Friday May 29, 2020

10 close to re-launching The Living Room: Changes explained

By James Manning

• Network promising “If viewers loved the show before they will love it now”

The 7.30pm Friday timeslot has long been a magnet for lifestyle TV. Burke’s Backyard dominated for many years before Seven moved Better Homes and Gardens there some time ago, as did the ABC more recently with Gardening Australia.

Network 10 started playing in that space with The Living Room in 2012. The program proved popular with audiences with 40 episodes a year and it has attracted many TV Week Logie Awards, winning four over consecutive years from 2015.

But after more than 300 episodes the program was benched late in 2019 as 10 split with the production house WTFN.

Sarah Thornton

As it’s shortly due to resume, Network 10’s head of popular factual Sarah Thornton (pictured) told Mediaweek: “We had a great run working with WTFN and there are countless happy memories. But we Aussies love home improvement and, like most homes, The Living Room was in need of a refurbishment. So, with Australia’s most loved hosts – Amanda, Chris, Barry and Miguel – at the helm we’ve had a crack team busy getting it revamped, re-energised and relocated. And we can’t wait for viewers to see it!”

Viewers will have to wait a little longer as 10 has yet to reveal when in the coming months that the program will re-launch.

The new executive producer of The Living Room is Caroline Swift, former director of development at Fremantle Australia. Swift told Mediaweek the thing that drew her to move to the program was the chance to work with the talent.

“Amanda is a national icon, Miguel impressed Australia with his win on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, Chris has proven how versatile he is and Barry is just so charming and they all have great relationships with each other.

“I was also attracted to the brief from Sarah and Bev McGarvey who wanted to do something completely different, in a sense reinventing the show.”

For regular Living Room viewers, Thornton said: “It will be an entirely new show. But we think people will see it like a renovation. After the initial surprise it will feel like it’s always been like that. We wanted to give the talent more to do and create a show around them that played to their strengths in a way the show now does. Although it has been reinvented, if viewers loved the show before they will love it now.”

Former regulars like Cherie Barber and Peter Walsh won’t feature as much in the new format. “It’s now all about the core cast,” said Thornton. “We feel the cast have such diverse talents that it isn’t necessary to have additional talent. The hosts are more than willing to roll up their sleeves, get stuck in. They are such a powerhouse, we don’t think they are going to need help.”

While 10 had the show on hiatus planning its return, there was never any thought about changing the Friday 7.30pm timeslot. Thornton: “The discussion was only ever about what we could deliver viewers differently in the slot.”

Swift started planning the format changes earlier in the year before COVID-19 slowed down production. “We have since managed to work through that period making compromises for safety,” Swift explained. “The material we have so far has looked great during the edit and people are excited about what we will have when the series relaunches. The central idea for the show is that the home is where the heart is. I wanted to make a show where there was a real connection with the hosts and we will deliver on that.”

Thornton added: “To create not only a new format, but to do so during a pandemic has been one of the most extraordinary things I have witnessed as a network EP. Caroline has done it with passion and has led a team of very talented creatives through what has been an extraordinary time. She has been making a show about our lives and our lives have fundamentally changed. Caroline and the team must be exhausted and what she has delivered has been brilliant.”

While Thornton and Swift had met a few times, they have never worked together previously. Swift called the partnership, “one of the most joyful working partnerships that I’ve had in my career.” Thornton: “I have also adored working with someone that has the energy and creativity that Caroline has.”

Swift said a big factor in the revised format was the willingness of host Amanda and co-presenters Miguel, Chris and Barry to “lean in and trust us”.

Swift has promised regular viewers that all the usual topics will be covered. “They key change is that in each episode we have cast contributors who have a story that inspires what we do around it. Because we wanted to explore the relationships the four hosts have with each other we have them out in the field together. They will now be part of a story instead of each working on their own stories.”

Thornton added: “Two key things we wanted from the storytelling – we wanted the show to inspire. If people want to know how to seal a window, you can go to YouTube and look at a video to work out how to do it very quickly. If you want to learn about why to do certain things or why to make changes to enhance your life is why you come to The Living Room.”

Top Photo: The Living Room’s Miguel, Amanda, Barry and Chris

News Corp’s Michael Miller on staff departures, transition to digital

By James Manning

• Courier-Mail and Daily Telegraph to publish new regional editions

Even though there was anticipation of the cuts announced to News Corp Australia titles across many markets, it still shook the industry when confirmed on Thursday. The company’s executive chairman Michael Miller told Mediaweek, “It’s not a great day when you see a colleague depart the business. Staff impacted come from all parts of the company, but mainly from the regional and suburban areas where those mastheads will now be published digitally instead of in print.”

