Thursday May 7, 2020

News Corp Q3: Australian digital news subs climb, ad revenues plunge

• Kayo subs drop to 272,000, but overall Foxtel subs still total 2.93m
• Robert Thomson on sports rights reset: ‘Absurd to think return to normal’

News Corporation has provided details of its results for Q3 January to March 2020.

Results highlights:

• Revenues were US$2.27 billion, an 8% decline compared to $2.46 billion in the prior year
• Dow Jones saw 20% growth in digital-only subscribers to over 2.5 million, including 15% growth in digital-only subscribers at The Wall Street Journal, while experiencing record traffic across its digital networks
• No details of streaming drama service apart from launching soon
• News Corp says sports rights costs heading for major “reset”

Commenting on the results, chief executive Robert Thomson spoke on a conference call this morning:

“We are operating in a different, difficult time. Every business and family is facing challenges and our thoughts, in particular, are for those who are suffering deeply and personally from the impact of COVID-19.

“Our fiscal third quarter results demonstrate the strength of News Corp and the power of our premium content. We also maintained a robust balance sheet, with $1.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents as of March 31st and an untapped $750 million corporate revolving credit facility, providing a strong foundation for the company’s future.

“Despite the onset of COVID-19, and particularly volatile, adverse currency movements, profitability was relatively stable. Notably, profitability was higher at the News and Information Services segment, fuelled by significant digital advertising and subscriber growth at Dow Jones, including The Wall Street Journal, which reached approximately 3 million subscribers in the last week, a new record, with over 2.2 million that are digital-only.”

Thomson confirmed a strategic review of its Australian newspaper holdings, focusing on the larger brands and their digital reach.

“Clearly the pandemic will have an impact on our results in the fourth quarter, but all of our businesses are embarking on cost-cutting programs intended to deal with short-term need but also to ensure that the company is well-equipped to prosper in a decidedly different business environment after the crisis abates.

“There will obviously be an impact on executive compensation, and it is worth noting that bonuses are often the largest cash component for our senior executives. Pay reductions will be led by our executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch, who is voluntarily forgoing his entire cash bonus for the current fiscal year, and as chief executive I will forgo 75% of my annual cash bonus. The collective cuts in bonuses and other cost initiatives will have a positive impact on profitability and our cash position.”

When asked about sports rights costs by an analyst, Thomson replied there needed to be “a fundamental reset”. He added: “It is absurd to think things might return to normal.”

Third Quarter Results

The company reported fiscal 2020 third quarter total revenues of $2.27 billion, 8% lower compared to $2.46 billion in the prior year period. The decline reflects a $78 million, or 3%, negative impact from foreign currency fluctuations. The rest of the decline primarily reflects lower print-related advertising revenues at the News and Information Services segment and lower subscription revenues at Foxtel.

News and Information Services

Revenues in the quarter decreased $94 million, or 8%, as compared to the prior year, reflecting a $25 million, or 2%, negative impact from foreign currency fluctuations. Within the segment, Dow Jones revenues grew 5%, while revenues at News America Marketing, News Corp Australia and News UK declined 16%, 14% and 9%, respectively. Adjusted revenues for the segment decreased 5% compared to the prior year.

Circulation and subscription revenues increased 1% compared to the prior year, which includes a $10 million, or 2%, negative impact from foreign currency fluctuations. Circulation and subscription revenues again benefited from a healthy contribution from Dow Jones’ consumer products, which saw a 4% increase in circulation revenues, reflecting 20% growth in digital paid subscribers and subscription price increases. Dow Jones’ consumer products reached more than 3.5 million total subscribers, reflecting a 10% increase compared to the prior year.

Advertising revenues declined 14% compared to the prior year, of which $12 million, or 2%, was related to the negative impact from foreign currency fluctuations. The remainder of the decline was driven by weakness in the print advertising market, lower revenues at News America Marketing and the $14 million estimated negative impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline was partially offset by growth in digital advertising. Advertising revenues at Dow Jones declined 2% in the quarter due to an 18% decline in print advertising, driven by market weakness across conference and traditional sales, partially offset by 25% growth in digital advertising.

