Friday January 22, 2021

Nine Raadio
‘Flag bearers for our cities’: Nine’s Greg Byrnes on the beauty of talk radio

By Trent Thomas

“The 24/7 nature of news and commentary nowadays means people are always on.”

Since Greg Byrnes joined Nine Radio (Macquarie Media at the time) in November of 2019 the company’s head of content has had an eventful tenure.

This has included the change to Nine Radio, the creation of a music-only formats with 2UE, Magic, 4BH and 6GT DAB+, and the launch of new breakfast shows at 2GB, 4BC, 3AW, and 6PR. And don’t forget the global pandemic either.

Mediaweek spoke with Byrnes about his return to talk radio and what to expect from the radio brands in 2021.

Byrnes said from day one that Nine Radio managing director Tom Malone had a clear idea where they wanted to take the company’s radio stations.

“Tom from the outset laid out a fairly clear path on what we were trying to do, which was taking talk radio into its next phase and attracting a new audience. And if you look at the radio figures then you can see that has occurred.”

Across the board, Nine Radio’s numbers were up in 2020 and Covid has played a part in the brand’s success. Byrnes said that with Covid, like with bushfires and elections, there is a need for trusted news and Nine’s local approach helped fill that need.

“The 24/7 nature of news and commentary nowadays means people are always on. The beauty of talk is that we are always on and we are always live.

“When something like Covid happens people swarm to trusted commentary and trusted discussion and want to be up to date, and that that is what we deliver.

“Covid has given us a wider audience, but what is encouraging is that they like what they have heard, and they have stuck around.”

Ben Fordham

Byrnes said now the goal is to build on the stations’ recent success by making sure they keep the traffic through operational excellence both commercially and editorially.

“Last year was about changing our line-ups and you always need to be very careful when you make a change. And now it is a matter of consolidating those changes this year and striving to be the best every day.”

When Byrnes said that 2020 was about change, he wasn’t kidding, with the stations making a wide range of programming decisions including a new breakfast team at every station and also new drive shows in Sydney and Brisbane. Byrnes has said that while it is early days in Perth, he has been happy with Sydney and Brisbane, and considers the results in Melbourne to be extraordinary.

“We need to be the flag bearers for our cities in each market.

“In Neil Breen (Brisbane) and Gareth Parker (Perth), they both have young families and have grown up in and love their cities. They are both connected and know what is going on.

“You also have the same thing with Ben Fordham in Sydney, and on the more mature side with Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft who both love their city.

Ross and Russel

Russel and Ross

A big part of Nine radio’s strategy since Byrnes joined was a focus on going local, but he is not opposed to networking in slots outside of breakfast and drive.

“In talk radio, the audience sees through it if you’re not genuine. We are not against networking, but it has to be for the right reasons and in the right dayparts. “

“Networking on particular programs like Ray Hadley and Neil Mitchell can work but breakfast and drive set you up for and close the day. To do that effectively it’s not just about what is going on in the world, but also up the street.”

When asked about following up a strong 2020, Byrnes said that 2021 is about consolidating the stations’ success with its new line-ups and continuing to improve.

“What happened last year is last year, and no one is sitting tight suggesting that we are fine – we are thinking about how do we take it to the next level?”

“There is going to be no let-up this year in the news cycle, so we need to keep delivering the best content on a day-to-day basis. We also need to make sure we deliver for clients which is crucial in commercial radio.”

Nine’s Music Stations

After spending over six years at 2UE as both the news director and program director, Byrnes was glad to be involved in reviving the brand. Byrnes said that while the talk brands are the main focus, the music stations play an important role and he is looking forward to the stations’ countdown of the greatest 500 songs of all time.

“It will be a listener vote and it always creates a great deal of discussion and concern, and gets a lot of noses out of joint.”

Netflix 2020 report card: 500 titles in post-production or awaiting release

Buckle up: Netflix is not about to narrow content pipeline in 2021

Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings and his co-CEO Ted Sarandos presented the results for Q4 and 2020 this week. The company posted a big subscriber increase and updated the market on content. If you think they are putting the brakes on commissioning Netflix originals – think again. It’s going to be hard to keep up with Netflix’s movie and TV releases again in 2021.

Highlights of Netflix letter to shareholders:

With 8.5m paid net additions in Q4, Netflix crossed the 200m paid memberships mark. For the full year, it added a record 37m paid memberships, achieved $25 billion in annual revenue (+24% year over year) and grew operating profit 76% to $4.6 billion. (All amounts in US$.)

Since the start of 2018, paid memberships have risen from 111m to 204m and average revenue per membership has grown from $9.88 to $11.02

 

The Crown S4 

We’ve made good progress growing our profitability with FY20 operating margin of 18% rising five percentage points over prior year. For FY21, we’re now targeting a 20% operating margin, up two percentage points from 2020 and higher than our previous 19% forecast, due to a more favourable revenue outlook.