News Corp transition to digital

110 titles impacted
96 now going digital only
14 titles closing

See also:
News Corp closes titles, changes metro strategy, sheds staff in shake-up day

Part of the upheaval announced at News Corp Australia this week involves changes to the editorial make-up of its cap city metro dailies.

“Regional Australia has changed,” said Miller. “Due to various factors including transport, employment changes and the media, people are far more connected to their major cities. In response to that we will be publishing more regional editions of the state-based titles that will see them carry more area specific news.

“For example in Queensland you will see the Sunshine Coast and Gympie get a separate edition of The Courier-Mail, and there will also be a Central Queensland edition.” Miller said The Daily Telegraph will also launch separate regional editions for different parts of NSW.

There has been a loss of journalism roles in the overall staff cuts, but Miller explained: “We will have 375 journalists through regional and suburban Australia who will not just continue to write for their [print or digital] local masthead which will continue to live and thrive, but they will also contribute to their state-based mastheads, The Daily Telegraph and The Courier-Mail in particular.

“When people work for News Corp they don’t work for any particular masthead. Part of being a journalist with us now is that your stories can be read widely and that includes the team that will be working on our newswire.

Miller added the company recognises there are still people who prefer a print product whether it be read over the breakfast table or as part of a ritual with their coffee or morning tea.

“While the local advertising in regional titles has over time declined, we see the metro dailies or The Australian being able to meet the print needs of many.”

The expansion of regional coverage in all metro dailies will come under the brief for each of the editors, in the case of The Daily Telegraph that is Ben English, while in Queensland it is Chris Jones.

The company has taken some learnings from the past few months when COVID-19 led to print suspension at some titles. “We have realised just how well our different editorial teams can work together. They are now one team.” Miller pointed to the COVID-19 special section Hibernation and how well it was put together so quickly and with localised issues.

While the impact of COVID-19 has sped up the transition to digital, Miller noted many of the titles were challenged before it appeared. “Since COVID all businesses have had to look at how they operate and we have had to do that as well. When we look at long term viability, they were still looking challenged.”

Miller noted that one of the roles of Peter Blunden’s expanded brief as national executive editor across the newswire, sport, the News360 division and the premium news division “is to ensure our great journalism is shared to as many people as possible.”

News Corp is optimistic about readers making the transition from print to digital. “The audience response has never been bigger,” said Miller. “This move to digital hasn’t been only a recent experiment we have made just because of COVID-19. For three years now we have been offering digital subscriptions to all of our regional and community mastheads. In regional Queensland alone we have 80,000 digital subscribers, that has grown 40% in the past year. Nationally as a group News Corp has 640,000 subscribers.” Customers who subscribe to one masthead can get access to any title in the group digitally, except for The Australian.

While Miller noted one of the perceptions about the business is that it is a newspaper company, he pointed to the investment in News Xtend, now Australia’s largest digital services agency. “It provides multiple solutions for small and medium businesses across the country with a range of digital options. We are already meeting the need of clients digitally, which is one of the reasons many local businesses no longer advertise in print.

The End: Alan Jones radio career wraps after 35 years, most as #1

By James Manning

• Broadcaster reveals his first job offer was to co-host with a woman

Broadcaster Alan Jones signed off on his radio career this morning after 35 years hosting breakfast – many of those years at #1. Love him or loathe him, and there’s plenty who do both, he ends with a record that will be hard to beat. Ironically he ends at a time where radio ratings have been suspended, but before that happened earlier this year the stats show he has 226 winning surveys.

While much of his final week was made up of tributes from regular contributors to his show over the year, not all the praise has been glowing.

Colleagues elsewhere at Nine Entertainment Co have largely been quiet or in some cases damning. An editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald detailed his shortcomings and star columnist Peter FitzSimons is no fan and noted it was time. And on the eve of his departure, Nine’s flagship current affairs program 60 Minutes chose to profile another breakfast radio team – Kyle and Jackie O.

His harshest critics have been celebrating hard. This from the lobby group Mad Fucking Witches which encouraged the ad boycott:

“This morning is Alan Jones’ last day broadcasting on 2GB. We’d like to sincerely thank every single witch who’s worked so fucking hard to get to this. We’ve collectively made the world a slightly better place today. You are all sheroes and heroes.” The social media post came with the hashtag WeSackedAlanJones.

The final program started with a news bulletin led by Jones’ departure in a report by Clinton Maynard. The final bulletin ended with Maynard again recapping today’s show. The first ad break carried a promo for 2GB breakfast – hosted by Ben Fordham.

