Roundup: Newsbreakers and Newsmakers, The Oz, SBS and ABC merger?

The Oz

• Mike Sneesby, Greg Hywood, The West Australian, The Weekly, Ash Barty, Sam McClure, AFL and NRL

Business of Media

All eyes on Nine boss Mike Sneesby’s strategy for Stan

Nine boss Mike Sneesby is expected to face a renewed grilling this week over the media company’s heavy investment in Stan, in the wake of the streaming service’s soft audience growth since he became CEO almost a year ago, reports News corp’s James Madden.

Sneesby, who was the inaugural boss of Stan when it launched in 2015, was promoted to chief executive of Nine Entertainment in March last year, due in part to his successful development of the streaming platform.

He will announce Nine’s first-half results on Thursday, acutely aware that investors will be closely monitoring the company’s strategy on Stan which has lost some of its market gloss since Mr Sneesby, 47, moved to the top job at the media giant.

He will be keen not to repeat the mistake he made last August at his first set of end-of-financial-year results for Nine, when he bullishly announced additional investment in Stan – prompting the company’s share price to plummet almost 10 per cent in the minutes after his address.

The issue that seemed to spook investors last August was Sneesby’s statement that Stan would continue to pour more resources into live sports streaming, which some analysts believe is tricky terrain because of the shortage of available broadcast rights for premium sports.

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SBS boss says no strategic or cost benefit to merging with ABC

SBS managing director James Taylor has emphatically rejected the case for a merger with the ABC and has hit out at social media behemoth Facebook for failing to strike a commercial deal for use of its content, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Taylor said there was no strategic and cost benefit to bringing the two organisations together, arguing there was still a role for the multicultural Special Broadcasting Service in a modern media climate.

“You need a strategic imperative to bring [ABC and SBS] together,” he said. “There isn’t one. You need a cost imperative to bring them together. There isn’t one. There isn’t a revenue synergy because we are commercially exposed in a way that the ABC is not.”

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Former Fairfax CEO urges government to keep up with media reform

Former Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood is putting the government on notice to pick up its act with media reform, urging it and the opposition to not allow policy to fall behind the “warp speed” of the industry, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward.

Hywood, the chairman of free-to-air television lobby group Free TV, is urging the government and the opposition to protect Australians’ right to free television services with three policy commitments.

These are introducing laws to ensure free TV services are easy to find on connected TVs and other platforms; protecting access to free sport with the renewal and extension of the anti-siphoning list to include subscription streaming platforms and to undertake a proper review into the broadcast spectrum tax.

Free-to-air TV broadcasters slammed the Morrison government this month for ignoring major industry issues as it presses on with its media reform. Free TV described the reforms as “underwhelming” for failing to cover expected ground including extending the anti-siphoning list – which prescribes which sporting events the free TV sector has first rights to bid on – to online platforms to ensure Australians do not have to pay to view sport.

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News Brands

Herald Sun Newsbreakers and Newsmakers event at Crown

Melbourne’s heavy hitters were out in force for what felt like the first time in almost two years at Friday’s inaugural Herald Sun Newsbreakers and Newsmakers lunch at Crown’s Evergreen function room, reports News Corp’s Alice Coster.

Hosted by Herald Sun editor Sam Weir and HWT chair Penny Fowler, guests included NAB CEO Ross McEwan, Chemist Warehouse chair Jack Gance, businessman Solomon Lew, Crown boss Steve McCann and News Corp chief Michael Miller.

Big names including Sir Rod Eddington [also a former News Corp director], AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, Lord Mayor Sally Capp, federal health minister Greg Hunt and deputy Labor leader Richard Marlesand.

Sky News stars and columnists Peta Credlin and Rita Panahi rounded out three punchy panels moderated by Herald Sun weekend editor Nick Papps, chief footy writer Mark Robinson and federal politics editor Tom Minearto who discussed how to get the city roaring like before.

Photos from the event also showed Sky News boss Paul Whittaker was also a guest.