As we said last quarter, we intend to continue to grow our operating margin each year at an average rate of three percentage points per year over any few-year period, but we anticipate some lumpiness. Some years we’ll be a little over (like in 2020), some years a little under (like in 2021), but we are trying to keep on an average three percentage points per year long-term trajectory.

Content: 100m households watch The Crown, 72m see Midnight Sky

The big growth in streaming entertainment has led legacy competitors like Disney, WarnerMedia and Discovery to compete with us in new ways, which we’ve been expecting for many years. This is, in part, why we have been moving so quickly to grow and further strengthen our original content library across a wide range of genres and nations. Our fourth quarter slate highlights the breadth and diversity of our entertainment offering.

The Crown S4: Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN) and Prince Charles (JOSH O CONNOR) in Australia. (Shooting Location: Llano del Buho, Almeria)

In scripted English language television, season four of the critically acclaimed The Crown was the biggest season so far and drove new watchers of prior seasons. In its first 28 days, more member households chose to watch season four of The Crown than each of the prior seasons, helping to grow the number of member households that have chosen to watch this series to over 100m since its initial launch. In late December, we released our first original series from Shonda RhimesBridgerton. This title has proven immensely popular and we’ll have some exciting news about Bridgerton later this week.

Our largest original film of the quarter was The Midnight Sky, starring and directed by George Clooney; we estimate 72m member households will choose to watch this title in its first four weeks. In its first 28 days, 43m member households chose to watch our animated feature film Over the Moon (directed by legendary creator Glen Keane) with high levels of re-watching. We Can Be Heroes (directed by Robert Rodriguez) was another successful family film with a projected 53m member households choosing this title in its first four weeks.

OVER THE MOON – (L-R) “Bungee the rabbit” and “Fei Fei” (voiced by Cathy Ang)

The holiday movie slate also resonated with our members; in the first four weeks, 68m and 61m member households chose to watch Holidate (starring Emma Roberts) and The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (starring Kurt Russell), respectively.

The first Portuguese language holiday film from Brazil, Just Another Christmas (starring Leandro Hassum), was also a big hit with 26m member households globally choosing to watch in the first 28 days of release.

We continue to ramp up our local original content slate. The top Netflix local titles this quarter include Barbarians (a historical action series from Germany that 37m member households globally chose to watch in the first four weeks), Sweet Home, our Korean language horror show (22m member households), SelenaThe Series, which particularly resonated with members throughout Mexico and the US (25m member households globally), and Alice in Borderland, a sci-fi thriller from Japan (18m member households). While designed to be very impactful in the home country, we see many cases of our local originals traveling more broadly. For example, Lupin, an adrenalin-filled French language heist series released in early January, has hit #2 in our US Top 10 list and ranked #1 in dozens of other countries including Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Vietnam, the Philippines and many more. We project 70m member households will choose to watch Lupin in its first 28 days of release.

BRIDGERTON (L to R) REGÉ-JEAN PAGE as SIMON BASSET and PHOEBE DYNEVOR as DAPHNE BRIDGERTON. Netflix ordered a second season this week

In addition to titles with big viewership, we also aspire to have hits that become part of the cultural zeitgeist. In 2020 alone, we had Tiger KingBridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit. Not only did 62m member households choose to watch The Queen’s Gambit in its first 28 days (making this show our biggest limited series in Netflix history), but it ignited sales of chess sets and inspired the next generation of chess prodigies. In fact, Netflix series accounted for nine out of the 10 most searched shows globally in 2020, while our films represented two of the top 10.

With over 500 Netflix titles currently in post-production or preparing to launch on our service and plans to release at least one new original film every week in 2021 with extraordinary talent, we’re confident we’ll continue to have a great content offering for our members.

Competition: From YouTube to Discovery

It’s a great time to be a consumer of entertainment. There are a wealth of options ranging from linear TV to video gaming to user-generated content on YouTube and TikTok. We continue to work hard to grow our small share of screen time against these major competitors.

Discovery recently launched its streaming service. Disney+ is expanding in new countries and with more content. ViacomCBS will be unveiling its plans for Paramount+ in 2021. Combined with the launch of AppleTV+, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming services, this signifies that these companies all recognise the future is streaming entertainment, a vision we have been working towards since inception.

Netflix strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment. This past year is a testament to this approach. Disney+ had a massive first year (87 million paid subscribers!) and we recorded the biggest year of paid membership growth in our history.

rosehaven season five
ABC comedy Rosehaven set to return for season five

ABC comedy Rosehaven will welcome viewers back to the little town in Tasmania for season five. 

The new season of the multi-award-winning series, written by and starring Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola will begin production in early 2021.

