By James Manning
Asset sales, Seven Studios future, ad revenue forecast, ratings revival.
A deal with Google, continuing elimination of debt and a profit turnaround were the highlights of the Seven West Media results for the first half of FY20/21.
There has also been better news for patient shareholders. Long-term believers who remember the days over $1 five years ago still have a way to go for a complete recovery, but after hovering around 6 cents last year, hitting 50 cents yesterday is much better news.
Here are some of the highlights Seven West Media CEO and MD James Warburton shared with analysts yesterday.
“There has been a strong and improved performance in the Seven West Media December half and we made significant progress in our transformation strategy. The advertising market has improved materially from the lows of April to September with October to January returning to growth with Seven’s forward bookings looking positive for February and March.
“Revenue share in the half of 36.7% reflected the consequence of our old content strategy. Pleasingly this was more than offset by cost savings which had a significant and positive impact on our bottom line. An 18% reduction in operating expenses helped a 24% increase in underlying EBITDA.
“Underlying EBIT increased 29% and underlying net profit after tax increased 26%.
“The work we have done to reposition the business in content, in transformation and capital structure means Seven West Media will capitalise on the continuation of the ad market recovery.”
“On broadcast and across BVOD we ranked #1 from July to December last year with a 39% commercial audience broadcast share and a 44% commercial BVOD audience share. The new content schedule is locked in for 2021 and it started on the first of February. Our share gains should deliver us significant improvement in revenue share in the coming financial year, given the typical 12 month lag between ratings and revenue.
“The success of our new content strategy in 2020 has delivered significant growth in both audience and advertising revenue for 7plus. It ended 2020 as the #1 commercial FTA BVOD platform in audience.”
“At WAN the team has undertaken significant transformation, accelerating digital growth, cutting operating costs and executing a strategy to stabilise earnings and generate cash. $170m gross costs out remains on track and we have identified further annual cash savings of $30m.
“Cost discipline remains a critically important focus of our business. Improving Seven West Media’s balance sheet has been one of the company’s key objectives over the past 12 months. I am really pleased to report we have made significant progress in addressing this with a 42% reduction in net debt year-on-year, well ahead of the plans at the beginning of the financial year. Since the end of the half-year period we have retired $150m of debt.
“This significantly improved financial position has provided us greater optionality on our asset sales processes to ensure we maximise value for our shareholders.
“Put simply, we now have more options in terms of the future of the remaining assets that have been earmarked for sale. We are looking to monetise AirTasker in the upcoming IPO and proceeds will be used to pay down debt. Other venture options continue to be reviewed.
“We have received offers for Seven Studios which we are considering. Studios is underpinned by a very attractive annuity-styled earnings stream which is very valuable. We remain open to selling Studios if it is value accretive.
“In terms of TX Australia, while we have received indicative offers in the vicinity of $200m, [but] we couldn’t reach an agreed outcome with all stakeholders. We regard TXA as a non-core Seven West Media asset and will continue to explore our options.”
“We are well-positioned to pursue the next phase of our Seven West Media strategy – consolidation.
“The three pillars of the strategy are
• Content led growth
• Capital structure and M&A
“The success of our content strategy was evident in our broadcast results in the 2020 ratings survey. We dominate the day and are very strong at 6pm. The upside lies in improving our post-7.30pm performance which we have started to do.
“The decision to pivot to external production of international formats for key tentpoles was absolutely the right one. Cost per hour of this content might be higher but the audience opportunity is significantly greater. That will convert to a higher revenue share which will drop to the bottom line thanks to our lower overall cost base.
“The new tentpole programming delivered a 75% increase in total television audience compared with our previous content.
“We moved from almost five share points down in primetime in the first half of 2020 to three-and-a-half points up in the second half. Our audience share growth was even stronger among people 25-54 and 16-39.
“In the second half of calendar 2020 we clearly demonstrated when we deliver engaged audiences particularly after 7.30pm revenue share follows.
“We are building revenue share momentum, from 35.6% in the first half of calendar 2020 to 36.6% in the second half. More significantly, our revenue share was 37.3% in the final quarter of calendar 2020.”