Alan Jones on the day he signed at 2UE with then station manager Mark Collier

The 2GB news noted Jones “held politicians to account and fought for struggle street.”

The departing host has been reminding people all week he is continuing on Sky News and giving them his social media contact points. His new email is

Jones noted more than 8,000 people had left him messages on Facebook so far this week.

The biggest revelation this morning was that when planning his entry to radio in 1985 with John Brennan, the station management at 2UE initially offered him the job of co-hosting with a woman. He declined the offer. Soon after at a lunch at a Chinese restaurant they offered Jones the role solo. He accepted and they signed a contract on a napkin. When talk came to radio, novice media man Jones asked “What are ratings”. It was soon explained, and management added an incentive to his initial fee. “If you can get to 10% in your first year we will give you another $100,000.” A check arrived for Jones after the final survey result of 1985.

Callers on the final program included many regular listeners, but also the famous and powerful who had guested over the years. From Sir Cliff Richard, Police Commissioner Michael Fuller, reporter Ian Leslie (who noted there had not been many other tributes from other journalists), John Barilaro, his UK and US correspondents Adam Gilchrist and Harley Carnes.

Former radio bosses John Brennan and Mark Collier got plenty of mentions, and Jones thanked former 2UE and 2GB station management. He thanked the legal team (“I must have driven them nuts”) and sales (singling out Peters of Kensington for its support).

There were also calls today from PM Scott Morrison, his Sky News co-host Peta Credlin, Bob Katter, Mark Bosnich, Bob Rogers, Matt Hayden and Peter Switzer.

Just before 9am Jones had two surprise guests to his south coast property – Tony Abbott and Mark Latham. They didn’t get to air – Jones said they were had brought grog.

Jones saved his biggest tribute to his team – producer Paul Christenson plus Ross Geddes, Briony Bowman, Dan Mullens, Tim Barton, James Willis, Jacob Pittlolo, Tonya Taylor and Jacquie Murray.

The last word on the show belonged to longtime listener and longtime caller Stephanie.

AFL TV deal
Foxtel to be the home of NRL till 2027 + Nine confirms deal till 2022

Foxtel will continue to air the NRL until the end of 2027 with the confirmation of an extended TV rights deal announced by Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany before kick-off to the season restart on Thursday night.

This extends the deal an additional five years after the expiry of the current deal in 2022 providing long term certainty amidst one of the most turbulent times in the sports histroy.

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys said: “I want to thank Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and Nine CEO Hugh Marks for reaching an outcome that puts the fans and the game’s future first.

“I am delighted to have worked with our long-standing partners Foxtel and Nine to reshape and resume the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. It is significant that on one of the most important days in our game’s history, we have finalised the deals to ensure its future.

“Our negotiations were tough but always in a spirit of goodwill and shared ambitions for the betterment of rugby league. We could not have reached our May 28 restart ambitions without the teamwork and collaboration of our partners.”

“These deals provide certainty to ensure our 16 clubs remain strong and that we can continue to invest in grassroots rugby league across our communities.”

For the resumed 2020 season:

• Foxtel will continue to show all eight games every round – including five exclusive telecasts each weekend
• Nine will continue to televise three weekly NRL matches – Thursday and Friday nights, plus Sunday afternoon – as well as the Grand Final and the three State of Origin matches

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany said: “Foxtel is incredibly pleased to support the NRL through this difficult period and to have footy back on Foxtel this weekend, every round, every game, live and ad free during play.

“This is a great outcome for footy, for fans and for players. It’s also a hugely important signal to everyone in Australia, and around the world, that we will get through these times, and we can keep players and coaching staff safe while we all enjoy the game.

“The agreement between Foxtel and the NRL extends our existing broadcast rights for a further 5 years and cements our position as the Home of NRL until 2027. It provides the NRL with the certainty to continue to develop the status of the game and gives fans the go-to destination for the best of NRL, all in one place.

“Being back on the field and back on air tonight doesn’t happen without leadership. I want to acknowledge Peter V’landys and everyone at the NRL and the clubs for their passion to get the game back. It’s been outstanding.

“We have also had incredible support from the New South Wales and Queensland Governments and from Prime Minister Morrison. It really has been a team Australia effort and it shows us all what can be accomplished through co-operation, even in the most difficult of times.”

Channel Nine has also come to terms to continue its deal till 2022 under the revised contract Nine expects a benefit from changes in rights fee and production and services costs of approximately $27.5m each year in FY21 and FY22, with a greater benefit in FY20 with the modified season.