Having defeated the first agent that tried to encroach on McCallum Real Estate’s territory, Daniel (McGregor) and Emma (Pacquola) are content for things to go back to normal. But Barbara (Kris McQuade) isn’t, and she forces them to take on more responsibility for the business. Meanwhile, Daniel is regretting breaking up with the love of his life, and Emma finally gets what she’s always wanted – a Rosehaven-based nemesis. All in all, it’s business as usual.

The eight-part series continues to share Tasmania’s natural beauty, characters, and stories with the world. It also showcases the technical skill of those in Tasmania’s screen industry.

A Tasmanian crew will be behind Rosehaven’s fifth season with 37 local full-time crew, 16 local casuals, 25 local actors, and more than 50 extras. Six departments are completely staffed by locals, and ten departments have a Tasmanian at the head. Also, at least 17 ‘Rosehaven graduates’ will be in the crew – meaning, staff who had their first professional engagement or started as a trainee or attachment on the show will be promoted to a full-time role.

In a boost to a tourism sector battered by COVID-19, Rosehaven cast and crew will use at least 1,200 accommodation room nights in Hobart and surrounds during season five’s production.

Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor said: “This is really exciting for us, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. In 2015 we knew we wanted to make a TV show, but we had no idea what to write about, and we were extremely worried no one would want to watch whatever we came up with. Now we’re getting to make a fifth season, we will allow our very self-deprecating comedian brains to feel a tiny amount of pride that we’ve made a good thing. But having written that, we already feel arrogant, so we take it back and apologise for getting a big head there for a second. Thank you to everyone who helped us get here, and a huge thank you to Tasmania for being such an awesome state to film in.”

Zenith appointed to SBS’ performance media account

SBS has expanded its eight-year relationship with Zenith, appointing the agency to handle its performance media account following a competitive pitch. 

Zenith will focus on leveraging the broadcaster’s first party data and provide martec support. 

Zenith takes on the account as of April 1, 2021, with the scope of work encompassing the SBS On Demand platform, SBS News and SBS Audio Language Content, as well as supporting key campaigns. SBS On Demand will premiere 160 hours of new drama every month this year including a selection of multilingual content. Meanwhile, the broadcaster’s key news and current affairs shows include DatelineInsightThe Feed, and NITV’s The Point and Living Black.

Zenith currently holds SBS’ media strategy, planning and buying account. On the expanded remit, Zenith CEO, Nickie Scriven said: “SBS holds a unique place in the Australian media landscape through its ability to bring contemporary Australia together and connect with audiences like no other broadcaster. We are thrilled to extend our partnership with an organisation that understands the commercial power of purpose.”

Zenith Sydney General Manager, Jonny Cordony added: “I’d like to thank the team of specialists at Zenith for their hard work on the account, and the depth of knowledge, and digital and data expertise they bring to the SBS business. With nine million registered users on SBS On Demand and a record number of local and acquired programs in 2021, SBS continues to be a place for people to explore compelling and culturally-diverse entertainment and news.”

In 2020, Zenith Australia CEO Nickie Scriven appointed Elizabeth Baker to the role of national head of investment, moving from her existing responsibilities as Sydney head of investment. She also announced the promotion of Joshua Lee to the new role of national head of digital & data, elevated from his position as head of digital in Melbourne.

accuweather stephen mummey
AccuWeather Promotes Stephen Mummey to SVP, Digital Ad Revenue & Technology

Today AccuWeather announced that Stephen Mummey has been named Senior Vice President, Digital Ad Revenue & Technology effective immediately. 

In this expanded role, Mummey will drive digital advertising at AccuWeather, encompassing technology, partnerships, and operations. He will be reporting to Steven R. Smith, AccuWeather President.

Mummey joined AccuWeather in 2001, and has since worked in various roles – including working posts within Sales, Research & Development, IT and Product, and most recently Vice President of Programmatic Sales & Operations. 

Mummey found success within these roles, and his diversity of experience across AccuWeather’s various lines of business led to both rapid advancement and his new position as Senior Vice President. With this new role, he is responsible for overseeing the underlying ad technology approach, ensuring the successful impact on direct sales, and achieving overall revenue goals.

“Steve has been a stalwart member of our dynamic team at AccuWeather, with a successful career spanning nearly two decades,” said AccuWeather President, Steven R. Smith. 

“I am pleased to see his purview expanded at AccuWeather, where he will continue to implement innovative strategies and vision to achieve our aggressive digital revenue goals and ensure we remain a leader in the industry and a highly sought-after partner throughout the marketplace.”

Speaking about his new role, Stephen Mummey said, “I am delighted to have been given the challenge of this new role and look forward to harnessing our core innovative strengths to drive revenue goals, build upon strong partnerships and seek new, impactful opportunities within our field.”

AccuWeather Inc. is based in Pennsylvania, USA, and works to provide commercial weather forecasting services globally.