Advertising revenues represented 22% of total Dow Jones revenues in the quarter, of which 47% was digital. Thomson was keen to point out that digital ad sales for The Journal were up 25% YOY, while they were down 8% at The New York Times for the quarter.

Advertising revenue in Australia fell 30% YOY for the March quarter, said CFO Susan Panuccio during the call.

Digital revenues represented 36% of News and Information Services segment revenues in the quarter, compared to 31% in the prior year. For the quarter, digital revenues for Dow Jones and the newspaper mastheads represented 42% of their combined revenues, and at Dow Jones, digital accounted for 58% of its circulation revenues.

Digital subscribers and users across key properties within the News and Information Services segment are summarised below:

• The Wall Street Journal average daily digital subscribers in the three months ended March 31, 2020 were 2,041,000, compared to 1,775,000 in the prior year (Source: Internal data)
• Closing digital subscribers at News Corp Australia’s mastheads as of March 31, 2020 were 613,300, compared to 493,200 in the prior year (Source: Internal data)
• The Times and Sunday Times closing digital subscribers as of March 31, 2020 were 345,000, compared to 286,000 in the prior year (Source: Internal data)
• The Sun’s digital offering reached approximately 164 million global monthly unique users in March 2020 (Source: Google Analytics; prior year comparable statistic unavailable due to source change)

Subscription Video Services

Revenues in the quarter decreased $77 million, or 14%, compared with the prior year, of which $38 million, or 7%, was due to the negative impact from foreign currency fluctuations. Adjusted revenues for the segment decreased 7% compared to the prior year. The remainder of the revenue decline was driven by lower subscription revenues due to fewer broadcast subscribers, partially offset by higher revenues from Kayo.

As of March 31, 2020, Foxtel’s total closing subscribers were 2.933 million, an increase of 1% compared to the prior year, primarily due to subscriber growth at Kayo, partially offset by lower broadcast subscribers. 2.208 million of the total closing subscribers were residential and commercial broadcast subscribers, and the remainder consisted of Foxtel Now and Kayo subscribers.

As of March 31, 2020, there were 444,000 Kayo subscribers, of which 408,000 were paying subscribers, compared to 199,000 subscribers (148,000 paying) in the prior year. As of May 2nd, there were over 272,000 paying Kayo subscribers, which reflects the impact from the cancellation and/or postponement of sports events as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of March 31, 2020 there were 338,000 Foxtel Now subscribers, of which 317,000 were paying subscribers, compared to 357,000 subscribers (348,000 paying) in the prior year.

Broadcast subscriber churn in the quarter improved to 17.5% from 17.7% in the prior year, primarily driven by improvements at the Foxtel retail channel, partially offset by increased volume of churn from lower-value customers on expiring contracts in wholesale channels. Broadcast ARPU for the quarter was relatively stable at A$79 (US$52).

There was little information about the impending Foxtel drama streaming service believed to be called Binge. However, Panuccio did reveal the service was in beta testing and would launch in coming weeks.

COVID-19 Impact

News and Information Services: Expect to continue to see adverse effects on advertising and single-copy sales revenues as a result of widespread business closures, social distancing measures and economic uncertainty.

In April, advertising revenues at Dow Jones declined more than 20% from the prior year, although digital advertising only declined modestly. Advertising revenues at News Corp Australia and News UK in April declined more than 45%, including an approximately 5% negative impact from foreign currency fluctuations. We have also continued to see strong growth in digital subscribers across our key properties in April, including over 20% year-over-year growth in digital-only subscribers at The Wall Street Journal.

Subscription Video Services: While broadcast churn in April was fairly stable, we expect the continued suspension of major sporting events to adversely impact customer churn going forward and/or result in fewer subscribers to our sports services in the near-term, including at Kayo, where we saw a sharp decline in paid subscribers, as noted above. Closures of pubs and clubs and lower occupancy at hotels throughout Australia have also adversely impacted, and are expected to continue to adversely impact, commercial subscription revenues.

