Roundup: AFL broadcast rights, Ross and Russel, anti-siphoning laws


• Elon Musk, Infowars, Judith Neilson Institute, Marvel Studios, ABC ombudsman, QMS Media, Radio ads, subscription streaming, Jana Pittman

Business of Media

Billionaire Elon Musk takes legal action against Twitter over $44b buyout deal

Elon Musk has filed claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm’s lawsuit demanding he be held to his $US44bn ($63bn) buyout deal, reports AFP.

Musk’s countersuit was submitted on Saturday (AEST) along with a legal defence against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being “confidential”, meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated.

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ALP eyes review of broadcast anti-siphoning laws

The Labor government plans to enter the first stages of its promised review into Australia’s ­anti-siphoning laws before the October budget, insisting that the issue is among its “top ­priorities”, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

The anti-siphoning laws – which were introduced three decades ago, long before the advent of streaming services in Australia – require that free-to-air television networks have an opportunity to bid for major sporting events prior to any bid by subscription TV broadcasters.

The legislation is again in the spotlight as the current anti-­siphoning list, which outlines which events should be subject to the laws, is due for review by April.

The Australian has been told that the government is likely to start talks with media industry stakeholders, as well as the major sporting bodies themselves, about a possible review of the list in the next two months – which is sooner than first expected.

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Infowars’ parent company files for bankruptcy

Alex Jones’ media company Free Speech Systems, which operates the rightwing conspiratorial outlet Infowars, has filed for bankruptcy in the latest in a string of financial maneuvers by the prominent rightwing conspiracy theorist, reports The Guardian’s Edward Helmore.

The move came at the end of the first week of testimony at a trial in Texas set to determine how much he will have to pay the families of two Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting victims who sued for defamation and won a default $150m judgment against him.

Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal said the bankruptcy protection filing should not disrupt the trial. The company, he said, wants “to put this part of the odyssey behind us so that we have some numbers” set for damages.

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Mark Ryan exits embattled journalism institute

The head of Judith Neilson’s embattled journalism institute has officially left the organisation after months of negotiations over an exit package, reports Nine Publishing’s Zoe Samios.

Mark Ryan, a former adviser to Paul Keating and long-time adviser to the Lowy family, led the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas since its inception, and was working with lawyers to negotiate his exit after its billionaire philanthropist founder requested his removal from the organisation.

Simon Freeman, chief executive of Judith Neilson’s family office, confirmed Ryan had left the institute. Sources close to the institute said the final package was approved at a board meeting a week ago.

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Marvel Studios box-office slump shows limits of Disney’s superhero universe

Thor: Love and Thunder, Walt Disney Co.’s latest superhero epic, crushed expectations at the box office on its opening weekend, grossing $144.2 million domestically, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Robbie Whelan.

See More: Box Office: Thor: Love and Thunder maintains top spot

The movie’s second weekend wasn’t as impressive. Box-office receipts fell 68% to $46.6 million, tying with last year’s Black Widow for the steepest second-weekend drop for a Marvel Studios superhero movie, according to film-industry analyst Comscore.

The uneven performance by Thor points to a bigger issue for Disney: Marvel Studios, its most profitable film studio, is in a bit of a slump.

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News Brands

ABC set to name ombudsman to head expanded editorial complaints unit

The ABC is poised to announce the long-awaited appointment of an ombudsman to head its expanded editorial complaints unit – but the job won’t be given to a journalist, report News Corp’s James Madden and Sophie Elsworth.

Following an extensive search, the final pool of possible candidates was narrowed down to less than a dozen hopefuls, who were interviewed by a subcommittee of the ABC board in recent weeks.

It’s understood the successful candidate is likely to be announced this month, and soon after, the new editorial complaints unit will begin operation.

The Australian has been told that while a number of current journalists applied for the role, the board’s subcommittee has opted to appoint a non-journalist to the position.