“2020 has seen us accelerate our advertising data proposition thanks to the October launch of 7REDiQ, our audience intelligence platform and an end-to-end audience solution for markets as they look to understand and reach their audiences. It enables marketers to fuse their own customer data to Seven West Media’s first party and partner data and apply that knowledge to marketing campaigns across Seven platforms including 7plus and 7News.com.au and then measures their results. We have been overwhelmed by the positive reaction from advertisers and media buyers and we are winning business on the back of the data product alone.”
“It’s a huge milestone that we’re so proud to have reached”
Frankie Magazine has hit the milestone of releasing its 100th issue, with a cake themed cover created by the ace April’s Baker.
The milestone issue is chock-full of the weird, wonderful, and heartwarming – the people and stories that have helped to shape frankie into the magazine readers know and love today.
Since sending the first issue to print 17 years ago, frankie has worked to shine a light on Australian and New Zealand creatives. The magazine is proud to have played a part in the journey and growth of thousands of local talents: fashion designers, crafters, painters, illustrators, writers, photographers, and fledgling small businesses. It has also connected readers with like-minded advertisers whose brand stories are shared through unique print and digital partnerships.
Reflecting on the launch of issue 100, frankie editor Sophie Kalagas says, “It’s a huge milestone that we’re so proud to have reached – and it’s especially heartwarming to see the community that has grown and come along with us. frankie is a much-loved magazine, but it’s also diaries and calendars, stationery, podcasts, one-off publications, events, a wonderful website and a highly engaged social platform. Our readers are supportive, creative and loyal, and it’s such a joy to hear how much frankie means to them, too.”
The occasion wasn’t able to be maked in person due to pandemic restrictions, but, some of the frankie team did get together to create a 100th issue video, which is available via a QR code inside the new issue.
The team behind frankie say that they’re most excited about the chance to do it all again, and that they look forward to showcasing more young creatives, new makers and local talents inside another 100 issues.
Some of the specialist subjects in the initial weeks will include Britney Spears, 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and The Matildas.
The stage is set as Walkley-winning journalist, author and interviewer, Marc Fennell, begins his new role as quizmaster for the new season of Australia’s Mastermind starting Monday 22 February.
Famous for its challenging questions, intimidating setting, and tense air, Mastermind places contenders in the iconic Mastermind chair and gives them two minutes to answer as many questions as possible on their chosen specialist subject.
This season’s specialist subjects range from famous personalities to sports event to history, geography and arts – and everything in between. Some of the specialist subjects in the initial weeks will include Britney Spears (1998 – 2008), 1956 Melbourne Olympics, The Matildas, International Female Leaders 2020, Australian Female Publicans, Bitcoin, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Marc Fennell said: “I think Mastermind is a genuine insight into Australia’s psyche. Every one of us has that one obsession, that one thing we know and love above all things. The best part of being the quizmaster is seeing the wild diversity of obsessions and topics that the contenders bring with them. But make no mistake, it is the toughest quiz show on Australian television. I’ve been both a fill-in host and celebrity contender on Mastermind Australia, I know first-hand how intimidating it can be. While I may be the one holding the questions, I truly marvel at the gumption of the contenders. It’s going to be intense.”
SBS Commissioning Editor, Josh Martin, said: “We’re excited that the quizmaster baton will be passed on to SBS’s own Marc Fennell, no stranger himself to the Mastermind hosting role, who will bring his own unique style and energy to this one-of-a-kind quiz show.”
It’s set to be tense, thrilling, at times humorous, and, above all, entertaining.
Mastermind S3 premieres Monday 22 February 6pm on SBS. The series will air 6pm weeknights and will be available after broadcast on SBS On Demand.
Flanagan stars as corporate contract lawyer, Helen Tudor-Fisk.
ABC TV and Screen Australia have announced the premiere of the six-part series Fisk on Wednesday, March 17 at 9pm on ABC TV and iview. Fisk is a 6 x 30 min comedy series created, written, directed by, and starring one of Australia’s favourite comedians, Kitty Flanagan.
Flanagan stars as Helen Tudor-Fisk, a corporate contract lawyer forced to take a job at a shabby suburban law firm specialising in wills and probate. The key cast includes Julia Zemiro, Marty Sheargold, Aaron Chen, John Gaden, and Glenn Butcher. The series is also filled with a who’s who of Australian comedians and actors, including Alison Whyte, Glenn Robbins, Debra Lawrance, Denise Scott, Sam Pang, Georgina Naidu, Bert La Bonte, Ed Kavalee, Collette Mann, Dave O’Neil and Marg Downey, amongst others.