Nine’s CEO Hugh Marks said: “This is an excellent long-term outcome for both Nine and the game of Rugby League. Completion of Season 2020 will enable the continuity of the Code from a game, supporters’ and sponsors’ perspective. We are also delighted to have reached a revised agreement with the NRL for seasons 2021 and 2022, and at a level of rights costs that enables us to sustainably invest in Rugby League for the future. Nine is pleased to be continuing its partnership with Rugby League.”

SBS farewells Chair, Dr Bulent Hass Dellal after 10 years

SBS Chair, Dr Bulent Hass Dellal will conclude ten years of serving on the SBS Board on 2 June 2020 which is the ten-year limit of service as outlined in the SBS Act. The last three years of his tenure was as Chair of the organisation.

James Taylor, SBS managing director, said: “I’d like to congratulate Hass, on behalf of the board and the organisation, on reaching the remarkable milestone of a decade of service on the SBS board and thank him for the significant contribution he has made to the evolution of the organisation.

“Hass has a deep understanding and appreciation of multicultural Australia, and extensive experience and genuine passion for driving social cohesion in this country. His endless energy and commitment to the reason SBS exists has inspired all those who have worked with him over the ten years, and particularly during the last few as Chair. He will be missed in the boardroom and around the corridors of SBS, but his legacy will be lasting.”

Hass Dellal, SBS Chair, said: “It has truly been an honour to have been the Chair and to have served on the board of SBS during such a transformative period for the media sector, and a time of tremendous change and growth for the organisation.

“No other media organisation provides the nuanced reflection and exploration of what it means to be Australian today, like SBS. Its ability to do so is built on 45 years of fostering relationships and authentic connections with Australia’s diverse communities, telling their stories and creating greater understanding and celebration of our differences as a nation.

“I have had so many proud moments, in particular, during these unprecedented times as SBS has responded to the coronavirus pandemic. The content and services that SBS has been providing to keep so many Australians informed and safe exemplify its vital role and value to our society. 

“I want to thank everyone at SBS – the board, the executive team, and all of the incredible staff throughout the organisation – for their ongoing support. It has been a privilege to work with people so passionate about the work that they do, and who have such an unrelenting belief in the purpose and Charter of SBS.  I may no longer be on the board, but I will continue to be an avid audience member and ambassador for SBS.” 

Mercado on TV: There’s never been anything like The Beach

By Andrew Mercado

There has never been anything on television quite like The Beach. This staggeringly unique and stunningly beautiful event can be watched tonight as a three-hour Slow TV event (Friday on SBS and NITV), or catch up as six half hour episodes (SBS On Demand). The Beach is a must-see.

The coastline of Western Australia has never been on TV that much, but now it’s the hottest destination on the box. It kicked off last year with previous Slow TV event The Kimberley Cruise (repeat Sunday on SBS from 1.25am) and last week, Mystery Road (iview) wrapped its latest series there. Now director Warwick Thornton is back on country, isolated in an oceanside shack.

He stares at a guitar in the corner. He cooks elaborate dishes but explains nothing. He tells stories to his chickens. And every moment is mesmerising, exquisitely shot by his cinematographer son Dylan River, of Robbie Hood fame (SBS On Demand). What a family – thank you.

Slow TV isn’t for everyone though, and new Aussie drama Operation Buffalo (Sunday on ABC) may not be either. It takes a shocking real-life event – nuclear testing in the South Australian outback during the 1950s – and turns it into a rollicking romp with sexy hookers, horny soldiers and a mystery rapist stalking nurses.

Companion documentary Maralinga Tjarutju (iview), which screened last week, was the true story of what happened there. Operation Buffalo is a “partly true story”. Like The Great (Stan) and Hollywood (Netflix), it plays very loosely with history and dials up the craziness. And who better to do that than the creator of Rake, screenwriter Peter Duncan.

Modern audiences apparently want history to be spiced up so it’s more watchable, but facts are important too, especially in crazy 2020. What happened at Maralinga was a crime against our Indigenous people and hopefully Operation Buffalo will acknowledge that tragedy.

Elsewhere, Kyle Sandilands turned out to be not dying, but 60 Minutes (Sunday on Nine) does have a death wish. Legendary producer Jock Blair actually did die and it reminded me how lucky I was to have worked with him on two shows.

Jock told me that the movie Breaker Morant had copied a key scene of his from The Sullivans so he was going to do it again and reclaim the moment. I was dispatched to find a suitable location for a sunset execution by a Chinese firing squad … in teen soap Paradise Beach. Hilarious, I can still see him smiling about it. RIP Jock Blair, one of the good guys.

