Monday March 16, 2020

Making news: Seven grows TV, digital and Facebook audiences

By James Manning

• Craig McPherson oversees content that digital disruptors can’t replicate

After what has been an unusually poor start to the ratings year, Seven is relying on its news division more than ever to keep it competitive.

In primetime, Seven News at 6pm is the leader for an hour, so much so that it can be enough to get the primary channel and network into first place some evenings when it may not have any other winners.

The broadcaster’s breakfast and daytime offerings from the news division also dominate their timeslots. The latest success from the team headquartered in Sydney’s Martin Place is the soon-to-be one-year-old

Craig McPherson, Seven’s director of news and current affairs, looks after Seven’s news investment and he hosted Mediaweek on a recent visit, just days before the recent lockdown on non-staff visits.

Where the sun shines hardest

Sunrise is arguably the strongest link in the Seven news chain and sets the tone for the news brand overall: “We have stability in the program on camera and in the back end with a very strong team,” was McPherson’s assessment, referring to EP Michael Pell and his on and off-air staff. “It’s entertaining and informative with good rhythm.”

On the day Mediaweek visited McPherson, a team of workers were packing away the equipment and security barriers after another Sunrise Plaza concert, this one with The Pussycat Dolls.

Sharyn Ghidella – 7NEWS Brisbane anchor

“Music doesn’t do what it once did for us,” admitted McPherson. “But Sunrise does it better than anyone and what is does is break up the format and gets us out of the studio. It’s event TV for our program and keeps Sunrise supporting the music industry in Australia. There are serious logistics required including security with significant costs involved. We are a little more particular about the events we hold now and don’t do them as often as we once did.

Morning TV keeps the Seven crowd

After Kochie and Sam do their thing, they pass the baton to colleagues who keep Seven in first place with The Morning Show.

McPherson: “Hosts Larry and Kylie have made that space pretty much their own for over a good decade. Again, there is a very strong production team behind them. The show has good synergies with Sunrise and there is constant news content throughout, and like Sunrise they are both news productions. Seven news organisations in all states contribute greatly to both shows, with the Sunrise team adding its own character around all that.”

Max Futcher – 7NEWS Brisbane anchor

The other daytime contributor to news division performance is a second program from daytime TV EP Sarah StinsonThe Daily Edition. McPherson acknowledged the show, presented by Sally Obermeder and Ryan Phelan carries some news content, but is more entertainment and chat than the other offerings.

News bulletins dotted across the day

The first pure Seven News bulletin is at 5am each day, with the second at 11.30am. At 4pm Seven runs one-hour local news bulletins in each market.

The flagship daily bulletin is at 6pm in each market.

Seven’s most recent news expansion project is The Latest each night hosted by Michael Usher. “The program can go to air from any time from around 10pm to 11.15pm,” explained McPherson. “On Mondays we are trialling a one-hour 10pm edition and we will extend that depending on the results. They do a great job with a tiny team.”

The Latest keeps some reporters on duty until late night to do live crosses updating the biggest stories of the day. “We have had to re-roster and restructure the state-based newsrooms to facilitate the later bulletin.” Those reporters rostered on late start later in the day, contributing to both the 6pm news and then The Latest.“The feedback I am getting is that the reporters seem to like it and it gives them another opportunity to be live.”

6pm primetime power

Seven News at 6pm is one of the three most critical timeslots in the schedule [7pm and 7.30pm are the others]. The 6pm news has posted strong growth in recent times, extending leads where it dominates and catching up where it doesn’t.

McPherson: “If you look at the figures since 2015, on the east coast we were 180,000 behind in Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane combined. We finished 2019 19,000 behind – square in Melbourne, close in Sydney and we won in Brisbane. It remains an arm wrestle every night and we have a well-resourced opposition with a lot more tentacles outside of the broadcast area to propagate their messaging and brand. That is a great challenge for us, but the trends are positive.”

McPherson is referring to Nine’s expanded tentacles which now include The SMH, The Age and Nine Radio.

The end of Today Tonight

There were rumours, and hopes from some of the staff, that Seven might re-introduce Today Tonight into all markets. However new management in 2019 scrapped the brand completely. The figures seem to indicate it was a sensible move.

McPherson: “The Adelaide and Perth markets [where Today Tonight went to air after a 30-minute 6pm news bulletin] had the template of what we do on the east coast to work with, so we replicated that in those markets. The hour has been stronger than it has ever been.”

But wasn’t there a drop at 6.30pm maybe? “The movement at 6.30pm has been up in both markets from day one.

The cost of news

Like all industries, the TV business is constantly looking to find ways to maintain and innovate with either existing or maybe even less funding. “It’s the reality of the world we are in. We are a very cost-effective high margin product. About 70% of our cost base is staff. I put a lot of effort into maintaining, justifying and fighting for what we continue to do. At the moment we are very disciplined and determined to keep core news product as resourced as it can be. It’s not easy, but I am not the only one in that position.”

Mark Ferguson – 7NEWS Sydney anchor

Sharing costs with competitors helps budgets. “We share news choppers around the country. There has always been pooling on certain events and the chief of staffs are in regular contact, maybe that’s a bit more common than it has been. In an informal way we try and not have multiple camera crews waiting outside courts to get the same footage.” McPherson said that communication can depend on relationships between newsrooms.