Helen (Flanagan) is a contracts lawyer who is not good with people. When her personal and professional lives implode spectacularly in Sydney, Helen runs home to Melbourne and takes a job at Gruber & Gruber, a small suburban law firm. Helen is brought in to replace Roz Gruber (Zemiro), a recently-suspended solicitor who has temporarily appointed herself the office manager. No longer allowed to sit in with clients, Roz now has nothing else to do but get all up in Helen’s business.
Ray Gruber (Sheargold), Roz’s brother, hires Helen in a fit of laziness but also because Helen is a ‘mature lady’ which has proven to be the preferred option for clients who are grieving. Unfortunately, Helen is not that kind of mature lady.
Kitty Flanagan said: “This is the dream. My own show with all my favourite people both in front of the camera and behind it too. I’m thrilled to be making this in Melbourne for the ABC. We have such amazing, creative people in Australia, the more local content we can turn out, the better.”
Todd Abbott, ABC head of comedy said: “Kitty Flanagan is, quite simply, one of the funniest humans alive, and a show created by and starring her is long overdue. Every page of these scripts is laugh-out-loud funny, and the cast and crew that she’s pulled together guarantee this series is going to be a ripper. What a treat for all of us.”
By Trent Thomas
Overall, the Australian box office made $4.36m as declining 16%.
The Australian box office had a distinct local flavour over the weekend with four films in the top five.
The Aussie films that made the top five were:
#1 The Dry $711,168
#2 Penguin Bloom $444,989
#4 Long Story Short $315,590
#5 High ground $278,899
This dominant performance is arguably the best performance by Australian films over a weekend ever with a major factor being the effects of COVID-19 on cinemas since theatres re-opened from lockdown, but it is still an impressive result none the less.
The other surprising detail from the top five this weekend is that no American films made the top five. The only non-Australian film is the Chinese produced Detective Chinatown 3 which came in at #4.
The two news films in the top five Long Story Short and Detective Chinatown 3 replaced The Croods: A New Age and The Marksman. The Croods has made $20.53m over the last eight weeks making it the second highest-grossing film since cinemas re-opened behind only Wonder Woman 1984.
Overall, the Australian box office made $4.36m as declining 16%.
The Aussie mystery film is continuing to edge towards the $20m threshold it needs to enter the top 10 grossing local films of all time. The film’s total now sits at $17.32m as it still remains a chance to overtake Strictly Ballroom, after averaging $2,129 on 334 screens.
The Australian drama continues to perform well remaining in the top two films of the box office for the fourth week in a row. The film now has a total of $5.86m after a weekend average of $1,369 on 325 screens.
The Chinese film had easily the highest per-screen average after making a whopping $10,560 on 39 screens.
The latest Australian film to join the top five is the time travelling romantic comedy written and directed by Josh Lawson which averaged $1,135 on 278 screens in its first week of release.
The Australian western film has made it three weeks in a row in the top five after averaging $1,138 on 245 screens.
By Trent Thomas
• Nine hits a winner with Ash Barty on centre court
• Amazing Race top entertainment show as The Stowaways make impact
• Over 500k tune in for The Project’s Brittany Higgins interview
Nine won the TV ratings battle again with a 19.1% primary share and a 27.6% network share. This is the eighth time in a row that the broadcaster has won, in large part thanks to the Australian Open which averaged 726,000 during its night session.
Last night the Australian Open’s highlight was Ash Barty defeating Shelby Rogers with the average metro audience being 877,000.
On Seven, Holey Moley had 468,000 which was down on the 528,000 that the program had last Monday night. In the episode fitness professional, Nik Papoutsis proved only the strongest reign supreme claiming victory against aeronautical engineer, Hayden Rogers, in a special brains vs brawn edition of Australia’s biggest mini-golf show.
Following Holey Moley, Seven aired 9-1-1 with 310,000 viewers, followed by The Rookie with 207,000.
The eighth leg of The Amazing Race Australia on 10 had 546,000 viewers which was slightly down on the 558,000 from last Monday night.
The episode saw teams embrace their sense of rhythm and test their patience for fishing, while Stowaways MJ and Chelsea’s leg win caused an upset.