Steven R. Smith ascended to the role of AccuWeather President in June 2019, after previously serving as President of AccuWeather’s Digital Media division. He started working full-time at AccuWeather in 1999 as a staff meteorologist, providing real-time weather consultation for clients in the media and commercial sectors.

i'm a celebrity
TV Ratings: Summer survey, Thursday Week 4 2021

By Trent Thomas

•I’m a Celebrity top entrainment show as Grant Denyer goes from nice guy to rice guy
•Alexy Carey scores the first century of BBL 10 which helps Seven win Thursday
•Great Getaways and Race Across the World highlights of Nines travel night

I’m a Celebrity has continued to be king of the jungle when it comes to Summer TV ratings, with 10’s first tentpole show of the year having 630,000 metro viewers. This number is down from the 685,000 on Wednesday night but was still easily the top non-news program last night as 10 finished the #1 channel and network in under 50’s and all key demos.

The episode saw Colin and Alli dive deep into the Land Down Under trial, which saw them competing in opposing tunnels that were overrun with critters. With the pair collecting 13 stars eventuating into a McDonald’s feast.

The dinner could not have arrived on a better day, as a tense rice fiasco had unfolded when Dipper burnt the lunch and resulted in an unhappy Grant Denyer.

It has taken a hot minute but the BBL heated up last night with the first century of the season as Alex Carey led the Adelaide Strikers to a win over the Brisbane Heat as 384,000 tuned in for the run chase. While The Heat fell short Seven was able to win the night finishing #1 in both primary (17.6%) and network (26.3%) shares.

Nine devoted their Thursday night to a travel heavy schedule with Great Getaways and Race Across the World in its primary channels 7:30 and 8:30 slots. This led to a primary channel share of 14.4% and a network share of 22.7%.

Week 4-5: Friday-Sunday
THURSDAY METRO
ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 11.2% 7 17.6% 9 14.4% 10  15.5% SBS One 5.6%
ABC KIDS/ ABC TV PLUS 3.1% 7TWO 3.6% GO! 2.4% 10 Bold 3.9% VICELAND 1.4%
ABC ME 0.6% 7mate 3.5% GEM 2.5% 10 Peach 3.3% Food Net 1.3%
ABC NEWS 3.3% 7flix 1.5% 9Life 2.8% 10 Shake 0.6% NITV 0.2%
        9Rush 0.7%     SBS World Movies 1.1%
TOTAL 18.2%   26.3%   22.7%   23.2%   9.6%

 

THURSDAY METRO
ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 11.2% 7 17.6% 9 14.4% 10  15.5% SBS One 5.6%
ABC KIDS/ ABC TV PLUS 3.1% 7TWO 3.6% GO! 2.4% 10 Bold 3.9% VICELAND 1.4%
ABC ME 0.6% 7mate 3.5% GEM 2.5% 10 Peach 3.3% Food Net 1.3%
ABC NEWS 3.3% 7flix 1.5% 9Life 2.8% 10 Shake 0.6% NITV 0.2%
        9Rush 0.7%     SBS World Movies 1.1%
TOTAL 18.2%   26.3%   22.7%   23.2%   9.6%

 

THURSDAY METRO
ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 11.2% 7 17.6% 9 14.4% 10  15.5% SBS One 5.6%
ABC KIDS/ ABC TV PLUS 3.1% 7TWO 3.6% GO! 2.4% 10 Bold 3.9% VICELAND 1.4%
ABC ME 0.6% 7mate 3.5% GEM 2.5% 10 Peach 3.3% Food Net 1.3%
ABC NEWS 3.3% 7flix 1.5% 9Life 2.8% 10 Shake 0.6% NITV 0.2%
        9Rush 0.7%     SBS World Movies 1.1%
TOTAL 18.2%   26.3%   22.7%   23.2%   9.6%

 

THURSDAY REGIONAL
ABC Seven Affiliates Nine Affiliates 10 Affiliates SBS
ABC 9.2% 7 18.8% 9 11.3% WIN 13.7% SBS One 5.7%
ABC KIDS/ ABC TV PLUS 2.5% 7TWO 5.7% GO! 3.6% WIN Bold 4.9% VICELAND 1.8%
ABC ME 0.8% 7mate 5.3% GEM 3.7% WIN Peach 3.4% Food Net 0.9%
ABC NEWS 2.4% 7flix (Excl. Tas/WA) 2.0% 9Life 3.1% Sky News  on WIN 0.7% NITV 0.3%
                SBS Movies 0.8%
TOTAL 14.9%   31.8%   21.8%   22.8%   9.5%

 