ViacomCBS Q1 2020: Ad revenue drops globally, streaming relaunch

ViacomCBS delivered solid results in our first full quarter [January-March 2020], including sequential improvement on key financial metrics, as well as clear operating momentum,” said the president and CEO of the recently merged ViacomCBS Bob Bakish.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also took decisive action to fortify our balance sheet, protect our employees and help communities in need. And through new creative strategies and production models, we continue to deliver must-watch content that big audiences love. Importantly, we are just beginning to tap into the potential of our combined assets, and our growing scale, audience reach and earnings power will become even more apparent as the market rebounds and we put the power of our portfolio behind our streaming strategy. I thank ViacomCBS employees around the world for their adaptive creativity and continued focus on serving our audiences, commercial partners and shareholders amid these unprecedented circumstances.”

Overview of Q1 revenue

• Advertising revenue declined 19% year-on-year, but increased 2% excluding a 21-percentage point unfavourable impact from the comparison against CBS’ broadcasts of Super Bowl LIII and the NCAA Tournament in the prior year quarter. International advertising revenue included a 10-percentage point unfavourable F/X impact.

• Affiliate revenue increased 1%, reflecting growth in station affiliation and retransmission fees, as well as subscription streaming revenue, which more than offset declines in pay-TV subscribers. International affiliate revenue included an 8-percentage point unfavourable F/X impact.

• Domestic streaming and digital video revenue – which includes streaming subscription and digital video advertising revenue – grew to $471 million, up 51% year-over-year.

• Content licensing revenue grew 9%, fuelled by growth in original studio production for third parties. Paramount Television Studios, CBS Television Studios and Cable Networks’ studios all benefited from strong content deliveries during the quarter.

• Theatrical revenue declined 3% as strong results from Sonic the Hedgehog were more than offset by prior year quarter revenues, which included carryover performance from Bumblebee.

CBS will finish the broadcast season as America’s most-watched network for the 12th straight year. In the quarter, CBS had the top 2 dramas, 5 of the top 6 comedies and #1 news program, as well as 5 of the top 6 freshmen series.

• Revenue declined 13%, including a 20-percentage point unfavourable impact from the comparison against CBS’ broadcasts of Super Bowl LIII and the NCAA Tournament in the prior year quarter. Excluding that impact, revenue increased 7%, driven by growth in affiliate, advertising and content licensing revenue.

ViacomCBS doesn’t break out international revenue, but advertising revenue from markets outside the US dropped from $291m to $255m. The company noted above unfavourable F/X impact on international earnings. International ad revenue includes sales generated by 5 in the UK and 10 in Australia.

CBS All Access reboot

On a conference call early Thursday New York time, Bakish spoke about plans to relaunch CBS All Access later in 2020. He indicated it would be a broad streaming product and would be rolled out in multiple international markets:

“We will build on this incredible base of content – a catalogue larger than many of the new SVOD entrants – by expanding our originals across the portfolio. This will bring first-window content from each of our brands to this platform. Our biggest franchises will be key, as will our broad programming strength across genres – from animation to science fiction, comedy, reality, kids, crime and procedurals.”

Lockdown viewing: ABC iview adds 200 hours of Australian content

• The content includes dramas, comedies, documentaries, crime and children’s shows

The ABC has made more than 200 additional hours of Australian content on-demand content on its ABC iview digital platform.

The Moodys

The content includes dramas, comedies, documentaries, crime and children’s shows that include Stateless, Mystery Road, Top of the Lake, The Secret River, The Slap, Cleverman, The Beautiful Lie, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Cliffy, Mabo, It’s A Date, Luke Warm Sex, The Moodys, The Ex-PM, The Librarians, Janet King, Sporting Nation, The Time of our Lives, Blue Murder and The Agony Of series, Mustangs, Mortified, Prisoner Zero, Ready For This and My Place.

Stateless

Josie Mason-Campbell, ABC Acting Head of Programming, said: “As the nation’s leading creative voice, the ABC has boosted its support for Australian stories by securing the streaming rights to more local dramas, comedies, documentaries and children’s content, adding to our current collection of programs.