Know your limits and value

“We are an 11-hour-a-day operation. We could go 24-hours without a great deal of effort.” That’s probably not about to happen though, added McPherson. “People wouldn’t watch a 24-hour channel on FTA [in big numbers].”

He noted that Seven News is the differentiator between the Seven offering and streaming service disruptors entering the market. “We have local market connections around Australia that the newer arrivals aren’t interested in and will never get into. In the years ahead the news product will be even more important than it is right now.”

Peter Mitchell – 7NEWS Melbourne anchor

The growth of

It is just 12 months ago that the news organisation pulled the covers off its own digital news business, launched in the aftermath of the closing of the online news JV with Yahoo! in Australia.

Over the year the audience growth for has been spectacular. “From zero to 1.2m unique Australians daily,” according to the data McPherson quotes. “When you look at the digital audience scoreboard the sites above us aren’t pure news sites. Those publishers’ figures are wrapped with other sites. When we isolate the pure news numbers for those other publishers, on most days is ahead of them.”

In the January 2020 news website rankings, the other publishers ahead of Seven were ABC, and Nine.

“What we have done is an amazing achievement with a very small team. The bulk of the team are at Martin Place and then we have just essentially one person in each other metro market. There is some contribution from broadcast, but not as much as we need.”

Seven’s policy is to release news from its reporters first online unless it is an exclusive the newsroom thinks it can hold until the 6pm bulletin.

Seven and Facebook

Seven uses digital opportunities available to help grow its audience. Facebook is one of those and subscribers to Seven News on Facebook get alerts across the day when the broadcaster is pushing out live video. “We only do it when required. People won’t watch unless it is something significant. That will become more and more important for us.

Seven provides a bulletin to Facebook Watch daily which attracts an audience of around 1m+ daily, and according to McPherson “the bulletin is recorded in a digital studio setup in what used to be our boardroom and Michael Usher records it in the afternoon and it goes to Facebook at 3pm. Facebook are using it as a benchmark for their operations in other parts of the world. We do get some revenue back from them for it. Is this a new model? I don’t know. If we can start getting money for content without relying on advertising, it adds a whole new dimension to our model.”

Facebook also has similar arrangements with Nine and Sky News where they also pay for that content.

It has been a milestone week for Seven News on Facebook Watch with 200m views. Last week’s coronavirus special editions have had nearly 2m views each. The Latest for Facebook Watch remains Australia’s number one digital news program. The core demo for the program is people 18-34. The 140 episodes so far have an average audience of 1.3m views with the biggest episode seen by 17.5m views.

Seven’s international operation

Seven News continues to base two reporters of the United Kingdom – Hugh Whitfeld and Sarah Greenhalgh. Laurel Irving returned recently to Melbourne, strengthening its operation there.

In the US Ashlee Mullany is the bureau chief and Paul Kadak and Amelia Brace are all West Coast-based. Mike Amor returned home some time ago from the US and returned to Melbourne where he hosts weekend 6pm news and 4pm weekday bulletins.

Given the Tokyo Olympics goes ahead, Seven is planning to broadcast Sunrisefrom Japan and also 6pm news crosses. None of the 6pm news anchors will relocate there.


Top photo: Michael Usher – The Latest on 7NEWS anchor

How Michael Neill keeps Fox Footy fresh for the army of fans

By James Manning

• New recruits have joined the Foxtel footy family for 2020

For a former Sydney-based Fox Sports production executive, Michael Neill has been doing a pretty good job running Fox Footy out of the AFL-obsessed Melbourne market.

Neill spent over a decade with Fox Sports before he was relocated to Melbourne to relaunch Fox Footy in 2012 after Foxtel again secured AFL rights.

The Fox Footy general manager is still enjoying the role at the specialist sports channel in his ninth year. At the launch of the 2020 season he told Mediaweek: “It’s fantastic and gets better every year.”

Hopefully the channel will have a chance to show off its 2020 products. At the time of writing a question mark still hangs over what the season will look like because of the coronavirus pandemic.

See also:
Fox Footy superstars launch season 2020 with new faces, new shows
Riewoldt on the couch, Max on 360 + Adam & Symon, Ben & The Professor

Neill was quick to reach for a sports analogy when asked about his challenges at the start of every year. “We talk about a bit like a footy team – if you just keep doing the same thing the other teams are going to go past you. We need to keep it fresh and keep reinventing. At this time of year, it is pulling it all together and getting ready to go on air.”

For 2020 season Fox Footy viewers might see the channel having a bit more fun. “We will have a few new shows like Premierships and Footy Trips with Adam and Symon from Gogglebox. Other changes include Nick Riewoldt joining the On The Couch team.”

Nick Riewoldt joins On The Couch this year

It seems there is never any shortage of new TV recruits. Most of the channel’s talent are former players and when a major footballer ends his or, in the case of AFLW players, her career they will usually have had some sort of relationship with Fox Footy over their playing journey. “We are always keeping an eye out, talking to players and talking to their managers,” said Neill.

“When Jordan Lewis finished last year, he had already been guesting on AFL360 for a few years and he was a natural to make the progression into a fulltime commentary role.

“Because of the variety of shows on what is a 24/7 channel we can provide an opportunity that won’t pigeon-hole a player into a particular role.