On The Project, after 7 pm, 501,000 viewers watched a special episode devoted to Lisa Wilkinson sitting down with Brittany Higgins talking exclusively about rape allegations in Parliament House.
On Hughesy We Have a Problem, Hughesy was joined by regulars Becky Lucas and Nazeem Hussain along with Em Rusciano and Beau Ryan.
The panel was joined by adult film star and ex-President liaison, Stormy Daniels who zoomed in to the show.
Also sharing their burdens with Australia was YouTuber Nat’s What I Reckon: the expert on no-nonsense cooking demonstrations. The episode had 280,000 which was up on last week’s 264,000 and was then followed by an encore of The Graham Norton Show with 114,000.
10 Bold was the #1 multichannel with 4.9% off the back of four NCIS episodes.
The ABC’s Tuesday current affairs lineup performed well off the back of 7:30 (602,000) which featured Leigh Sales in Melbourne during lockdown sparring with premier Dan Andrews during his Monday press conference. Later in the episode, Sarah Ferguson reported from Washington on the acquittal of Donald Trump.
7:30 was followed by Australian Story (457,000), Four Corners (452,000), and Media Watch (426,000). This lineup was followed by The Pacific: In The Wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neil which had 304,000.
On SBS The Architecture the Railways Built had 146,000, followed by 24 hours in Emergency with 152,000.
|ABC KIDS/ ABC TV PLUS||2.3%||7TWO||3.9%||GO!||2.7%||10 Bold||4.9%||VICELAND||1.7%|
|ABC ME||0.4%||7mate||3.1%||GEM||2.3%||10 Peach||2.7%||Food Net||1.2%|
|ABC NEWS||2.0%||7flix||1.6%||9Life||2.1%||10 Shake||0.6%||NITV||0.1%|
|9Rush||1.4%||SBS World Movies||0.9%|
|ABC||Seven Affiliates||Nine Affiliates||10 Affiliates||SBS|
|ABC KIDS/ ABC TV PLUS||2.8%||7TWO||6.0%||GO!||3.0%||WIN Bold||5.8%||VICELAND||1.8%|
|ABC ME||0.6%||7mate||3.1%||GEM||2.8%||WIN Peach||3.2%||Food Net||1.2%|
|ABC NEWS||1.2%||7flix (Excl. Tas/WA)||1.5%||9Life||2.1%||Sky News on WIN||1.6%||NITV||0.1%|
|MONDAY METRO ALL TV|
16-39 Top Five
18-49 Top Five
25-54 Top Five
Shares all people, 6pm-midnight, Overnight (Live and AsLive), Audience numbers FTA metro, Sub TV national
Source: OzTAM and Regional TAM 2021. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM
Google has stepped back from a threat to shut down its search engine locally and is on the brink of striking commercial deals with some of Australia’s largest news organisations after months of hard fought negotiations over planned media bargaining laws, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios and Lisa Visentin.
The ABC, Nine Entertainment Co, and Guardian Australia are in eleventh-hour negotiations with the $1.8 trillion tech giant for use of their content on various Google services. Industry sources briefed on the talks indicated the deals could be reached within 48 hours. However, while the talks are in advanced stages, there is no guarantee the agreements will be completed.
Google threatened to turn off its search engine in Australia in January in response to the laws. The search giant’s progress on agreements with publishers will shift focus to Facebook, which is yet to strike any deals for its own news product and has threatened to pull journalism from its platform if the laws aren’t revised.
Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media became the first of the major media companies to ink an agreement with Google on Monday.
Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton has ruled out returning $33.4m of federal government JobKeeper subsidies, despite the Kerry Stokes-controlled media group returning to profit, reports’ News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich.
Warburton says the business qualified for the $130bn JobKeeper scheme last year, which helped the free-to-air television network and newspaper publisher ride out the coronavirus crisis.
“I think from our perspective we qualified for JobKeeper in accordance with the program, and it did its job,” Warburton said.
“We would have had to retrench or sack 120 or 150 people. Staff took a 20 per cent pay cut, which contributed to liquidity in the business through the time and we employ hundreds and hundreds of people in terms of production.
“So for us, it helps us emerge as a stronger, larger taxpayer, let alone what we’ve paid in tax over the last sort of nine to 10 years. So that’s exactly what the program was intended for, and that’s been the use.”
The Australian Financial Review’s economics correspondent Matthew Cranston, has been appointed as the masthead’s Washington correspondent, and Julie Hare has commenced as the education editor.