The Secret River

“With Australians stuck close to home, the ABC is showcasing the sights and sounds of this extraordinary country with more than 200 additional hours of new shows and classic content. It’s Australia’s biggest home delivery for the mind and soul, feeding audiences’ need to laugh, learn, cry and be entertained.”  

Mabo

ABC iview’s new Australia-all-over collection is accompanied by new dramas from here and overseas, such as High Fidelity, Les Miserables, The Capture and the latest season of Killing Eve.

The Beautiful Life

The ABC has also launched the $5 million Fresh Start development fund to support Australian producers and safeguard local content and creativity. ABC iview also features Australian performances across theatre, opera, ballet and classical music.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

News Corp research reveals how COVID-19 is affecting Australian's finances

Consumer research by News Corp Australia has revealed how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting Australians’ finances and what this means for financial services brands. 

Navigating the new financial equilibrium, commissioned by News Corp’s integrated marketing solutions unit Newsamp, surveyed respondents from four generations to determine the economic fallout from Coronavirus on Australians.

While most Australians are affected by the pandemic News Corp’s research shows that it is impacting each generation differently. The key findings include:

• Before the crisis, consumers had a fairly balanced approach to achieving short-term financial goals and long-term aspirations, but they are now sacrificing their longer term financial security to survive in the short term
• Younger generations are being impacted by reduced employment-related income, whereas older Australians are seeing declining income from investments (e.g. shares, investment properties)
• There is no single way consumers are reacting to the financial implications of the crisis, and many are looking for guidance on the correct path to take
• Despite the significant work that banks are doing in helping their customers, consumers are not currently giving them credit for it. Consumers recognise large supermarkets and retail brands for their role in the crisis but give little thought to the banks.   

News Corp Australia’s managing director of national sales, Lou Barrett, said: “As consumers assess the short and long term impact of Covid-19 on their household budgets, they’re seeking analysis and advice from trusted sources. Traffic to finance content across our network has jumped 86 percent2 which presents financial brands with an opportunity to engage Australians of all ages and be their trusted advisor.”

Mercado on TV: Casting a political drama – Noah Taylor as Tony Abbott!

By Andrew Mercado

• Peter Helliar as Barnaby Joyce and Gary Sweet as Malcolm Turnbull?

Ryan Murphy received critical acclaim for two series of American Crime Story about O.J. Simpson and Gianni Versace, and Feud about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. All were true stories that needed no further embellishment, so why is his new series Hollywood (now on Netflix) about real people in fictional versions of their lives?

Set around a gas station that doubles as a brothel (true) and a movie studio that was woke back in the 1940’s (fake), it’s about actors like Rock Hudson (true) and Claire Wood (fake) making a movie that never happened. The all-star cast includes Samara Weaving, Jim Parsons, Patti LuPone, Queen Latifah and Mira Sorvino, but despite the impeccable re-creation, it’s inauthentic.

Australians probably know more about Hollywood than Australian film and TV history. Who knew Amazon Prime had The Shiralee (the highest rating event of 1987), and Return To Eden, which was made by Ten and repeated by Nine years later.

It’s rare to see Aussie shows being shared around networks, but the lines are being blurred on their catch-up sites. 7Plus has series from the ABC (Police Rescue) and Nine (Water Rats), as well as complete seasons of Love My Way (Foxtel) and The Secret Life Of Us (10). 10Play also offers those last two shows, but missing is their final seasons.

There are still a stack of Aussie classics begging to be brought back, like The Dismissal (10) which was about Gough Whitlam’s sacking, and has just made for a fascinating ABC podcast The Eleventh. Back when it was a 1983 mini-series, it cast icons like John Meillon as Sir John Kerr, Bill Hunter as Rex Connor and Ruth Cracknell as Margaret Whitlam.

Malcolm Turnbull’s biography is selling way more copies than some media commentators would have predicted, so how about someone turn A Bigger Picture into a mini-series because that would make their heads explode. Let’s spend isolation picking the perfect cast … how about Gary Sweet as Malcolm Turnbull, Noah Taylor as Tony Abbott and Shane Jacobsen as Scott Morrison?