“Someone like Bob Murphy is a great example. He is a bit quirky and a bit different, so his show is exactly that. We don’t try and force a player into a predetermined stereotype as a commentator. We find out who they are and make them the best media person they can be.”

Potential media performers at the end of their career are usually pretty easy to pick. “By the time they are finishing their career the ones that are keen to get into the media have usually shown some sort of inkling they want to go that way. If we see guys we like we might try to get to them a little earlier on and get them to do regular stuff for us.

“For AFL 360 this year we have Max Gawnand Eddie Betts joining us as regular guests every few weeks. They are slightly more mature and we feel they have something to offer. They can offer something a little different and they also have lots of personality.”

The Fox Footy team prepare for a group photo

Fox Footy doesn’t offer any formal media training, but it does team newcomers with some of its experienced commentators like Anthony Hudson to give them feedback and to help them understand the medium.

Neill explained: “We don’t just chuck them in front of the camera and say ‘Do your best’. We ask them for ideas and subjects so when they are on air they are informed and keen to talk about it.”

Keeping the graphics sharp and simple

Fans of Fox Footy have become used to innovative graphic packages which include layover scores on the field of play or flags unfurling from the grandstand roofs. “We have a few little tricks this year,” teased Neill. “We have a few options up our sleeves. We are always looking to try and tell a story related to the game in an interesting way. The brief to the graphics guys is how can you enhance the story of the game – make it better and simpler to understand. Don’t make it more complicated.”

Bring on Thursday night footy

The AFL has yet to pull the lever on a permanent Thursday night slot, with nine matches scheduled this year. “We like Thursday night footy,” said Neill. “Any time we can get another game during the week is a great thing for us.

Fox Footy is making some tweeks to the pre, post and half time hosting of the Thursday and Friday night football feed the channel takes from Seven. “We have changed The Lab this year. We will still also be at the ground when games are at the MCG.”

While Neill talked about having fun at the footy, he also talks about “respecting the game” during the match. “We tend not to encroach on the ground during a match, we do a bit before and after on the field. We want to show people ‘authentic access’, not just interviews for the sake of it, and not be intrusive on game day.”

Fox Footy would still like a bit more access to teams post game, but the channel boss says it has changed much for the better during his time. “I like it in the NBA or the NFL when all the media are in the rooms after the game. It is almost chaos, but I like that chaos.”


Top photo: Michael Neill (left) with Fox Sports head Peter Campbell (centre) and new Fox Footy recruits Adam and Symon plus The Professor and Barney

Week 10 TV: Fascination with Married at First Sight endures

By James Manning

We are living in a world in turmoil yet audiences’ obsession with Nine’s Married at First Sight continues. And with more people homebound into the future these numbers are unlikely to fall before the coming TV climax. Two episodes this week were over 1m and two just under.

It was another good week for Nine with an eighth consecutive winning week and a fifth where primary share was locked close to 22%. Nine’s primary share winning streak was extended to six consecutive nights thanks to the addition of NRL to the schedule on Thursday and Friday nights.

Seven’ share dropped from 17.1% to 16.7%. Its star performers were again Seven News on all nights. Home and Away was its best non-news program, ranking #30 for the week, just under 600,000.

Sunrise was of course another winner for Seven outside of primetime. The broadcaster will be waiting for news from the AFL with regard to either delaying the start of the AFL season and/or perhaps shortening the season.

Network 10’s primary share was steady just over 11% with three episodes of Australian Survivor: All Stars and Gogglebox its most-watched programs. The Monday episode of Survivor ranked highest with 700,000 putting it at #17 for the week.

The ABC’s best was the Saturday edition of ABC News. Also making the top 20 for the week were the weekday news bulletins, Doc Martin, Australian Story and Four Corners.

The final episode of Michael Portillo’s Great Australian Railway Journeys was by far the most-watched program on SBS with 368,000. Taking over the timeslot on Tuesday this week is Great Alaskan Railway Journeys.

ARIA Chart: American rapper Lil Uzi Vert at #1, Dads on the rampage

By James Manning

• Singles: The Weekend again! But here comes Kiwi artist Benee


It’s well over six months since anyone other than Tones and I and more recently The Weeknd topped the chart. Blinding Lights is there again for the Canadian artist making it eight weeks at #1.

While we are writing about no new artists in the top 10, we can provide a Tones and I update. Dance Monkey sits at #7 after 40 weeks on the chart.

Just ask Dua Lipa about how hard it is to get to #1. This week her single Don’t Start Now is at #2 for a 10th non-consecutive week, equalling the record held by Maroon 5 with Moves Like Jagger in 2011 for the second most weeks spent at #2 without going #1. Guess who holds the record for most weeks ever at #2 without going #1? The Weeknd of course (with 11 weeks), so he understands their pain.

Just two new entries into the top 50 this week:

#11 Benee with Supalonely featuring Gus Dapperton. The Auckland-based singer-songwriter is back on the chart with the EP Stella & Steve. It follows up her chart success with last year’s Glitter which peaks at #21 this week after 11 weeks on the chart.

#48 Lil Uzi Vert with Baby Pluto. While the US rapper tops the album chart, a track from the album debuts in the lower rungs of the top 50.


After a fortnight at #1, BTS has slipped to #2 with Map of the Soul: 7.