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‘The city’s full’: QMS Media shrugs off work-from-home orders

Outdoor advertising group QMS Media is not worried about calls for businesses to work from home amid rising COVID-19 cases because those same people are still out and about on the weekend, going to the movies or visiting restaurants and shopping centres, reports Nine Publishing’s Miranda Ward.

“People working from home are still going out,” QMS Media chief executive John O’Neill said. Restaurants in Sydney’s CBD were still full, while Pitt Street Mall was busy, he added.

“Decisions will be made from a business perspective but the audience numbers and all the data that we’re getting are indicating that the city’s full,” he said.

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Radio advertising market remains in recovery phase, says SCA boss Grant Blackley

The radio advertising market is on a slower path to recovery than other parts of the media and is struggling to get back to pre-Covid levels, radio boss Grant Blackley says, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The Southern Cross Austereo chief executive said the television advertising market had rebounded at a faster pace than radio because of the differing types of businesses that opted to push their products on air.

“Television recovered ahead of other media,” Blackley told The Australian.

“It’s recovered quite well because it’s led by national advertising for the most part and there’s very little local advertising on TV.

“The national advertising market, like any economic downturn, is normally led by national advertisers coming back into the ­market.

“Radio, on the other hand, has been slower to recover because of our propensity to have more local clients in both our metro and regional markets.”

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New deal puts Ross and Russ rumours to bed

Former ad man Russel Howcroft is setting his alarm for early starts for the next couple of years with his new deal as the co-host of 3AW’s top rating breakfast show about to be inked, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Howcroft has hosted the show alongside the king of Melbourne radio Ross Stevenson for the past two years and it continues to dominate its timeslot.

Despite wild rumours that he was poised to leave the show, Howcroft will officially put pen to paper this week to extend his commitment to the program by at least another two years.

Insiders described the deal as a “long-term, multi-year” commitment.

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Cost of living starts to bite subscription streaming

More than half a million streaming subscriptions were cancelled in Australia in the second quarter of this year, with 37 per cent citing the need to save money as the cost of living started to bite, reports Nine Publishing’s Miranda Ward.

A similar proportion specifically scrapped Netflix. Subscription streamers are starting consciously to move their money around between services, picking and choosing based on content at a given time, suggests figures from data analytics firm Kantar.

In Australia, 6.3 million households subscribed to at least one video streaming service between April and June 2022.

While total market penetration remained stable compared to the first quarter at 63.6 per cent of households, those with under-25-year-olds in the household saw a steep decline in penetration of 4 per cent, or 62,000 households, as the cost of living rose and streaming services raised their prices.

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SAS star ‘Wonder Woman’ Jana Pittman to join the army

She was the breakout star of season two of SAS Australia and was labelled a “real life Wonder Woman”, reports News Corp’s Briana Domjen.

And now Jana Pittman has applied to join the army reserve.

Pittman, a Summer and Winter Olympian, (400m hurdles and bobsleigh), a World and Commonwealth Games champion, mother of six and qualified doctor wants to add Army reservist to the list.

“My goal is to join the Army Reserve,” Pittman, 39 told The Sunday Telegraph.

“I am halfway through that application, but I had the twins, so it has been delayed.”

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Sports Media

Game on: Bids roll in for multi-billion dollar AFL deal

Four of Australia’s biggest media companies have entered a multi-billion dollar bidding war for the rights to broadcast and stream AFL games from 2025 in a contest that could change the way fans watch the game, reports Nine Publishing’s Zoe Samios.

Multiple industry sources have told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that the AFL received formal offers last week for its next media rights deal from its existing broadcast partners Foxtel and Seven West Media, as well as Nine Entertainment Co. and the owner of Channel 10, Paramount.

However, the sources, who requested anonymity because talks are confidential, say expectations the AFL could fetch $600 million per annum, or $3 billion over five years, for the rights are now fading. Media companies are facing an uncertain economy and a raft of key content deals, including with US studio NBCUniversal, as well as tennis and cricket rights, which are being sold over the next two years.

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