health secretary, but Nikki is unsure whether Sam knows more than she’s letting on.

SBS

Over on SBS, Karnak: The Largest Temple in the World, the Karnak is the most mysterious and the most important temple of all ancient Egypt. Built, modified, reworked, and enlarged over the ages, the complex became the most important religious centre. By participating in the excavations led by the best archaeologists, the program explored the evolution of the techniques that allowed the builders to construct this architectural masterpiece!

Using the latest research, Genghis Khan’s Mongolia explored the rise of Genghis Khan, from outcast to ruler of the Mongol empire which, under his sons and grandsons, was one of the largest in history. 

Business of Media

Facebook parent Meta steps up its fight for TV’s ad dollars

Big and small businesses poured record revenue into Meta’s Facebook and Instagram in Australia last quarter, which claimed prized advertising dollars at the expense of television and despite a wider ad industry slowdown, reports Nine Publishing’s Sam Buckingham-Jones.

In a year that will see Meta once again square off against Australia’s news industry – all of its agreements under the News Media Bargaining Code expire this year – Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton will talk about almost any part of the business. Except that.

“We’re obviously looking at it. When we’re ready to talk about it, we’ll probably be talking to the organisations that have either taken funding or are looking for it. So we’re not at a point yet to really discuss next steps,” he said, in a rare interview for one of Australian media’s most powerful people.

[Read More]

Documents Reveal: Channel 10 lawyers approved Wilkinson’s Logies speech

A cache of explosive documents is set to be made public this week exposing the legal advice Lisa Wilkinson received from Network Ten lawyers before her disastrous Logies speech – and revealing the intense personal animosity between several of the high-profile lawyers in the case, report The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen and Stephen Rice.

New affidavits filed with the Federal Court are understood to show that Ten’s senior management asked Wilkinson to give the Logies speech and that Ten’s lawyers and senior executives approved it. The legal advice was never revealed during the defamation trial, despite the clear preference of Justice Michael Lee to see it.

One Sydney lawyer described the upcoming hearing on Tuesday as “a shit show coming to town” with previously unseen affidavits believed to show lawyers taking pot-shots at each other in “the legal fraternity’s version of Nemesis” – a reference to the ABC documentary revealing the behind-the-scenes turmoil and back-biting in the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments.

[Read More]

Rupert Murdoch’s secret hours on camera interviewed by Sky News chief

Paul “Boris” Whittaker, the (apparently) heir apparent to running News Corp Australia, has been quietly conducting a series of long, on-camera interviews with Rupert Murdoch, reports Nine Publishing’s Sam Buckingham-Jones.

Over the course of months, Whittaker interviewed Murdoch multiple times in the US and UK, sources with knowledge of the conversations said. The interviews were planned as a special televised series, and no topic was off limits. He apparently shares his thoughts on former US president Donald Trump, various politicians, and even the decision to hand the reins of his sprawling media empire to his eldest son, Lachlan.

[Read More]

3AW radio favourite dies after more than 50 years of entertaining Melbourne

3AW’s long-serving London correspondent Malcolm Stuart has died. A journalist based in the UK, Stuart began doing reports for 3AW in 1973 and has been heard on 3AW’s breakfast show each weekday since 1984, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

His last report was with Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft’s breakfast show on Friday, February 2.

Stuart was known for giving Melburnians a colourful and unique insight into the major news moments and quirky stories making headlines in England.

[Read More]

News Brands

Stokes’ Seven takes on News Corp with nightly newspaper, supported by Gina Rinehart

Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media is targeting Australia’s “mainstream middle” with its new evening digital newspaper, backed by a major advertising deal with Australia’s richest woman, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, reports Nine Publishing’s Calum Jaspan.

The Nightly has poached a number of current and former senior News Corp staff for its launch at the end of this month, as it looks to challenge the Murdoch-controlled company’s stronghold on Australia’s east coast.

Paired with a website, it will publish a free digital newspaper each evening, with a spokesperson for Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting confirming the company’s involvement as a major advertiser, to provide some security for the publication’s launch in an increasingly challenged ad market.

[Read More]

Guardian Australia appoints Karen Middleton as political editor

Guardian Australia has appointed The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton as its new political editor, replacing the outgoing Katharine Murphy, reports Crikey’s Daanyal Saeed.