Peter Helliar could do a good Barnaby Joyce, but hopefully 10 will keep him busy writing another series of How To Stay Married (Tuesday on 10). And well done to Have You Been Paying Attention? (Monday on 10) for re-creating an in isolation version that replicated the original in look, thanks to some Brady Bunch-like video squares. And even more importantly, it sounded the same, thanks to Jane Kennedy laughing in the background … that is her, isn’t it?

TV Ratings Thursday May 7 Week 19 2020

By James Manning

• Can Seven win the week? Just 0.5 behind Nine, two nights left
• MasterChef suburban sushi train challenge decides immunity

Thursday news highlights

Seven News 1,184,000/1,122,000
Nine News 1,061,000/988,000
ABC News 845,000
Current Affair 706,000
7.30 588,000
The Project 387,000/603,000
10 News 469,000/307,000
Sunrise 285,000
The Drum 242,000
The Latest 226,000
News Breakfast 218,000
Today 211,000
Nine News Late 204,000
SBS World News 200,000

Nine: Share was up 1.0 on last week, but Nine trailed Seven by 2.4.
A Current Affair hovered just above 700,000.
RBT did 456,000 at 7.30pm and then the 2004 movie The Bourne Supremacy did 345,000.

Seven: Seven is poised to come from behind and take the week if it can go close to the shares it recorded on Friday and Saturday last week. After five days of week 19, Seven is on 18.2%, just 0.5 behind Nine. This time last week Nine had a lead of 2.1.
A three-play of Home and Away did 598,000.
The movie The Intern then did 371,000.

10: MasterChef ended its week again as #1 entertainment and #1 in key demos for Thursday. The immunity challenge took place in a suburban sushi train restaurant with Amina emerging the winner who will be safe on the Sunday elimination episode. The Thursday audience of 957,000 was down on last week’s 1.018m.
Two episodes of Law & Order: SVU then did 268,000 and 175,000.

ABC: The Heights did 230,000 followed by Grand Designs Australia in Launceston on 347,000. Is it surprising that the Australian version of the format gets an 8.30pm Thursday timeslot while the NZ version is on at 7.40pm on Sundays? Barrie Cassidy’s guest on One Plus One was former Ambassador to the US Dennis Richardson. The program did 238,000.

SBS: Thursday looks like delivering the channel’s best share for a second successive week.
Another episode of World’s Most Beautiful Railway didn’t screen, instead The Railway Revolution episode of How the Victorians Built Britain did 241,000 at 7.30pm.
Building Britain’s Canals followed with 203,000.

Week 19 TV: Thursday

THURSDAY METRO
ABCSevenNine10SBS
ABC10.6%719.8%917.4%10 14.8%SBS One6.4%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY2.3%7TWO3.3%GO!2.2%10 Bold4.0%VICELAND1.5%
ABC ME0.6%7mate2.7%GEM3.1%10 Peach2.5%Food Net1.0%
ABC NEWS1.8%7flix1.8%9Life2.0%  NITV0.1%
    9Rush1.2%  SBS World Movies0.8%
TOTAL15.3% 27.6% 25.9% 21.3% 9.8%

 

THURSDAY REGIONAL
ABCSeven AffiliatesNine Affiliates10 AffiliatesSBS
ABC9.9%720.1%914.7%WIN10.8%SBS One6.4%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY2.7%7TWO5.1%GO!1.4%WIN Bold4.9%VICELAND1.7%
ABC ME0.5%7mate5.2%GEM4.3%WIN Peach2.1%Food Net0.8%
ABC NEWS1.7%7flix (Excl. Tas/WA)2.1%9Life2.8%Sky News  on WIN2.5%NITV0.2%
        SBS Movies1.1%
TOTAL14.9% 32.5% 23.3% 20.3% 10.2%

 