Listen to Andrew Mercado on the new Mercado & Manning podcast here.

TV Ratings Thursday May 28 Week 22 2020

By James Manning

• Peter V’landys helps Nine win Thursday as NRL returns
• Reynold’s bombshell dessert: Wins immunity and the timeslot

Seven News 1,102,000/1,029,000
Nine News 1,063,000/1,011,000
ABC News 801,000
A Current Affair 735,000
7.30 572,000
The Project 366,000/559,000
10 News 392,000/242,000
Sunrise 286,000
The Drum 250,000
News Breakfast 205,000
Today 203,000
SBS World News 193,000

Seven: Home and Away ended the week on 524,000 with another three episodes after three nights over 650,000.
The 2011 movie Crazy, Stupid, Love then did 202,000.

Nine: A Current Affair stayed above 700,000 with 735,000.
Nine can thank Peter V’landys for pushing hard for the return of NRL as the reduced rights deal was only revealed moments before the first returning match. The match did 535,000 in Sydney and Brisbane. Add in Gem and the number climbs to 619,000, but there seems to have been a modest hunger only for the returning sport in non-NRL markets.

10: Even though he has had a few “off” cooks recently, when he is at his best it is hard to imagine Reynold not winning MasterChef 2020. He really blitzed the other four fighting for immunity last night and the minute his dish was shown near its completion on his bench it looked like a winner. The next elimination will be tough as there is only real quality left in the show. The Thursday episode did 960,000 after 985,000 a week ago.

Week 22 TV: Thursday

ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 10.5% 7 15.7% 9 21.8% 10  16.2% SBS One 5.1%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.3% 7TWO 3.7% GO! 2.3% 10 Bold 3.5% VICELAND 1.3%
ABC ME 0.6% 7mate 2.3% GEM 2.9% 10 Peach 2.4% Food Net 1.2%
ABC NEWS 1.9% 7flix 1.9% 9Life 2.4%     NITV 0.2%
        9Rush 1.0%     SBS World Movies 1.0%
TOTAL 15.2%   23.6%   30.3%   22.1%   8.8%


ABC Seven Affiliates Nine Affiliates 10 Affiliates SBS
ABC 9.5% 7 17.0% 9 20.6% WIN 11.7% SBS One 4.9%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.4% 7TWO 5.2% GO! 2.6% WIN Bold 4.6% VICELAND 1.8%
ABC ME 0.8% 7mate 3.3% GEM 3.9% WIN Peach 2.3% Food Net 0.8%
ABC NEWS 1.9% 7flix (Excl. Tas/WA) 2.0% 9Life 2.4% Sky News  on WIN 1.8% NITV 0.3%
                SBS Movies 1.3%
TOTAL 14.7%   27.5%   29.6%   20.4%   9.1%


86.1% 13.9%
  1. Seven News Seven 1,102,000
  2. Nine News Nine 1,063,000
  3. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 1,029,000
  4. Nine News 6:30 Nine 1,011,000
  5. MasterChef Australia 10 960,000
  6. ABC News ABC 801,000
  7. A Current Affair Nine 735,000
  8. The Chase Australia Seven 615,000
  9. 7.30 ABC 572,000
  10. Hot Seat Nine 570,000
  11. The Project 7pm 10 559,000
  12. Thursday Night NRL Live Nine 535,000
  13. Home And Away Seven 524,000
  14. Sammy J ABC 418,000
  15. Thursday Night NRL Live -Pre Match Nine 399,000
  16. 10 News First 10 392,000
  17. The Chase Australia-5pm Seven 385,000
  18. The Project 6.30pm 10 366,000
  19. Hot Seat -5pm Nine 332,000
  20. Grand Designs Australia ABC 328,000
Demo Top 5

16-39 Top Five

  1. MasterChef Australia 10 286,000
  2. Thursday Night NRL Live Nine 137,000
  3. Nine News Nine 131,000
  4. Nine News 6:30 Nine 127,000
  5. The Project 7pm 10 126,000


18-49 Top Five

  1. MasterChef Australia 10 459,000
  2. Nine News Nine 262,000
  3. Nine News 6:30 Nine 255,000
  4. The Project 7pm 10 246,000
  5. Thursday Night NRL Live Nine 223,000