Taking over chart leadership is US rapper Lil Uzi Vert with Eternal Atake, the second album which follows up Luv Is Rage 2. Although his first album topped the US chart, it stalled on the Australian ARIA chart at #22.

A second album debuting in the top 10 this week is Lauv’s debut album ~how i’m feeling~. A welcome Australian connection is the track I’m So Tired featuring Troye Sivan.

Three other albums were new to the top 50 this week:

#27 Body Count with Carnivore. The seventh album from Ice-T’s heavy metal band.

#29 Jhené Aiko with Chilombo. Third album from the US singer-songwriter-rapper.

#33 #1 Dads with Golden Repair. Six years after their last album, the band that is a side project for Big Scary’s Tom Ianek makes the ARIA top 50 for the first time with its third album.

TV Ratings: March 15

By Trent Thomas

• Married at First Sight has 1.11m but not Ivan and Aleks as they skip the commitment ceremony
• Nine powers away to network and primary share win with MAFS and NRL
• Dancing with the Stars increases by 150,000 on last week’s show as the judges hit the dance floor
• Grand Designs on ABC forms a potent combo with Stateless

After last weekend where the Women’s T20 World Cup Final skewed audiences, the Married at First Sight‘s commitment ceremony is back to over 1m with 1,115,000 viewers after getting 976,000 last week. 

NRL Sunday afternoon football returned amidst the coronavirus with 236,000 tuning in with 149,000 in Sydney and 87,000 in Brisbane.

Nine finished the night with a comfortable 26.9% primary share win and a 35.2% network share win.

MKR: The Rivals was the top non-news show for Seven last night with 473,000, after it moved back more towards normal after last Sunday’s World Cup affected audience of  395,000 which was the show’s lowest audience ever.

Seven is also continuing to air two episodes of the US hit Good Doctor a week, with its Sunday episode up almost 100,000 on last Sunday and close to the 389,000 that the show got on Tuesday night.

On 10, Dancing with the Stars was able to outrate its 7:30 pm rival MKR with 502,000 which is a big boost on the 352,000 that it had last Sunday as Chloe Lattanzi and dance partner Gustavo Viglio departed the dance floor inside of an audienceless studio.

ABC was the third most-watched primary channel and network last night with a strong combo of Grand Designs which had 587,000 and Stateless with 390,000.

SBS had a 5.1% primary share and a 6.2% network share with Secrets of Our Cities and North America With Simon Reeve.

Week 10-11 TV: Friday-Sunday
ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 16.0% 7 17.1% 9 19.4% 10  8.8% SBS One 3.5%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.9% 7TWO 2.2% GO! 4.0% 10 Bold 3.3% VICELAND 1.7%
ABC ME 0.5% 7mate 4.5% GEM 2.8% 10 Peach 2.5% Food Net 1.2%
ABC NEWS 3.5% 7flix 2.8% 9Life 2.3%     NITV 0.2%
                SBS World Movies 0.8%
TOTAL 22.9%   26.6%   28.6%   14.6%   7.3%


ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 13.0% 7 19.0% 9 15.8% 10  7.3% SBS One 6.0%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 3.5% 7TWO 3.3% GO! 4.9% 10 Bold 4.3% VICELAND 1.5%
ABC ME 0.7% 7mate 2.9% GEM 4.7% 10 Peach 2.8% Food Net 1.2%
ABC NEWS 2.7% 7flix 2.5% 9Life 2.5%     NITV 0.4%
                SBS World Movies 1.1%
TOTAL 19.9%   27.6%   28.0%   14.4%   10.1%


ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 12.0% 7 15.0% 9 26.9% 10  11.5% SBS One 5.1%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.5% 7TWO 2.8% GO! 3.0% 10 Bold 3.3% VICELAND 0.8%
ABC ME 0.6% 7mate 2.8% GEM 3.3% 10 Peach 2.3% Food Net 0.8%
ABC NEWS 2.6% 7flix 1.6% 9Life 2.1%     NITV 0.0%
                SBS World Movies 0.9%
TOTAL 17.7%   22.2%   35.2%   17.2%   7.7%


ABC Seven Affiliates Nine Affiliates 10 Affiliates SBS
ABC 10.5% 7 17.9% 9 23.5% WIN 10.7% SBS One 4.1%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.5% 7TWO 3.7% GO! 4.1% WIN Bold 4.0% VICELAND 1.4%
ABC ME 0.8% 7mate 2.6% GEM 3.7% WIN Peach 1.2% Food Net 0.8%
ABC NEWS 2.1% 7flix (Excl. Tas/WA) 1.9% 9Life 2.3% Sky News  on WIN 1.8% NITV 0.0%
                SBS Movies 1.2%
TOTAL 16.0%   26.2%   33.7%   17.8%   7.6%


88.2% 11.8%
All People Ratings

Friday Top 10

  1. Nine News Nine 873,000
  2. Nine News 6:30 Nine 840,000
  3. Seven News Seven 830,000
  4. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 792,000
  5. ABC News ABC 696,000
  6. Endeavour ABC 562,000
  7. Gardening Australia ABC 510,000
  8. A Current Affair Nine 500,000
  9. Better Homes And Gardens Seven 465,000
  10. The Chase Australia Seven 455,000