THURSDAY METRO ALL TV
FTASTV
86.9%13.1%
THURSDAY FTA
  1. Seven News Seven 1,184,000
  2. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 1,122,000
  3. Nine News Nine 1,061,000
  4. Nine News 6:30 Nine 988,000
  5. MasterChef Australia 10 957,000
  6. ABC News ABC 845,000
  7. A Current Affair Nine 706,000
  8. The Chase Australia Seven 689,000
  9. The Project 7pm 10 603,000
  10. Home And Away Seven 598,000
  11. 7.30 ABC 588,000
  12. Hot Seat Nine 566,000
  13. 10 News First 10 469,000
  14. RBT Nine 456,000
  15. The Chase Australia-5pm Seven 423,000
  16. Sammy J ABC 399,000
  17. The Project 6.30pm 10 387,000
  18. M- The Intern Seven 371,000
  19. Grand Designs Australia ABC 347,000
  20. The Bourne Supremacy Nine 345,000
Demo Top 5

16-39 Top Five

  1. MasterChef Australia 10 290,000
  2. The Project 7pm 10 150,000
  3. Nine News Nine 138,000
  4. Nine News 6:30 Nine 124,000
  5. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 121,000

 

18-49 Top Five

  1. MasterChef Australia 10 469,000
  2. The Project 7pm 10 273,000
  3. Nine News Nine 252,000
  4. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 240,000
  5. Seven News Seven 239,000

 

25-54 Top Five

  1. MasterChef Australia 10 482,000
  2. Nine News Nine 321,000
  3. Seven News Seven 309,000
  4. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 300,000
  5. Nine News 6:30 Nine 300,000
Thursday Multichannel
  1. NCIS (R) 10 Bold 180,000
  2. Hawaii Five-O 10 Bold 157,000
  3. Bluey ABCKIDS/COMEDY 156,000
  4. Bluey AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 153,000
  5. Neighbours 10 Peach 149,000
  6. Dog Loves Books ABCKIDS/COMEDY 144,000
  7. Peppa Pig PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 139,000
  8. Death In Paradise 9Gem 137,000
  9. Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom ABCKIDS/COMEDY 134,000
  10. Father Brown PM 7TWO 133,000
  11. Peppa Pig AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 128,000
  12. Nella The Princess Knight PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 124,000
  13. Floogals PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 124,000
  14. Play School AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 124,000
  15. Thomas And Friends PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 122,000
  16. Shaun The Sheep AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 121,000
  17. Go Jetters AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 120,000
  18. Hey Duggee ABCKIDS/COMEDY 118,000
  19. Luo Bao Bei ABCKIDS/COMEDY 118,000
  20. Rusty Rivets PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 116,000
Thursday STV
  1. Aussie Gold Hunters Discovery Channel 100,000
  2. The Bolt Report Sky News Live 73,000
  3. Credlin Sky News Live 66,000
  4. Paul Murray Live Sky News Live 66,000
  5. Selling Houses Australia Lifestyle Channel 66,000
  6. Love It Or List It Australia Lifestyle Channel 48,000
  7. Blaze And The Monster Machines Nick Jr. 48,000
  8. Chris Smith Tonight Sky News Live 44,000
  9. Midsomer Murders UKTV 43,000
  10. Calvin & Kaison’s Play Power Nick Jr. 39,000
  11. The Simpsons FOX8 39,000
  12. Alvinnn!!! And The Chipmunks Nick Jr. 37,000
  13. The Big Bang Theory FOX Funny 36,000
  14. Blaze And The Monster Machines Nick Jr. 36,000
  15. The Big Bang Theory FOX Funny 35,000
  16. Gold Rush: White Water Discovery Channel 35,000
  17. Selling Houses Australia Lifestyle Channel 35,000
  18. The Kenny Report Sky News Live 35,000
  19. Jeopardy! FOX Classics 35,000
  20. PML Later Sky News Live 34,000

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

Seven West Media axes 50 sales staff in cost cutting effort

Seven West Media has taken the axe to its sales team, with as many as 50 staff made redundant this week as the Kerry Stokes-controlled media company slashes costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Sources told The Australian Financial Review the changes to the Seven sales team nationally were made on Wednesday. Seven declined to comment.