25-54 Top Five

  1. MasterChef Australia 10 505,000
  2. Nine News 6:30 Nine 327,000
  3. Nine News Nine 326,000
  4. The Project 7pm 10 285,000
  5. Seven News Seven 282,000
THURSDAY Multichannel
  1. Bluey ABCKIDS/COMEDY 153,000
  2. Neighbours 10 Peach 147,000
  3. Dog Loves Books ABCKIDS/COMEDY 138,000
  4. Bluey AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 133,000
  5. NCIS (R) 10 Bold 129,000
  6. Peppa Pig PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 127,000
  7. Father Brown PM 7TWO 127,000
  8. Floogals PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 120,000
  9. Spicks And Specks Ep 2 ABCKIDS/COMEDY 117,000
  10. Bargain Hunt PM 7TWO 117,000
  11. Nella The Princess Knight PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 117,000
  12. Rita And Crocodile PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 116,000
  13. Thomas And Friends: Big World! Big Ad ABCKIDS/COMEDY 114,000
  14. Hawaii Five-O 10 Bold 114,000
  15. Numberblocks PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 114,000
  16. Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom ABCKIDS/COMEDY 112,000
  17. Rusty Rivets PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 110,000
  18. Shaun The Sheep AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 110,000
  19. Spicks And Specks ABCKIDS/COMEDY 109,000
  20. Judge John Deed-Ep.2 Pm 7TWO 108,000
  1. Live: NRL: Broncos V Eels FOX LEAGUE 355,000
  2. Live: NRL Pre Game Thursday FOX LEAGUE 126,000
  3. Live: The Late Show With Matty Johns FOX LEAGUE 92,000
  4. Aussie Gold Hunters Discovery Channel 88,000
  5. Paul Murray Live Sky News Live 79,000
  6. The Bolt Report Sky News Live 71,000
  7. Selling Houses Australia Lifestyle Channel 60,000
  8. Credlin Sky News Live 56,000
  9. PML Later Sky News Live 46,000
  10. The Kenny Report Sky News Live 41,000
  11. Gold Rush: White Water Discovery Channel 41,000
  12. Selling Houses Australia Lifestyle Channel 41,000
  13. Blaze And The Monster Machines Nick Jr. 40,000
  14. Beverly Hills: Real Housewives Of… ARENA 38,000
  15. The Alliance Sky News Live 34,000
  16. Family Guy FOX8 33,000
  17. Escape To The Country Lifestyle Channel 33,000
  18. The Simpsons FOX8 33,000
  19. The Simpsons FOX8 32,000
  20. Paw Patrol Nick Jr. 32,000

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

News Corp transition to digital

Michael Miller: ‘News won’t let regions down in its digital push’

Let me be clear from the outset: News Corp is not turning its back on Australia’s regions and communities, writes News Corp Australasia executive chairman in The Australian.

Nothing could be further from the truth: we remain their greatest advocate – they are what makes our country great.

I grew up in regional Australia in the upper Hunter Valley. My first love of media was fuelled by reading avidly The Muswellbrook Chronicle and the local sports results and about the community events that brought the town together.

I quickly learned the importance of local media to their communities as often their only source of what was happening around them, local sport, councils, crimes, schools and news, who was getting engaged, married and sadly who had died, and how economic changes were affecting their towns. The pages reflected the prosperity and problems we all directly felt.

Later, during my time as chief executive of APN News & Media – the former publisher of many of News’s regional titles – I travelled regularly through regional Australia and was inspired by my colleagues’ commitment to serving their local communities, often with their own unique set of issues.

The impact of the tech platforms has been a slow burner creeping up on our communities. However, as I warned in April, we are passing through a tipping point where the pain they’re causing is very visible and real.

[Read more]

See also: News Corp’s Michael Miller talks to Mediaweek’s James Manning about staff departures and the transition to digital

'The Cat' refused to play and scratched Murdoch's plan A

Rupert Murdoch had a plan A to stop the cash burn from News Corp Australia’s 100 regional and suburban print newspapers. His name was Antony Catalano – the man who a year ago bought a suite of Nine Entertainment’s regional titles for $125 million, reports Elizabeth Knight in The Sydney Morning Herald.

But two weeks ago ‘the Cat’, as he is known in media circles, turned tail on negotiations with Murdoch’s News Corp to acquire these assets.

So this week News was forced to dust off Plan B – to cease printing the vast majority of these regional and community titles and retain them as digital-only products.

The restructure announced on Thursday by local chairman Michael Miller will come with a significant one-off cost as News will be responsible for tens of millions in redundancy payments resulting from the removal of between 600 and 1000 staff.

The negotiations between News Corp and Catalano came down to the price – that is, the price News was prepared to pay Catalano to take the business. Catalano wasn’t about to take on these liabilities without a sufficiently sweet deal. Despite the breakdown in negotiations, the two parties are said to have been only $10 million apart. Plan A came close.