Saturday Top 10

  1. Seven News Seven 929,000
  2. Nine News Saturday Nine 776,000
  3. ABC News ABC 762,000
  4. Doc Martin ABC 697,000
  5. Taronga: Who’s Who In The Zoo Nine 475,000
  6. Peter Rabbit Seven 399,000
  7. Agatha Raisin ABC 354,000
  8. 10 News First 10 289,000
  9. Weekend Sunrise Seven 286,000
  10. Getaway Nine 283,000
Sunday FTA
  1. Married At First Sight Nine 1,115,000
  2. Nine News Sunday Nine 1,096,000
  3. Seven News Seven 978,000
  4. ABC News Sunday ABC 872,000
  5. 60 Minutes Nine 816,000
  6. Grand Designs ABC 587,000
  7. Dancing With The Stars 10 502,000
  8. My Kitchen Rules: The Rivals Seven 473,000
  9. The Sunday Project 7pm 10 426,000
  10. Murder On The Internet Nine 404,000
  11. Stateless ABC 390,000
  12. The Good Doctor Seven 381,000
  13. Insiders AM ABC 369,000
  14. 10 News First 10 339,000
  15. Weekend Sunrise Seven 296,000
  16. Seven News At 5 Seven 279,000
  17. The Sunday Project 6.30pm 10 264,000
  18. The Graham Norton Show Encore 10 239,000
  19. Sunday Afternoon NRL Live Nine 236,000
  20. Weekend Today Sunday Nine 228,000
Sunday Multichannel
  1. Australian Story PM ABC NEWS 212,000
  2. Insiders AM ABC NEWS 201,000
  3. Bluey AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 166,000
  4. Peppa Pig AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 162,000
  5. Weekend Breakfast AM ABC NEWS 152,000
  6. NCIS (R) 10 Bold 151,000
  7. Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 143,000
  8. Play School AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 142,000
  9. ABC News AM ABC NEWS 140,000
  10. Bananas In Pyjamas AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 138,000
  11. Dr No 9Gem 136,000
  12. Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 133,000
  13. Peppa Pig PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 130,000
  14. Kiri And Lou AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 129,000
  15. Border Security Australia’s Front Line 7TWO 127,000
  16. Dot. PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 124,000
  17. ABC News PM ABC NEWS 123,000
  18. Noddy Toyland Detective PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 120,000
  19. Bondi Rescue Ep 3 (R) 10 Bold 117,000
  20. Olobob Top PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 117,000
Sunday STV
  1. Live: NRL: Sea Eagles V Storm FOX LEAGUE 235,000
  2. Live: NRL: Dragons V Wests Tigers FOX LEAGUE 217,000
  3. Live: Sunday Night With Matty Johns FOX LEAGUE 142,000
  4. Coronavirus: The Facts And The Fiction Sky News Live 79,000
  5. Live: NRL Pre Game Sunday Ticket FOX LEAGUE 76,000
  6. Credlin Sky News Live 75,000
  7. Weekend Live Sky News Live 65,000
  8. Outsiders Sky News Live 61,000
  9. Paul Murray Live Sky News Live 56,000
  10. Outsiders Sky News Live 55,000
  11. Live: AFLW: Adelaide V GWS FOX FOOTY 44,000
  12. Weekend Live Sky News Live 43,000
  13. Live: Big League Wrap FOX LEAGUE 41,000
  14. Live: Super Rugby: Brumbies V Waratahs FOX SPORTS MORE 40,000
  15. Selling Houses Australia Lifestyle Channel 38,000
  16. S.W.A.T. FOX One 38,000
  17. Rusty Rivets Nick Jr. 38,000
  18. 44 Cats Nick Jr. 37,000
  19. In My View Sky News Live 37,000
  20. Outsiders Sky News Live 36,000

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

Business of Media

Hollywood Could Take $20 Billion Hit From Coronavirus Impact

Taking wide-release tentpoles off the schedule doesn’t come cheap, nor does shuttering production on hundreds of scripted and unscripted TV series — and what happens to the unemployed workers? Reports the Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel.

As it stands now, the global box office has already taken a coronavirus hit of at least $7 billion. If the remainder of March, April and May are included, lost revenue would climb another $10 billion, making a total loss of approximately $17 billion. And if the crisis continues beyond May, all bets are off.

But taking wide-release films off the schedule also doesn’t come cheap. MGM pushed the upcoming James Bond  No Time to Die to November, a move that will likely cost $30 million to $50 million considering that ad buys are made in advance and make-goods are not a given as several studios are in the same boat, having pulled ads at the last minute. A Quiet Place II’s abrupt cancellation eight days before release will cost Paramount some $30 million (unlike with Mulan, A Quiet Place II director John Krasinski and the producers were involved in the decision-making process to hold off on releasing the film until the global pandemic has subsided).

Read more

Seven's deadly sins

As the Australian share market shed nearly $230 billion caused by coronavirus panic leaking into global markets last week, Kerry Stokes’ media empire fell to record lows. Worth more than $3 billion in 2011, Seven West Media’s market capitalisation finished Friday at $199.9 million, reports AFR’s Max Mason.

The story of Seven over the past decade is one of pride, missed opportunities, failure to diversify and to use its traditional media assets to grow new digital assets such as real estate businesses REA Group and Domain. On top of that add a run of poor prime-time programming, bad luck, and the crashing waves of change in media landing it in an unenviable position.