THURSDAY METRO ALL TV
FTA STV
84.8% 15.2%
Thursday FTA
  1. Nine News  Nine  878,000
  2. Seven News  Seven  858,000
  3. Seven News At 6.30  Seven  822,000
  4. Nine News 6:30  Nine  805,000
  5. I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!  10  630,000
  6. A Current Affair  Nine  587,000
  7. ABC News  ABC TV  565,000
  8. 7.30 Summer  ABC TV  447,000
  9. The Project 7pm   10  441,000
  10. The Chase Australia  Seven  428,000
  11. Hot Seat  Nine  417,000
  12. Seven’s Cricket: Big Bash League – Ade V Bri S2  Seven  384,000
  13. Seven’s Cricket: Big Bash League – Ade V Bri S1  Seven  372,000
  14. Seven’s Cricket: Big Bash League – Ade V Bri Inn Brk  Seven  361,000
  15. 10 News First   10  300,000
  16. Great Getaways  Nine  293,000
  17. The Project 6.30pm   10  286,000
  18. The Chase Australia-5pm  Seven  285,000
  19. Hot Seat -5pm  Nine  282,000
  20. Law & Order: SVU   10  265,000
Demo Top Five

16-39 Top Five

  1. I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!  10  134,000
  2. Seven News  Seven  91,000
  3. Nine News  Nine  90,000
  4. Seven News At 6.30  Seven  88,000
  5. The Project 7pm   10  87,000

 

18-49 Top Five

  1. I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!  10  269,000
  2. Nine News  Nine  197,000
  3. Seven News  Seven  176,000
  4. The Project 7pm   10  172,000
  5. Seven News At 6.30  Seven  166,000

 

25-54 Top Five

  1. I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!  10  315,000
  2. Nine News  Nine  240,000
  3. Seven News  Seven  229,000
  4. Seven News At 6.30  Seven  219,000
  5. The Project 7pm   10  212,000
Thursday Multichannel
  1. Bluey  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  181,000
  2. NCIS (R)  10 Bold  160,000
  3. Rusty Rivets  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  139,000
  4. The Inauguration Of President Joe Biden: Highlights  ABC News  135,000
  5. Noddy Toyland Detective  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  134,000
  6. Bananas In Pyjamas  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  132,000
  7. Love Monster  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  129,000
  8. ABC News Mornings  ABC News  128,000
  9. Hawaii Five-O (R)  10 Bold  128,000
  10. Peppa Pig  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  120,000
  11. The Adventures Of Paddington  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  119,000
  12. Father Bro  7two  115,000
  13. Bluey  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  113,000
  14. Neighbours  10 Peach  108,000
  15. Hey Duggee  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  108,000
  16. Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  104,000
  17. News Breakfast  ABC News  102,000
  18. Murdoch Mysteries  7two  99,000
  19. Fixer Upper  9life  98,000
  20. Andy’s Safari Adventures  ABC Kids/ABC TV Plus  96,000
Thursday STV
  1. Live: BBL: Strikers V Heat  Fox Cricket  190,000
  2. Live: BBL: Strikers V Heat  Fox Cricket  178,000
  3. Live: Between The Innings  Fox Cricket  163,000
  4. Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail  Discovery Channel  57,000
  5. Peppa Pig  Nick Jr.  47,000
  6. Live: BBL Post Game  Fox Cricket  47,000
  7. Peppa Pig  Nick Jr.  45,000
  8. Chris Smith Tonight  Sky News Live  44,000
  9. Peppa Pig  Nick Jr.  42,000
  10. Inside The News  Sky News Live  42,000
  11. Blaze And The Monster Machines  Nick Jr.  41,000
  12. Live: B4 The Bash!  Fox Cricket  38,000
  13. Paw Patrol  Nick Jr.  35,000
  14. Hombre  Fox Classics  31,000
  15. The Big Bang Theory  Fox Funny  31,000
  16. Newsnight  Sky News Live  30,000
  17. Paw Patrol  Nick Jr.  29,000
  18. Peppa Pig  Nick Jr.  29,000
  19. Peppa Pig  Nick Jr.  29,000
  20. Peppa Pig  Nick Jr.  28,000

Shares all people, 6pm-midnight, Overnight (Live and AsLive), Audience numbers FTA metro, Sub TV national
Source: OzTAM and Regional TAM 2018. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM

Media News Roundup

Media Code

Facebook and Google crackdown ‘has legal backing’

Senior Morrison government ministers are confident that proposed laws that force Facebook and Google to pay publishers for their journalism do not breach the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement as claimed by the US government and American business, reports AFR’s John Kehoe and Miranda Ward.

The federal government has received legal and international trade advice on the matter, according to a senior source.

The legislation presses Google and Facebook to strike deals with publishers that would ensure news creators were paid fairly by the digital platforms for journalism, in line with a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

As reported by The Australian Financial Review, in a submission to a Senate committee in Canberra that is reviewing the proposed legislation, the influential US Chamber of Commerce warned the code “explicitly targets and discriminates against US companies”.

The USTR will have new leadership under President Joe Biden and will likely re-evaluate its position.

However, it is considered unlikely to change from the Trump administration’s position.