[Read more]

'From typesetter to tea lady': end of a Murdoch newspaper era in Sydney

News Corp’s decision to stop printing the Parramatta Advertiser means the end of a publication where media baron Rupert Murdoch once honed his editing skills on the subbing desk, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Helen Pitt.

The Advertiser has been online only since April – its last print editions were between 28 and 36 pages. The one remaining reporter and editor (who works across a range of NewsLocal titles) await news of their fate on Friday.

“It’s a sad day for community newspapers,” says former Advertiser editor John Bilic. “But it was inevitable really, our printed product had become so thin.”

From its imposing headquarters on Macquarie Street, Parramatta, the Advertiser’s former publisher the Cumberland Newspaper Group has a history in colonial NSW as rich as the fruit-growing soil it was built on.

Started in 1843, The Parramatta Chronicle and Cumberland General Advertiser, was Australia’s first community newspaper title, started just two years after the Sydney Herald (now The Sydney Morning Herald), making it the state’s second-oldest publication.

[Read more]

Nationals MPs blast News Corp regional closures 'absolute disgrace'

A string of upset Nationals MPs serving electorates affected by the News Corp closures, including Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, have expressed disappointment with three urging the company to reconsider the move and one describing it as an “absolute disgrace”, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios and Fergus Hunter.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack, a former regional newspaper editor, said he wanted News Corp to deliver on its promise to keep providing local news online.

“Some century-old mastheads are ceasing to print and for those regional Australians who like to read a printed edition of their local paper this is particularly disappointing,” he said.

Nationals MP Ken O’Dowd – whose regional Queensland electorate of Flynn takes in six News Corp publications that will go digital only or close – said the announcement was a “major blow” and called for more support to sustain local journalism.

“Six papers being knocked on the head, going from hard copies to digital and that’s a blow because some of our people in regional areas, they haven’t got internet services like they do in the cities,” he said.

He said the government should step in with more industry support on top of the $50 million public interest newsgathering fund announced earlier this year.

[Read more]

Business of Media

Guy Sebastian’s estranged former agent seeks AVO against singer

The messy and public stoush between Guy Sebastian and his former agent has just become uglier with Titus Day applying for an AVO against the singer in court on Thursday, reports News Corp’s Briana Domjen.

Day also said he has more to say after claiming “I have nothing to lose anymore”.

Police sources have confirmed Day contacted them this week but no further action has been taken.

Day said he had filed an ­application at Waverley Local Court for a Provisional Apprehensive Violence Order against Sebastian.

The matter is listed for mention on June 11.

The pair are set to battle it out in court later this month, with Sebastian alleging that he is owed $200,000 over alleged breach of contract, as well as performance and other fees.

Meanwhile, Day said he is owed $800,000 by The Voice star.

The relationship between the pair, whose families used to holiday together, came to an end in November 2017 after a 12-year working relationship.

[Read more]


Tributes from colleagues for pioneering TV producer Jock Blair

Seminal writer/producer Jock Blair who produced classic Australian dramas Homicide and The Sullivans has died, reports TV Tonight.

He began as a personal assistant to Graham Kennedy at GTV9, including writing occasional gags for the TV king, to scripting for Homicide, Division 4 and The Box. Hector Crawford made him a producer on Homicide, but writing took its toll and he decided to invite writers to assist in plotting each story.

Blair conceived and produced mega-hit The Sullivans and co-created Bluey, Skyways, and produced The Bluestone Boys, The Shiralee, Sara Dane, Golden Fiddles, Shadows of the Heart, Under Capricorn, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, Grim Pickings, Paradise Beach, Tribe, The Violent Earth plus the films Robbery Under Arms and Playing Beatie Bow.

In addition to Crawford Productions he worked with the South Australian Film Corporation and PFTC/Screen Queensland, where he became the longest-serving staff member.

Producer Roger Simpson told TV Tonight, “We were both in our twenties in 1972 when Jock and I co-wrote The Rape of Lennie Walker – a two hour ‘special’ episode of Division 4. How’s that for a trusting producer? Hector Crawford was a true pioneer who luxuriated in risk – and gave Jock and me our starts. Nearly 50 years on, the only thing that stopped Jock writing was that ultimate critic who scripts our final notice. Jock leaves a mountain of credits and enduring friendships and loved every moment on this wild bucking bull they call the industry. Rest well my friend. With all my love to Joy and Molly. You will be remembered”.

Rick Maier, head of drama and executive production at 10 said, “You could hear Jock way before you ever saw him. It was the loudest most infectious laugh in television. An incredible influence on so many writers, directors and producers. A huge loss.”