James Warburton, who returned to Seven to become CEO in August, now has the tricky task of turning the business around.

Read more

Ryan Stokes returns favour and counsels father Kerry on matter of the heart

To sell or not to sell. It’s the dilemma on which Channel 7’s major shareholder Kerry Stokes and his son Ryan can’t quite see eye-to-eye, according to television industry insiders, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Last week, as Seven’s share price sunk to a new historic low of 11c, from inside Seven came word that Ryan has — and not for the first time — put a compelling case to his father to sell Seven.

As Ryan sees it, Seven West Media is weighing heavily on the Seven Group — an embarrassment, you might call it.

But Kerry, who turns 80 in September, is reluctant to sell.

Read more

James Warburton's quest for redemption at Seven

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age spoke to more than 20 current and former colleagues of James Warburton for this story. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity. Most agreed that Warburton is frank and his ability to get directly to the point can unsettle people, but his confidence and commitment to the decisions he makes are also admired, reports the SMH’s Zoe Samios and Jennifer Duke.

It’s this varied experience and personality that make Warburton an unusual TV boss. It’s also why he is possibly the only executive with the skillset to pull off an unlikely Seven turnaround.

Read more

10 reverses downward spiral to achieve impressive ratings growth

By 2017, 10 had fallen into receivership before being acquired by multinational media conglomerate CBS. Now, it’s enjoying its best ratings in years reports the SMH’s Michael Lallo.

In the first four weeks of the 2020 ratings season, compared to the same period last year, 10’s share of the metropolitan commercial TV audience climbed 4.3 per cent to 24.2 per cent, with Seven on 35.5 per cent (down 2.8) and Nine – the owner of this masthead – on 40.2 per cent (down 1.5). 10’s share of the under-50 demographic is up 6.9 per cent and it’s the only commercial network to grow its 6pm to 10.30pm audience in real terms, jumping 15 per cent to an average of 529,000 city viewers.

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Coronavirus fears drive TV binge

Amid fears about the coronavirus spreading, wary Australians are nesting at home and binge-watching TV shows, movies and sport, reports News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Pay-TV and streaming company Foxtel and streaming service Stan have seen an increase in customer demand and viewing in recent weeks that is set to accelerate following the cancellation of major sporting and marquee calendar events.

The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled at the last minute on Friday, leaving a hole in Network 10’s program schedule, and Australia’s three-match One Day International cricket series against New Zealand was axed after the first match was played at an empty stadium.

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Eurovision 2020 faces rescheduling or postponement due to coronavirus

Planning for the 2020 Eurovision song contest has been thrown into disarray with new restrictions on public movements imposed in the Netherlands due to coronavirus, reports News Corp’s Chris Griffith.

The Netherlands has joined France, Spain and Italy in imposing new restrictions on the movement of people. In the case of The Netherlands it has reportedly banned public gatherings larger than 100 people and banned inward flights from China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

The decision to prohibit large gatherings has thrown planning for Eurovision in the Dutch city of Rotterdam into jeopardy. The European Broadcasting Union in a statement says a decision has not been taken yet on whether to cancel the song contest which is scheduled for May.

“With two months to go until the three live shows on 12, 14 and 16 May, and a rapidly changing situation both in the Netherlands and the countries of the participating broadcasters, it is still too early to make any final decisions,” says the EBU.

“We are working closely with Dutch Host Broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS and the City of Rotterdam to explore different potential scenarios for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020.”

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Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck close in on breakfast dominance

With a combined 60-odd years of radio broadcasting experience between them, Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck share a mantra when unforeseen disasters – take this week’s unending confusion over coronavirus, for example – play havoc with their best laid on-air plans, reports the SMH’s Robert Moran.

“It’s only radio, you know?” says Harmer, 64. “I was on-air during 9/11; sometimes it all goes out the window. Whatever happens, you’ll still get something on the radio. It might be terrible, it might be banal, it might be risible, whatever – but something will happen. You’ve got to be a bit of a stress-eater in this job.”

Just over two years into their morning partnership on ABC Sydney, those veteran chops are proving essential. In Tuesday’s first radio ratings of the year, the pair’s breakfast show grabbed an audience share of 11.8 per cent in the all-important 5.30am-9am timeslot, higher than Kiis FM’s Kyle and Jackie O, and their highest-ever ratings since they debuted as a duo in January 2018.

“We had a season of the worst bushfires in history, we had floods on the back of that, and now we have coronavirus. Those ratings are vindication that when people want to find information they trust, they come to the ABC,” says Buck, 47. “I’d like to say they purely come for our wonderful personalities, but…”

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US coronavirus shutdown: the hit list

Hollywood, New York and Atlanta TV shutdowns due to coronavirus represent the biggest halt to production since the 2007 Writers’ Strike, reports TV Tonight.

CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, The CW, FX, HBO, AMC, Netflix, TBS, Bravo, Apple TV and Disney are amongst those all ceasing production.

This will have a major impact on Australian scheduling, most noticeably for Foxtel, Netflix, Stan, 10, Seven and Nine.

