Roundup: ACCC on Facebook deal, Hugh Marks, Stan on pub blackout + more

Hugh Marks

+ BritBox International CEO, Nine to return Jobseeker, new MasterChef promo, The Bachelor, and Bill Woods returns.

Media Code

Facebook, Google must strike more deals: ACCC

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said Facebook and Google should pay all local news publishers, big and small, to avoid being regulated under the federal government’s media bargaining code, reports AFR’s John Kehoe and Miranda Ward.

The legislation passed the Senate on Wednesday night, in a major win for local media companies and the Morrison government.

Sims said Facebook still had a “fair way to go” to strike more deals with news publishers, a day after the social media platform reversed its decision to block news and signed an agreement with Seven West Media.

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Facebook, Google to do bulk deals with mini-publishers: Sims

The competition regulator expects both Google and Facebook to negotiate bulk content deals with mini-publishers, or face the prospect of intrusive regulation under the proposed media bargaining code, reports News Corp’s Richard Gluyas.

In an appearance before the House economics committee on Wednesday, competition tsar Rod Sims said there was a “much stronger chance that designation will occur” under the code unless deals were done with all eligible parties.

Ultimately, however, it was a decision for the Treasurer.

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Facebook deal leaves questions unanswered

It looks like a big win for the Australian government, and a big blow for Facebook. But the truth is that the last minute deal which has restored news to the social media giant in Australia is not the clear cut, agenda setting, new era-defining reset of relations between tech power and political power in the 21st century. That may come later, reports Telegraph, London’s Harry De Quetteville.

For now, we merely have a détente. The amendment to the Australian bill which would have forced Facebook to make blanket payments for news content it features kicks the can down the road for a couple more months.

And as we wait for a final outcome both sides can claim victory: Facebook has agreed to make payments to news sites – which appears a triumph for the Australian government specifically and news media generally.

But in making those payments, cutting individual deals with news outlets, Facebook (and Google) exempt themselves from the law itself – which appears a triumph for Mark Zuckerberg.

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Facebook to spend $US1 Billion on news content over three years

Facebook said it would spend at least $US1 billion to licence material from news publishers over the next three years, a pledge that comes as tech giants face scrutiny from governments around the world over paying for news content that appears on their platforms, reports Wall Street Journal’s Paul Ziobro.

The spending plans are in addition to $US600 million that Facebook paid since 2018 in deals with publishers like the Guardian, Financial Times and others to populate its Facebook News product in some countries, according to a blog post by Nick Clegg, a senior Facebook policy executive.

The social-media giant’s new pledge is similar to a plan Alphabet’s Google announced last year to pay more than $US1 billion to licence news content for its Google News Showcase over a three-year period.

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Changes to media bargaining code ‘clarifications’

The architect of the news media bargaining code, ACCC chair Rod Sims, has stared down critics of the legislation, launching a blistering defence of the proposed law and describing the new amendments as “clarifications rather than concessions”, reports News Corp’s David Swan.

“I think they are wrong,” Sims said of the critics who say Facebook got what it wanted under the negotiated amendments announced by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday. “The code will become law shortly, and Facebook will either have to do deals or they‘ll find themselves designated and caught by the code.

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Business of Media

BBC and ITV announce new BritBox International CEO – Reemah Sakaan

BBC Studios and ITV have appointed Reemah Sakaan as BritBox International’s new CEO charged with steering the roll out of BritBox to up to 25 countries worldwide.

Sakaan will start in April 2021 and will lead a team of around 100 content, customer management and business professionals. As CEO, she will be responsible for the success and growth of BritBox International (all territories outside of the UK) by driving creative success and building the BritBox brand around the world in order to maximise its future commercial potential and return.

The ad-free subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming service first launched in North America in March 2017, and announced it had surpassed 1.5 million subscribers in October 2020.

In the UK, BritBox launched in November 2019, followed by Australia in November 2020. No data about the take-up in Australia has been revealed.

Earlier this month it was announced that South African audiences will be the next to enjoy BritBox, with the service set to launch in the second half of 2021.

Sakaan is currently group director ITV SVOD (responsible for the launch of BritBox in the UK) as well as chief brand & creative officer at BritBox Global where she has been responsible for the editorial and marketing activities for BritBox internationally.

The BritBox international management team including Moira Hogan, country manager for Australia and Emily Powers EVP and head of BritBox North America will report to Sakaan.

When launching in Australia, Hogan said: “Our aim is to be the place to discover hidden gems or find your new favourite series. We’ve delved into the rich catalogues of BBC Studios and ITV to deliver thousands of hours of classic and contemporary mystery, crime, drama and comedy titles for launch. This is just the start, with plenty more favourite British series, territory premieres, exclusives and originals to be released on BritBox each month. BritBox will also be the home to a variety of recently and previously broadcast series that viewers may have missed the first time around, now available for streaming on demand all in the one place.”