Cranston joined the Financial Review in 2007 as a financial markets’ reporter before becoming a property reporter and property editor. He moved to Canberra in 2019 to become economics correspondent.
As Washington correspondent he succeeds Jacob Greber, who has returned to Canberra to become a senior correspondent.
For seven years Hare was the higher education editor of The Australian and before that editor-in-chief at APN Educational Media and editor of Campus Review. More recently, Hare has worked at the University of Canberra, KPMG and as a freelance journalist.
She is an honorary fellow with the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.
As education editor she succeeds Robert Bolton, who is leaving to pursue PhD studies.
Tony Maiden, a former editor of The Australian Financial Review, and a straight-shooting journalist from the old school who loved his craft and had a rare way with words, died on Sunday night after a three-month battle with cancer. He was 76, reports AFR‘s Andrew Clark.
“He was honest, straight-forward, trustworthy and made a very good friend. I couldn’t criticise Tony about anything,” said Trevor Kennedy, his one-time boss at the Financial Review, and a former chief executive of Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings.
“He was a great bloke,” according to Max Suich, a former Fairfax chief editorial executive, and Maiden’s editor at the now defunct National Times.
These are warm words from members of a craft known for grudging comments about colleagues. But the shock waves at Tony Maiden’s passing that spread among leading figures in Australia’s media community on Monday attest to a deep respect for a journalist who found his flowering at the Financial Review as an enterprising reporter, brilliant and sensitive wordsmith, and an effective production man and news manager.
The Australian Press Council has found The Australian’s reporting on people arrested over lighting fires published at the time of the 2019-20 bushfires was accurate and not misleading, reports News Corp’s Graham Lloyd.
In a ruling published on Tuesday, the Press Council said the newspaper had taken reasonable steps when reporting information from various authorities and there had been no breach of the council’s general principles.
There was widespread criticism of a report headed “Firebugs fuelling crisis as arson arrest toll hits 183” on January 7 and an online report the following day.
The print story appeared as a small item on an inside page accompanying a major report on the bushfires.
In response to complaints, the Press Council asked The Australian to comment on whether the articles complied with the council’s standards of practice regarding fairness, accuracy and balance.
The article reported that more than 180 alleged arson cases had been recorded since the start of the bushfire season, with 29 fires deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of NSW in just three months. It said “police arrested 183 people for lighting bushfires across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania”.
It’s the gig every Midnight Oil fan eagerly anticipates – the “intimate” pre-tour warm-up show, reports News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.
Ahead of kicking off their Makarrata Live tour next week, the Oils will exercise their musical muscle with a one-off concert at the iconic Enmore Theatre on February 25.
The warm-up gig will feature special First Nations guests who collaborated on the No. 1 record The Makarrata Project including Troy Cassar-Daley, Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Leah Flanagan, and Tasman Keith.
It will also mark the public debut of bassist Adam Ventoura, the older brother of actor Zoe Ventoura, who steps into the role after the sudden death of much-loved band member Bones Hillman last year.
Ventoura landed on the Oils’ radar when he was guesting at a recording session at guitarist and keyboardist Jim Moginie’s northern beaches studio, and has previously toured with Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss.
Peter Garrett, Jimmy Barnes, and Guy Sebastian have warned fans against being tricked by Google search results into buying tickets to their Australian concerts from reseller platform Viagogo, reports News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.
The website is back targeting Australian events just months after it was ordered to pay a $7 million fine when the Federal Court found last year it broke four consumer laws, including previously misleading consumers “it was the ‘official’ seller of tickets to particular events when it was not.”
Viagogo lodged an appeal against the fine in November and has again ramped up its online presence in Australia, just as the devastated live entertainment industry is slowly getting back to business with national tours by Midnight Oil, Guy Sebastian, Tina Arena, Delta Goodrem, and the Red Hot Summer Festival headlined by Jimmy Barnes.
Despite tickets still being available via artist websites and official ticketing agencies, Viagogo has returned as the top result by paying Google for higher placement ads.
Barnes regularly warns his fans via his popular regular performances online to be wary of buying from unauthorised “secondary ticket marketplaces”.
“Thankfully ticket resellers can’t get away with some of the tricks they used to pull but in my opinion, lots of people are still getting scammed,” he said.