See full list here

Network 10 alert to virus dangers facing staff and contestants

As the coronavirus spreads around the world, ViacomCBS’s newly promoted local content boss Beverley McGarvey is reviewing filming plans for Network 10’s shows, particularly adventure reality game show The Amazing Race Australia which sees contestants travel to different countries.

McGarvey, who has been 10’s chief content officer for nearly four years, said 10 would make a decision about The Amazing Race “as late as possible”, as more information about the coronavirus came to hand.

In the past, The Amazing Race has taken contestants to Cambodia, New Zealand, Argentina, Portugal and Russia as part of the competition to win a cash prize of $250,000.

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No live audiences for Q&A, The Project as TV hopes to avoid worst

The local film and television industry is scrambling to adjust to the impact of coronavirus as the Screen Producers Association warns “hundreds of millions of dollars” of work could be lost, reports the SMH’s Karl Quinn.

Two big-budget international productions have already been forced into temporary shutdowns following coronavirus scares – Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic, starring Tom Hanks, on the Gold Coast, and the Marvel superhero flick, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, in Sydney – and now Australian networks and producers are bracing for disruption and trying to head it off by changing the way they do business.

Staff at Network 10 were directed on Friday to work from home, and a number of shows typically filmed in front of live studio audiences – including The Project, Dancing With the Stars, Studio Ten and the planned Australian Survivor: Reunion special – will now be filmed behind closed doors.

“These are unprecedented times for the broadcast industry,” a network spokesman said on Sunday. “We are regularly reviewing our practices with the health, safety and well-being of our staff, crew and talent top of mind.”

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Karl Stefanovic signs with Chris Hemsworth’s management

He is Australia’s self-styled god of morning TV but could Karl Stefanovic now be aiming for loftier heights? Reports News Corp’s Amy Harris.

The newly resurrected host of Today has been the subject of rumours this week that he has inked a deal with a new management company with close ties to the company that manages Aussie megastar Chris Hemsworth.

A week after Sunday Confidential revealed Stefanovic has parted ways with his long-time manager Sharon Finnigan, it’s believed the soon-to-be-dad-again has agreed to terms with Melbourne-based agent Mark Morrissey.

Morrissey, who counts Hemsworth, Luke Bracey and Michael Caton amongst his stable, was tapped by Stefanovic to ‘collaborate’ on some upcoming shows and productions.

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Today show weatherman Tim Davies has to self-isolate for two weeks

Today  weatherman Tim Davies will be missing from the Channel 9 breakfast show for the next two weeks due to self-isolation, reports News Corp’s Andrew Bucklow.

Davies was on his way home to Australia after a holiday in Austria when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday afternoon that all passengers arriving in Australia have to self-isolate for 14 days in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Channel 9 presenter posted a photo of himself on Instagram from a plane at Dubai International Airport with the caption: “So, I’m on one of the first international flights to land in Australia tomorrow where everyone on-board will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

“This is the right move by our government. Passengers don’t seem angry, panicked or confused by this move.

“My @thetodayshow family has been fantastic & I’ll be back on air after a bit of a ‘longer than expected’ break.”

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Richard Wilkins tests positive for coronavirus, Channel 9 confirms

Richard Wilkins has confirmed he has tested positive for coronavirus and has been self-isolating at home since Thursday, reports News Corp’s Andrew Bucklow.

The confirmation comes after Wilkins came in close contact with Rita Wilson, who has tested positive for coronavirus, in Sydney last week when she appeared on Today Extra.

Wilkins also met with Wilson, who is currently in isolation at Gold Coast University Hospital with husband Tom Hanks, during her show at the Sydney Opera House last weekend.

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ViacomCBS signs distribution deal with Foxtel

Foxtel has signed a new distribution deal with entertainment giant ViacomCBS that will allow the News-Corp controlled pay TV company to air children’s brand Nickelodeon on its upcoming streaming service, reports the SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Sources close to the deal confirmed the extension, which means programs such as Spongebob SquarePants, Nick, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn and Paw Patrol could appear on Foxtel’s new entertainment streaming service known as Project Ares. Nickelodeon and Nick Junior already run on Foxtel’s set top box and Foxtel Now.

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Jackson Warne set to make TV debut

Jackson Warne, the son of cricket legend Shane Warne, is set to be part of a gruelling new TV show putting celebrity participants to the test. And he’s not the only familiar face taking part, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

Jackson Warne is set to make his TV debut in a new Channel 7 show called SAS: Who Dares Wins.

An ultimate test of physical ability, we hear the gruelling show is to be filmed in New Zealand soon — dependent on the coronavirus crisis.

Others to compete are former ironwoman Candice Warner, wife of Aussie batsman David Warner; former cricket bowler Mitchell Johnson; Olympian Jana Pittman and swimmer Shayna Jack, who is fighting to clear her name after a failed drug test.

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Seven West Media to be refunded if Olympics gets cancelled

Australia’s Olympics broadcaster Seven West Media will be repaid the cost of the Tokyo 2020 broadcasting rights deal should the event be cancelled as a result of the coronavirus, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Television sources familiar with the commercial arrangement between the broadcaster and the International Olympic Committee said Seven would receive a refund on the money it has paid for the rights to broadcast the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as concerns grow that the global COVID-19 outbreak could cause the event to be cancelled altogether.