[Read more]

Ex-Home And Away star joins Neighbours cast for six-episode stint

Johnny Ruffo says he has checked off the Australian soap quinella after joining Neighbours for a guest appearance, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

The actor and singer was a regular on Home And Away for more than three years and has now filmed a short stint on Ramsay St.

“I was down in Melbourne around March and it was great,” Ruffo said.

“It’s very fast moving. I thought Home And Away was quick but Neighbours was so much quicker. You can’t mess around, they were such professionals. I really enjoyed it.

“It’s just Australian royalty, those two shows. It was such an incredible experience and now I’m fortunate to have been on both shows.”

Ruffo will appear in scenes from June 8, for a six-episode guest appearance, playing the role of Owen who first appears as a prison guard, but then it emerges he is an accomplice for Andrea, played by Madeleine West.

[Read more]

Sports Media

A-League 2020: Players ready but TV deal with Fox Sports delays plans

The A-League’s hopes of finishing the season have reached an impasse with Fox Sports still awaiting the broadcaster’s green light before activating a plan for 32 games in 36 days, reports News Corp’s Tom Smithies.

One of the remaining obstacles to a restart was largely cleared on Thursday after the substance of a pay deal with the players’ association was agreed, guaranteeing all existing contracts will continue for an extra three months from the end of this week to allow for the playing of the final rounds and the finals.

Though the pay deal needed final ratification by the players themselves late on Thursday, with each playing group in the A-League being briefed on its content by PFA executives, several sources close to it expected that to come imminently.

With the clubs also ready to resume operations ahead of a planned July 18 kick off – with a mini-pre-season beginning early next month – FFA has made clear it only needs the approval of Fox Sports to set wheels in motion.

But with Fox Sports understood to be negotiating across a range of sports about the resumption of seasons suspended in the eye of the coronavirus storm, it’s believed the broadcaster is trying to avoid a bunching up of content in the coming weeks.

Complicating matters is an offer understood to have been made by Fox to FFA to renegotiate the value of the remaining three years of its broadcast deal beyond this season, currently worth $57 million a year in cash and contra-value.

[Read more]

TV bosses urge AFL not to continue with shorter quarters beyond 2020

Broadcasters have told the AFL they want game lengths to remain the same, reports News Corp’s Michael Warner.

The AFL has slashed quarters from 20 minutes to 16 minutes plus time-on this year, but Channel 7 and Foxtel are opposed to making it a permanent move.

Network negotiators want 20-minute quarters plus time-on enshrined in new TV rights deals.

Three-hour match productions, featuring quarters of about 28 or 29 minutes, are considered ideal to protect advertising revenue and maintain viewer interest.

A push by the league to reduce the halftime break from 20 minutes to 15 minutes has support.

But talks over a reworked TV deal for this season and a proposed two-year extension with Seven and Foxtel have stalled.

The AFL stands to lose about $150 million in TV rights cash this year as a result of shortened game time and five fewer matches because of the coronavirus crisis.

The revised payment by broadcast partners in 2020 will be crucial in determining cash distributions to the 18 clubs, the extent of industry staffing culls and a new wages deal with the game’s 850 players.

The AFL pockets an average of $417 million-a-year in TV rights as part of the bumper six-year, $2.5 billion deal with Channel 7, Foxtel and Telstra that expires at the end of 2022.

A new deal for 2020 is expected to be 50-75 per cent of the original agreement.

[Read more]

David Penberthy: Why the 2020 AFL season can’t be revived

Some time ago, I sat down and calculated how much of my year was devoted to watching football, comments News Corp’s David Penberthy.

Not counting school footy, which I coached after a fashion and which took up about five hours a week, the rough estimate was that by attending seven or eight SANFL games a year and almost every Crows home game, and watching every Crows away game on TV, as well as most Port games and a couple of interstate matches, I was spending about 250-300 hours – or up to 12 days a year – watching professional football.

There’s an awful lot you can do with that kind of time. My last overseas holiday didn’t last that long.

I have pretty much zero interest or care in the resumption of the AFL this year. The season feels totally meaningless. Round one was one of the most miserable things I have ever seen.

Even with my team playing surprisingly good footy at the start of that game, only to lose narrowly on account of going to sleep for a while, there was nothing remotely thrilling about the match.

Round one proved that footy is nothing without the fans. And there is every chance that, when round two starts, aside from the novelty of having a Showdown, many of us will tune in for a few minutes and go – oh yeah, that’s right, this is actually crap.

[Read more]

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