[Read more]

HT&E says radio audience up amid COVID-19 at virtual AGM

Chairman Hamish McLennan said HT&E now has one of the strongest balance sheets in Australian media. “While some businesses are struggling with their capital structures, your company had $111 million net cash at the end of 2019, no undrawn debt and a radio business generating strong cash conversion,” he told a virtual annual general meeting on Thursday, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

In a trading update at its AGM, HT&E said its share gains in the metro ad market mitigated some of the poor overall market conditions in the first quarter. Its Australian Radio Network saw revenue fall 7.2 per cent, while the wider metro market slipped 12.4 per cent.

HT&E said second-quarter bookings were hurt by the pandemic, with April revenue declines of 40 per cent at ARN. However, it noted the high level of cancellations in the weeks following government lockdown restrictions had abated. It said forward bookings for May were in line with April.

HT&E also said it had been successful in applying for the government’s JobKeeper package, which requires businesses to pass the test of a 30 per cent fall in turnover if they have less than $1 billion in overall revenue. HT&E had $252.7 million in revenue in 2019.

[Read more]

Winners & losers as COVID-19 impacts newsagency sales across Australia

While some retail newsagencies report 40% and more growth in revenue in April 2020 compared to April 2019, others report 60% and more decline, reports Australian Newsagency Blog.

Such is the gap in the experience of Australian newsagency businesses in this COVID-19 impacted world.

Looking at comprehensive sales data from 139 newsagencies the results are stunning in that never before in 20 years of benchmark analysis have I seen such a gap in business performance, writes blogger and newsagent Mark Fletcher.

The gap in performance has a fresh subtlety too. Whereas in previous studies, geography was the key factor, now, in this COVID-19 world, situation is the key. High street retailers, retailers outside of shopping centres, are faring much better.

Core products:

Newspapers. Over the counter unit sales. City high street: +6%; City mall: -55%; Regional high street: +11%; Regional mall: -31%. NOTE: the gap in the city high street cohort is considerable, making the average somewhat meaningless. For example, one city high street business reports a decline of 17% while another in the same state reports an increase of 15%.

Magazines. City high street: +21%; City mall: -32%; Regional high street: +23%; Regional mall: -7%. NOTE: Within magazines, crosswords, calming titles and escape type titles have done well. Even the dubious content filled weeklies have performed well.

[Read more]

Radio

Former Today Tonight host told his radio station in breach of licence

Regional Queensland radio station FAB FM holds a licence to provide an ‘open narrowcasting service’. Under law, open narrowcasting services must be limited in some way, such as targeting special interest groups, or by providing programmes of limited appeal.

An ACMA investigation found FAB FM was broadcasting some content to a special interest group, being tourists visiting the Port Douglas region, however the proportion of material targeted at this group was low. The majority of content was targeted at a wide audience, being residents of the Douglas Shire.

The radio station directors are Paul and Marion Makin. Paul is a former host of Today Tonight in Adelaide who also has a long radio career ranging from 2UE and 2GB to Fiveaa.

Paul and Marion Makin purchased the licences and started broadcasting throughout the Douglas Shire on Anzac Day 2018 from their studio in Adelaide SA. In November 2018 they relocated to Port Douglas to live and started broadcasting from their new studio situated at the historic Bally Hooley Railway Station at the Marina.

Of the FAB FM broadcasts reviewed by the ACMA, less than 10 per cent of automated programming provided tourist information. Of its four live-hosted programs, no more than 17 per cent of time was devoted to tourism information.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said radio broadcasters must ensure they operate within the terms of their licences or licensing arrangements.

“After a thorough investigation, we found that FAB FM is not providing open narrowcasting in accordance with its licence,” O’Loughlin said.

“Licensees must comply with their licence conditions at all times. There are serious consequences for not doing so, including criminal proceedings and suspension or cancellation of the licence.”

The ACMA has accepted a court enforceable undertaking made by FAB FM to take actions to comply with its licence conditions and be monitored by the ACMA for the next two years.

Television

Mint Condition is the Australian TV series you can binge in an hour

When does 11 minutes feel like half an hour? asks News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.