Seven, which also owns West Australian Newspapers and Pacific Magazines, has been preparing for a year without the Olympics, but sources close to the network say they are still monitoring the situation. Cancellation of the tournament could be beneficial to the company as it tries to pay down a multi-million dollar debt pile.

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Coronavirus puts sports TV rights deals in turmoil

Sports broadcasters and administrators are scrambling to check the fine print of sports rights contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars amid the threat of top football codes and the Olympics being suspended or cancelled, reports News Corp’s Leo Shanahan.

Sports administrators and broadcasters are desperately trying to broker alternatives to season cancellations, with suspension rather than cancellation unlikely to trigger demands for repayment by broadcasters.

Both Seven and Fox Sports (majority-owned by News Corp, publisher of The Australian) are preparing for a suspension of the AFL season for up to a month that could see ­finals played deep into October to honour a $2.5bn broadcasting deal. It is understood the AFL and broadcasters are looking at the possibility of playing more than one game a week when games do commence in an effort to make up the shortfall.

The coronavirus-induced cancellation could not have come at a worse time for Rugby Australia which is currently trying to attract bidders for a new broadcast deal after turning down a deal from Fox Sports to renew its $57m-a-year contract.

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'Catastrophic': NRL cash reserves would dry up in three months without games

The NRL would exhaust its cash reserves within three months if the competition was suspended, it emerged on Sunday, as Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys warned of the “catastrophic” danger the coronavirus spread posed to the code, reports the SMH’s Chris Barrett.

While the season will continue this week behind closed doors, V’landys admitted he could not expect broadcasters Nine and Foxtel to pay their monthly instalments from the $1.8 billion television deal that props up the game if matches had to be called off.

The NRL on Sunday moved to support clubs by opening up its distress fund and providing each of the 16 teams $425,000 immediately. The clubs stand to lose a combined $5 million per round in lost match-day revenue, including from ticket sales, merchandise and memberships, and league officials also estimate it would cost the game $20m in forfeited earnings for each match of the State of Origin series if it was played without crowds.

However, those losses are dwarfed by the financial freefall the code would be propelled into should the competition be forced into a shutdown by a positive COVID-19 test to a player or other person connected to a team, or by another factor related to the pandemic.

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Optus Sport to refund, suspend accounts after EPL delay

Telecommunications giant Optus is preparing to refund or suspend accounts free of charge for all customers who pay for its sports streaming service as football leagues across Europe postpone seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic, reports AFR’s Max Mason.

Optus has 825,000 subscribers to its Optus Sport service. The majority of them get Optus Sport for free, but there is a segment of customers from other telco providers who pay $14.99 a month for the service, and they can ask for a refund or suspend their accounts for as long as the English Premier League is postponed.

“We will always do the right thing by customers and we are closely monitoring events. Currently, it hasn’t been decided if games will be cancelled outright or re-scheduled to a future date. If they are rescheduled we will show these,” Optus head of TV and content Corin Dimopoulos said.

“Once we have a clearer indication of the plans from the Premier League, FA, UEFA and the J-League, we will be in a better position to provide our customers with a range of options so they can choose the one that works best for them.”

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10 takes $5m hit from Australian Grand Prix loss

The cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix is likely to blow a $5m hole in the budget of Network 10, capping off a horror week for the broadcaster that has seen staff sent home because of coronavirus fears and the resignation of its CEO, Paul Anderson, reports News Corp’s Leo Shanahan.

The cancellation of the grand prix in Melbourne comes as broadcasters struggle with a changing timetable of cancelled and postponed sporting rights ­affecting hundreds of millions of dollars in sports rights.

It is understood 10 had about $5m in advertising tied up in the grand prix with major broadcast partners such as Kia, and the broadcaster will now struggle to make revenue targets for the quarter in an already tough media environment.

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Seven’s ‘Protect Bruce McAvaney’ plan in coronavirus crisis

Locking down Bruce McAvaney in a sterilised room to call footy games off a TV monitor. This is a previously unimaginable crisis scenario that suddenly became very real over at Seven last week, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

Seven, like the ABC, was last week war-gaming coronavirus emergency plans. It has already made fist bumps and elbow taps standard company policy.

Now protecting McAvaney, 66, for decades Seven’s legendary network sports anchor, has become a top priority, given he is managing a non-life threatening form of leukaemia and his health has to be carefully managed. So with AFL games now to be played before empty stadiums, McAvaney and fellow commentators may call matches from the safety of a sterilised room at the Seven Broadcast Centre, based at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium.

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Channel 9 dumps Ray Hadley from 2020 NRL season coverage

Broadcaster Ray Hadley has been benched by Channel 9 and told his services are not required in 2020 — despite being under contract to call the footy, reports News Corp’s Buzz Rothfield.

The 2GB morning host had been a regular back-up caller to veteran Ray Warren for several years, often covering Friday night out-of-town games for the free-to-air network.

One of the country’s most experienced sports broadcasters, Hadley is a household name in rugby league from covering the game for over four decades on radio and TV.

Instead, Channel 9 is using Rabbits Warren and Matt Thompson — the commentator dubbed “the invisible man” after it was revealed by his Nine colleague Neil Breen that there is an edict at Channel 9 not to show Thompson’s head on television.

Nine will also use little known Brisbane-based caller Peter Psaltis for NRL games out of Queensland, instead of Hadley.

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