Tensions with the US on the regulation of its largest companies will be an early test for the Morrison government’s relations with the Biden administration, which has been financially supported by tech titans.

[Read More]

‘Time is running out’: Nine, News lead push for Parliament to make tech giants pay

Leaders of the nation’s major media companies will argue proposed laws to force tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for news content they have used for free to build their businesses are critical to the survival of Australian journalism, reports SMH‘s  Lisa Visentin.

Executives from Nine Entertainment and News Corp Australia are expected to mount similar arguments on Friday before the Senate economics committee, which is scrutinising the Morrison government’s proposed media bargaining code bill.

Nine’s chief digital and publishing officer, Chris Janz, who will give evidence to the Senate hearing as part of a panel featuring representatives from News Corp, Guardian Australia and Australian Associated Press, said time was “clearly running out” to regulate the digital platforms.

“Without an effective code, there simply won’t be the money to employ the journalists we have working in Australian media companies today,” Janz said.

[Read More]

Tech giants face the music on news code

The “anti-democratic” practices and unchecked market power of tech giants Google and Facebook will come under intense scrutiny on Friday, with a Senate committee set to demand the digital ­behemoths explain their refusal to compensate media companies for the content they use, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

With the federal government’s news media bargaining code — which is designed to support a diverse and financially sustainable Australian news media sector — due to be voted on in the Senate next month, representatives from Google, Facebook and senior media executives will front the hearing in Canberra to make their final pitches to the panel of cross-party senators.

A host of media companies, ­including News Corp, Nine, and public broadcasters ABC and SBS, have made submissions to the committee ahead of the hearing, with the news outlets arguing that if they are not adequately remunerated for their content by the digital platforms, the Australian news media industry cannot be sustained.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who is a member of the six-person Senate standing committee conducting the hearing, told The Australian the tech giants would be asked to justify their conduct on a range of media issues.

“They have made a lot of big claims, and we will have to test them in detail,” he said.

Among those claims is that if the code becomes law, Google’s business in Australia would no longer be financially viable.

[Read More]

Facebook asks Australia to let it make content deals with news outlets before being hit with media code

Facebook has asked the Australian government to consider giving digital platforms a six-month grace period to make deals with news outlets to pay for content before hitting companies with the “big stick” of the news media bargaining code, reports Guardian Australia‘s Josh Taylor.

Ahead of Facebook’s appearance on Friday before a Senate committee examining the federal government’s news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code bill, the social media giant told the committee the code remained “complex, unpredictable and unworkable”.

Facebook argued instead, companies subject to the code which would require them to negotiate payments with news media companies for their content, should be given time to make deals separately before the code takes effect.

The company compared the proposed change with the federal government’s “big stick” energy provider legislation.

[Read More]

Business of Media

Viewers will need to cough up for a debt-free Netflix

Netflix’s hunger for external financing is legendary. The streaming giant has become one of the most valuable US tech companies in equity markets by leaning heavily on debt to finance its day-to-day operations. A massive 37 million rise in subscribers in 2020 means that it now believes it can rise from the sofa and stand on its own two feet, reports The FT‘s The Lex Column.

Netflix must also thank a dip in spending for turning free cash flow from minus $US3.3 billion in 2019 to positive $US1.9 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2020. As the pandemic shut down film and TV production, the company’s content spend fell from nearly $US14 billion in 2019 to slightly less than $US12 billion in 2020.

This number will tick up in 2021. Yet Netflix, which has $US16 billion of long-term debt and more than $US19 billion in “obligations” for content it wants to stream, is confident it has reached what chief financial office Spencer Neumann calls “a turning point in our story”.

It is already promising to put future surplus cash into a stock buyback program. Shares responded with a 12 per cent rise in after-hours trading. But this strategy will only work if Netflix keeps raising its subscription prices.

The prospect of Netflix weaning itself off debt is appealing. To achieve it, the company will have to keep testing the amounts that American viewers are willing to pay.

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News Brands

The New Yorker’s fact checkers walk off the job for a day

The New Yorker’s union employees did not go to work on Thursday, reports The New York Times‘ Katie Robertson.

The more than 100 employees represented by The New Yorker Union, which includes fact checkers, web producers and some other editorial employees, decided on the daylong walkout after recent rounds of negotiations with management failed, said Natalie Meade, the union chair.

The issue is pay. Meade, who is a fact checker at the magazine, said the union wanted to raise the salary minimum to $65,000. In the recent negotiations, managers at The New Yorker did not hit that number, she said, instead offering wage increases that she called “insulting.”

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Inauguration Day

Prayer, pop and the ghosts of Presidencies past

With a lineup of A-list recording artists, the concert marking the inauguration of America’s 46th presidency felt a long way from four years ago when organisers struggled to find performers willing to endorse Donald Trump‘s ascension to political office with a performance, reports SMH‘s Michael Idato.