Even actor Sibylla Budd was shocked at how much drama her new short form series Mint Condition packs into each of its five episodes.

Budd stars with Bernard Curry, Gary Sweet, Grace Champion and Damien Richardson in the series about fortysomething mum Audrey who opens a record store and coffee shop with her teen daughter after her marriage breakdown.

Shot in about 10 days in Melbourne late last year, the series is soundtracked by local indie musicians including Mick Thomas, Jade Imagine, Charles Jenkins and Kylie Auldist and will likely draw comparisons to cult film High Fidelity.

Locations included Oh Jean Records in Fitzroy, Bakehouse Studios, Red Betty Bar in Brunswick, and PBS FM in Collingwood.

Short form series are enjoying their moment online and via streaming services.

YouTube has been an incubation lab for the format, with comedy proving an adaptable genre for bite-sized shows.

Mint Condition, by independent production house Boilermaker, is fast-paced and immediately engaging about dealing with teenagers (Champion), ex-husbands (Sweet) and ex-rock stars like Vince (Curry). You can watch the entire series in an hour.

Budd’s indie music fangirl character also allows the series to showcase 23 songs from 14 artists across the five episodes, a bonus for the musicians who can’t play live in the pandemic shutdown.

You can watch via mintconditiontv.com

[Read more]

New content company launches in Sydney – The Reset Collective

A new content company will focus on acquisitions and distribution, with plans for Film & TV development and production, reports TV Tonight.

The Reset Collective has been formed from Cornerstone Films (UK / US), Genesius Pictures (UK) and distribution executive Lisa Garner (Warner Bros Home Entertainment, Icon, Rialto Distribution).

The group will be based out of Sydney with a further presence through its UK and LA based principals and is fully financed by London-based Genesius Pictures.

The production arm will prioritise emerging Australian filmmakers and digital platforms looking to develop international content.

Mark Gooder and Alison Thompson said, “We have been looking for unique opportunities to expand on the success of Cornerstone Films since we launched five years ago. Australia has always been a key territory for us both personally and commercially. Challenging times often reveal unseen opportunities and we are excited to be part of this new adventure at a critical moment in the content business.”

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Sports Media

Pandemic brings broadcasting peace to racing via Seven Network

COVID-19 has achieved what was previously thought to be impossible in racing, bringing at least temporary peace between NSW and Victorian authorities, reports The Australian’s John Stensholt.

Tabcorp will help fund Sydney and Brisbane races from its Sky Racing network onto the Seven Network’s main free-to-air channel on Saturday, where it will be calibrated with Melbourne and Adelaide races shown by rival Racing.com.

The move brings all the main races onto the one network outside of major events for the first time since the heady days of TVN, the ill-fated Thoroughbred Vision Network, which aggregated NSW and Victorian racing vision until an ugly dispute led to its collapse in 2015.

Racing.com, a joint venture between Seven and Victorian racing bodies, telecasts Victorian and South Australian racing and Tabcorp’s Sky shows most other jurisdictions, while Seven had free-to-air rights for important Saturday meets around the country throughout the year and Network Ten pays $20m annually for the Melbourne Cup carnival. Various bookmakers also have streaming deals.

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Seven to call AFL games from remote bunker to adhere to social distancing

Channel 7 commentators will call this year’s rebooted AFL season from a hi-tech remote bunker rather than from the ground venues in order to adhere to strict COVID-19 protocols, reports News Corp’s Glenn McFarlane.

It comes as the network’s Melbourne managing director Lewis Martin said the station was logistically “ready to go” as soon as the medical experts and the government provide the AFL with the green light to resume the 2020 season.

That is likely to happen in mid-June.

“The guys (callers) will be calling from a very hi-tech centre with multiple angles and statistics and with probably more facilities (than at the ground),” Martin told the Herald Sun.

“Obviously, we would always prefer to be there (at the ground), but in this environment, it is not meant to be.

“We don’t think the audience will notice too much of a difference.”

Martin confirmed the network was looking to incorporate crowd noise recordings to the broadcast, but stressed it wouldn’t be overbearing.

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