Middleton, who is currently the chief political correspondent at The Saturday Paper, joins after a decorated career spanning over three decades in the press gallery.

Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor said Middleton brought “decades of experience, judgement, a significant record of news breaking and excellent analytical skills” to the publication.

[Read More]

Radio

‘Not playing in the gutter’: How the secret plan to get The Jase & Lauren Show to Nova was hatched

Jase Hawkins and Lauren Phillips have pulled radio’s ultimate Houdini act. After being brutally dumped by KIIS FM, where they hosted the Melbourne breakfast shift, in December to make way for Kyle Sandilands’ networked show from Sydney, it seemed like the much loved Jase and Lauren Show was being consigned to radio history, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Hawkins was considering a move to Queensland with his family and Phillips and her fiance, Paul O’Brien, were also pondering taking time away from Melbourne.

But in a move that has taken the radio industry by surprise and delighted fans, the show is being reborn in the breakfast shift at Nova100.

[Read More]

Radio industry calls for overhaul of prominence and anti-siphoning bill

The commercial radio industry has made an urgent plea for changes to a parliamentary bill to ensure Australians can access and listen to their favourite stations more easily, reports The Australian’s Sophie Elsworth.

The peak industry body representing the radio sector, Commercial Radio & Audio, has made a submission to the senate committee working on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Prominence and Anti-Siphoning) Bill, requesting that it be amended to include radio.

CRA chief executive officer Ford Ennals said it was not too late to make changes to the bill that currently focuses on the TV industry, arguing that it should be broadened out to include the radio sector. “We’re very supportive of what TV and the government are doing to protect local Australian content on smart TVs but we feel very strongly that it should be extended to local radio services,” he said.

[Read More]

Television

Piers Morgan cans nightly talk show in blow to Sky News Australia

Piers Morgan Uncensored will no longer be screened on Sky News Australia after the influential British figure announced he was leaving News Corp’s start-up TalkTV to focus on his own YouTube channel, reports Nine Publishing’s Calum Jaspan.

Morgan called the commitment of a nightly show on the newly established Murdoch channel an “unnecessary straitjacket”, saying the program’s rigid format and fixed schedule were out of step with global audience demands.

The decision’s local implications mean the last episode of Piers Morgan Uncensored on Sky News Australia will air on Friday, a spokesperson confirmed to this masthead. The network is also set to lose his digital content, which it said had generated more than 150 million views across its online channels.

[Read More]

Sports Media

Why three media giants made a Hail Mary bet on sports streaming

Executives at the National Football League were in Las Vegas on Tuesday preparing for this weekend’s Super Bowl when they got word from news reports that their business—and the sports media industry writ large—was about to change in a fundamental way, report The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint, Jessica Toonkel, Isabella Simonetti, and David Marcelis.

Disney’s ESPN and Fox, two of the league’s biggest media partners, announced that alongside Warner Bros. Discovery they would create a new streaming service to offer all their live-sports programming. The NFL, a titan that’s used to having a seat at the table in any discussion affecting its future and content, was out of the loop. Executives including Commissioner Roger Goodell and media chief Brian Rolapp were caught off guard by the news.

[Read More]

NRL 2024: Fox Sports, Channel 9 join push for North Sydney Bears comeback, expansion plans

Rugby league television heavyweights Foxtel and Channel 9 are backing Peter V’landys’ plan to bring back the North Sydney Bears, reports Nine Publishing’s Phil Rothfield.

“It’s a good idea and I’d back it,” said Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany, who two years ago provided an extra $15 million a year in funding to back the Dolphins as the competition’s 17th team

Channel 9 is equally keen about reinventing the club that vanished as an NRL franchise and everyone’s second team when the Northern Eagles folded back in 2002.

[Read More]

Legendary sports commentator David Morrow diagnosed with brain cancer

A radio broadcasting legend will step down from on air duties after a recent cancer diagnosis, reports News Corp’s Tess McCracken.

Speaking on 2GB on Friday, Ray Hadley revealed iconic sports broadcaster David Morrow has been diagnosed with brain cancer and will step down from his role on the radio’s Continuous Call Team indefinitely.

Hadley confirmed Morrow, often known as “Thirsty”, will take the time away from broadcasting and commentary duties to focus on cancer treatment and spend time with his loved ones.

[Read More]

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