Accompanying a transition of power with musical fanfare is a long-held tradition in American politics, but Inauguration Day galas are largely invitation-only events, reserved for party donors, the who-used-to-be-who and the what’s left of high society and the political hoi polloi.

This year the COVID-19 pandemic forced the creation of a virtual event, Celebrating America, hosted by actor Tom Hanks and featuring musical performances from various remote locations by Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and others.

The real power of the event was not its star lineup but its accessibility to anyone with a television screen or internet connection. America threw a party and for the first time in two centuries invited all Americans – and the whole world – to share the same seat in the audience.

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From Trump to Biden, TV Captures a Dramatic Shift

For a moment, cable news found something to agree on, reports The New York Times‘ John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum.

At half past noon on Wednesday, shortly after President Biden wrapped up an inaugural address calling for an era of reconciliation, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer declared that the “world witnessed democracy withstand one of its greatest tests.” Brian Williams of MSNBC said Mr. Biden “gave the kind of inaugural address our presidents used to give.”

On Fox News, home to right-wing stars like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham who relentlessly championed former President Donald J. Trump, anchors and pundits took turns lauding Mr. Biden’s message and the man who delivered it.

“I’ve been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961,” said Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor. “I thought this was the best inaugural address I ever heard.”

It was an unusual — and perhaps fleeting — moment for a cable news landscape that had been rived by the years of Trump. The cultural divide over a polarizing president and the increasingly fractured notion of what is true and what is a lie seemed to play out daily on 24-hour news networks, where Americans flocked in record numbers for outrage or comfort.

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‘Democracy has prevailed’: front pages across world hail Joe Biden’s inauguration

Joe Biden’s declaration in his inauguration speech that democracy was the real winner of the presidential election has been used by many newspapers to mark his accession to the Oval Office. reports The Guardian Australia‘s Martin Farrer.

Along with several other titles, the Guardian employs a poster front page featuring a picture of the president making his speech on the steps of the Capitol alongside the headline: “Democracy has prevailed”.

The New York Times chooses the same message with the headline “‘Democracy has prevailed’: Biden vows to mend nation” above a full-width picture of Biden and his wife Jill embracing.

The normally typographically conservative Financial Times also goes with a huge picture of Biden and the same headline again: “democracy has prevailed”.

The Scotsman’s front page is one picture of Biden and it splashes a longer excerpt of the same part of the new president’s speech. “Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. In this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed”.

The Washington Post’s headline is “Biden: ‘Unity is the path’” above a photograph of the the 46th president taking the oath of office.

The Telegraph headline is another choice quote from Biden – “End this uncivil war”, while the Times goes with “Time for unity”.

The Mirror zeroes in on Biden’s opening lines with a “A day of history .. a day of hope”, and uses pictures of the president and his history-making female vice-president, Kamala Harris.

The Mail hails a “new dawn for America” with pictures of Trump departing Washington and Biden and his wife, Jill, celebrating his inauguration. “Don’s gone … let’s go Joe!”, says the main headline.

The i can’t resist a bit of rhyme either with its headline “Ready, steady, Joe!”

The Express uses Biden’s “uncivil war” quote in one of its subheads but goes with a British angle and what the new president’s relationship with Boris Johnson might be like for its main headline: “Big moment for US and Britain”.

Metro has opted to use Donald Trump’s words against him with the headline: “Now make American great again”.

In Europe, El Mundo in Spain carries a picture of Biden and the headline “Joe Biden: ‘Hay mucho que sanar en EEUU’”, which roughly translates as “We have much to heal”.

Bild, Europe’s biggest selling newspaper, has the headline “Comeback für Amerika”, while its more sober rival Suddeutsche Zeitung goes with “Zeitenwende in Amerika”, or “New era in America”.

The South China Morning Post carries the Bidens, Harris and husband Doug Emhoff waving, underneath the headline: “World wakes up to new American leader”.

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‘They Have Not Legitimately Won’: Pro-Trump Media Keeps the Disinformation Flowing

Forgoing any appeals for healing or reflection, right-wing media organizations that spread former President Donald J. Trump’s distortions about the 2020 election continued on Wednesday to push conspiracy theories about large-scale fraud, with some predicting more political conflict in the months ahead, reports The New York Times‘ Jeremy W. Peters.

The coverage struck a discordant tone, with pro-Trump media and President Biden in a jarring split screen: There was the new president delivering an inaugural address of unity and hope, while his political opponents used their powerful media platforms to rally a resistance against him based on falsehoods and fabrications.

For some outlets, like One America News, it was as if Biden weren’t president at all. The network, a favourite of Trump’s because of its sycophantic coverage, didn’t show its viewers Biden’s swearing in or his inaugural address.