See also: BBC and ITV streaming service BritBox finally launches in Australia

News Brands

Nine’s CEO search continues, as outgoing boss Hugh Marks to stay ‘for now’

Nine Entertainment’s board is still looking for a new chief executive to take over from Hugh Marks, as the media group scrambles to lock in news content deals with tech giants Google and Facebook, reports News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich.

The ongoing CEO search comes as Nine’s television network, which accounted for nearly half of its earnings for the six months to December, is under pressure after its audience for the delayed Australian Open dropped by 32 per cent from last year.

The drop in viewers has already had a knock-on affect on its first-quarter marquee TV show Married At First Sight with its premiere on Monday night down 16 per cent from last year.

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Nine’s Google deal key to future of newspapers: outgoing CEO

Deals with Google and Facebook will ensure Nine’s publishing business, which includes The Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald, will return to revenue growth and keep journalism jobs, chief executive Hugh Marks said as the parent company reported a net profit of $182 million, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward.

The company, which has assets in television, radio and newspapers, defied the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $355 million in the December half, up 42 per cent on the same period last year.

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Nine to give back $2m in jobkeeper payments after posting $182m profit

Nine Entertainment’s outgoing chief executive, Hugh Marks, has pledged to give $2m in jobkeeper payments back to the government after the nation’s biggest local media company posted a $182m net profit, reports Guardian Australia’s Amanda Meade.

“This is a remarkable reflection of a period where much of Australia spent time in lockdown, or recovering from lockdown, and the Australian economy was in recession,” Marks told staff.

“In the face of this, we’ve reported a 42% increase on last year in earnings before interest and tax of $355m and a total revenue of $1.16bn for [the first half of the financial year].”

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Outgoing Nine chief Hugh Marks takes aim at rivals as shares soar on profit rise

A defiant Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks has criticised industry rivals for slashing jobs and pay during the coronavirus pandemic and for failing to diversify their businesses after signing off on a stronger than expected half-year profit, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Nine’s share price surged 9.7 per cent to close at $2.93 on Wednesday after the diversified media company reported a half-year profit of $181.9 million, up 79 per cent on last year, and issued upbeat earnings forecasts for the full-year. Marks, who is set to leave the media company in coming weeks, attributed the strong result to a $100 million cost-cutting program announced last February that he said is now almost complete, two years ahead of schedule.

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Television

Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo, and Andy Allen return for emotional MasterChef 2021 promo

MasterChef 2021 has been described as: “The most delicious season ever,” and we’re 100 per cent convinced that it will be, reports News Corp’s Bianca Mastroianni.

In an inspiring new promo dropped today by Channel 10, MasterChef Australia judges Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen are back in the kitchen, ready to introduce the next generation of exceptional home cooks.

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How 10 staff convinced execs to make The Bachelor

10 may well owe its success with The Bachelor to some of its female staff, many of whom were hooked on the international series, reports TV Tonight.

As fans of the show, they convinced network bosses to pick up the rights for an Australian series, now approaching its 9th season.

Speaking at Screen Forever last week, Stephen Tate Head of Entertainment and Factual Programs, Network 10 said, “Bachelor had sort of languished for many years. Nobody really thought that Australia would like it and it was actually some of the female staff here at 10, who came to me and said, ‘You really need to be making The Bachelor because we’re completely invested in the various versions around the world.’ I thought ‘there’ something in this.’”

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Bill Woods returns in Ultimate Tag

Former 10 News presenter Bill Woods makes his return to primetime television next month as part of Seven’s new Ultimate Tag series, reports TV Tonight.

Woods finished at 10 in 2012 after 23 years with the network, but has made appearances on SportsFan Clubhouse and Shannons Legends of Motorsport both on 7mate.

On Ultimate Tag he is commentator, joining hosts Matt Shirvington & Abby Gelmi. “Woodsy’ says he is impressed with the athleticism of the shows Pro Taggers and Players.

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Sport

‘Foolish’: Nine boss tells Stan it should have seen pub blackout coming

Outgoing Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks says streaming service Stan had been “foolish” to assume Tabcorp would allow Super Rugby matches to be shown in pubs but was confident the problem would soon be solved, reports SMH’s Tom Decent and Zoe Samios.

Speaking after Nine – the owner of this masthead and Stan– revealed its half-yearly results on Wednesday, Marks said Stan should have anticipated the wagering giant would be unlikely to sanction a deal that would have meant less racing on pub TV screens and, consequently, less betting turnover.

“I don’t know [where we are at],” Marks said when asked about Stan’s efforts to get Super Rugby screened in pubs. “I’ve told them all [Stan] that they were foolish to think that a wagering service would decrease their revenue so that they could put a sport on for no revenue benefit.”

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