Rush Limbaugh, broadcasting his weekday radio show a few miles from the Palm Beach retreat where Trump is spending the first days of his post-presidency, told his millions of listeners on Wednesday that the inauguration of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris did not make them the rightful winners of the election.

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Who is Jen Psaki, Biden’s White House secretary

It was a far cry from the days of combative press conferences, verbal assaults, personal slights, ‘alternative facts’ and cries of ‘fake news’, reports News Corp’s Debbie Schipp.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s first press conference for president Joe Biden was greeted by much of the White House press corps and social media as a welcome return to normalcy, professionalism: a return to grown-up and regular press briefings.

She vowed to bring “truth” back to the briefing room.

Asked whether she saw her role as providing reporters with the truth or representing the president’s interests, Ms Psaki replied: “I know the importance of this podium.”

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Television

Basil Zempilas suspected he was being groomed to replace Kochie on Sunrise

Basil Zempilas was under the assumption that he was being groomed to take over from David “Kochie” Koch on Sunrise, he’s revealed, reports news.com.au’s Andrew Bucklow.

Zempilas, who is currently a radio host and the Lord Mayor of Perth, hosted Weekend Sunrise for two years before he quit in 2019 to spend more time with his family.

Speaking on Perth’s Triple M Breakfast Show with Basil, Xav & Jenna this morning, Zempilas said he was never promised Kochie’s gig on Sunrise but was under the impression Channel 7 had big plans for him.

“Look, I suppose if you’re living in Perth and they ring you up out of the blue and say, ‘Can you fly to Sydney every weekend and host Weekend Sunrise and we’ll see how it goes’ … I guess there was a sense of expectation that if they didn’t have a role for me, they wouldn’t be flying a bloke from Perth every weekend,” Zempilas said.

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Colin Fassnidge discusses Pete Evans in deleted I’m A Celebrity footage

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge has cooked up a beef with his former MKR colleague Pete Evans, saying the always “out there’’ Evans was now “off the leash’’, reports News Corp’s Jonathon Moran.

After always being careful with his words about Evans, Fassnidge is now at pains to distance himself from the anti-vaxxer and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist.

“He is off the leash now,” Fassnidge said.

“There are jokes and there are jokes and there is clever and there is clever. You have overstepped the boundary on that one, there are some things you just don’t do.”

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Australian TV needs a dose of Nordic courage

I spent the day in tears. I’d come to the final episode in the Danish drama Follow The Money (Bedrag) and though I’d suspected the ending, it totally broke me. Fear not, I won’t be revealing anything that will give away twists or endings. The compelling characters and the series’ intrepid examination of greed and financial crime set a new standard in TV storytelling. Such expertly crafted drama has provided much for Australian screenwriters, producers and actors to aspire to, writes SMH‘s Cat Woods.

ABC and SBS have been at the forefront of showcasing original and brave drama, but funding battles threaten to stifle creative courage. Meanwhile, commercial TV prefers to create vanilla dramas like Offspring, McLeod’s Daughters and Neighbours.

Australia seems to prefer its TV dramas to be about hospitals, regional police forces and suburban neighbourhoods full of heteronormative families and scandals like a doctor shagging his secretary. And yet, Borgen spawned a following that carried it through three seasons and earned it a global audience. If you’d told most Australians they should watch a TV show about a Danish prime minister struggling to balance her political career and family obligations while being drawn into power battles between scheming ministers, journalists and lobbyists, how many people would be sold?

What unites many Nordic noir series is their unflinching depiction of political and police corruption, the essential role of journalism in exposing crime or wrongdoing, and flawed central characters who are redeemed by integrity of character.

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Sport

‘Fearful of retirement’: Warren to make call on future in coming weeks

Ray Warren, the voice of rugby league, will decide in the next few weeks whether he has called his last game, reports SMH‘s Christian Nicolussi.

There has been intense interest in Warren’s future since he officially resigned from Channel Nine, the owners of this masthead, at the end of 2017.

He continued to call games on a casual basis and has an arrangement in place with Nine that prevents him ever calling for a rival network.

Nine are yet to formalise their official league line-up for the 2021 NRL season, and Warren knows he will need to give an answer in the coming weeks. For the first time, he stopped short of declaring he is a certainty to be heard in 2021.

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Melbourne BBL teams to defy CA and stick with ‘Australia Day’

Cricket is divided over the controversial move to scrap the term Australia Day from its promotion of Big Bash League matches on January 26, with the competition’s two Melbourne teams to defy the move and another state chief saying staff would not be referring to the day any differently, reports Chris Barrett and Christian Nicolussi.

Cricket Australia was lashed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday for dropping the words Australia Day from its marketing campaign for three BBL games on January 26, choosing to refer to simply the date instead.

It was a recommendation made by CA’s First Nations Advisory Committee, which is co-chaired by board member and former international Mel Jones.

Teams are free to not follow the recommendation and there is anything but universal support within the game for the stance.

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