3AW Breakfast Show host Russel Howcroft with HWT Chair Penny Fowler (Picture: David Caird)

Photos: Herald Sun

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The Australian readies launch of ‘The Oz’ in bid to win younger readers

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is preparing to launch a youth-focused, online-only offshoot of its flagship broadsheet The Australian in a bid to attract younger readers to the masthead, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Known as ‘The Oz’, the soon-to-be launched outlet will be led by the masthead’s social media editor, Elyse Popplewell, who has spent more than two years building out The Australian’s presence on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The Oz team will also include The Sydney Morning Herald’s former life and style editor, Jenna Clarke, who will work across The Oz and The Australian.

The imminent expansion comes as many quality newspapers, which have in recent years adopted hard paywalls, grapple with ways to attract younger readers.

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The West Australian pivots, and profits, as the public mood shifts

The messy end to Mark McGowan’s prolonged honeymoon has been big business for West Australian Newspapers, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

Having surfed the media wave for the best part of two years, during which time McGowan enjoyed near-universal support (at least in his home state) for his tough border measures, the tide turned quickly and dramatically at his now notorious late-night press conference on January 20.

The WA Premier’s unexpected decision to backtrack on his plan to reopen the state’s borders on February 5 not only angered a patient public that was looking forward to the possibility of interstate travel and family reunions, it also shifted the editorial position of West Australian Newspapers, which had been hitherto supportive of  McGowan’s leadership and his approach to the Covid crisis.

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The Weekly introduces Albo’s partner Jodie Haydon to the electorate

Would-be prime minister Anthony Albanese has brought out the personal big guns, revealing his love story for the first time with partner Jodie Haydon, reports News Corp’s Jessica McSweeney.

In a shoot for The Australian Women’s Weekly, Haydon talks about when she realised she was in love with Albo, and also speaks of her shock at a life-threatening car accident that put him in hospital.

“I got the phone call and drove immediately to the scene. I saw the mess of a car before I saw him and thought, ‘he couldn’t survive this’,” she said.

In January last year Albanese was crushed in his car just a few blocks from his Marrickville home.

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No fault: Barty’s celebratory sip on Nine dobbed in to grog watchdog

Ash Barty’s celebratory sip of beer during a TV interview following her historic victory in the Australian Open has been dobbed in to the alcohol marketing watchdog, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) investigated how Barty’s TV toast with a Corona during her post-match panel interview with Channel 9 came about following a viewer complaint, claiming the cheers with beers glorified and glamorised alcohol.

The complainant also questioned if the moment was a PR stunt.

The ABAC sets standards for the responsible content and placement of alcohol marketing in Australia.

“I think the segment glorified and glamorised alcohol and was very deceptive if it was indeed a paid promotion. Why else are they doing it if it wasn’t a paid stunt? It’s poor when many children were up watching the final and Ash Barty is a role model for many girls too,” the complaint read.

As the beer was not part of a marketing arrangement between CUB and 9 the ABAC standards did not apply and the complaint was dismissed.

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It’s time ageing TV stars on Seven and Nine made way for up-and-comers

After 66 years and almost a million hours on the dial, the head gasket of Australian free-to-air television has finally blown, writes News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The telltale signs have been apparent for years, but the return of retired variety show host Daryl Somers at the helm of Seven’s Dancing With The Stars: All Stars during the fiercely contested opening weeks of the free-to-air television ratings season is surely all the evidence one needs to recognise the industry is on its arthritic knees.

Over at Nine, the decision to dispatch serial ratings flop Karl Stefanovic to interview Scott and Jenny Morrison for 60 Minutes last Sunday — rather than Nine’s expert political reporter Chris Uhlmann, or one of 60 Minutes’ five regular interviewers — speaks to the growing desperation of industry bosses, who routinely compromise the integrity of their news products in cliched marketing stunts that leverage the declining audience of one program against the declining audience of another.

Seven’s decision to reinstate the 70-year-old Somers as host of the 19th season of Dancing With The Stars — at the expense of someone younger and funnier (as in 2020 winner Celia Pacquola, or perhaps Lawrence Mooney) — is a strike against Seven and a blow to the ranks of undiscovered and burgeoning talent across the country.

Somers’ return also raises the average age (though perhaps lowers the height) of Seven’s on-air presenters.

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Sports Media

Board minutes reveal thinking behind decision to strip Quill award from Age journalist Sam McClure

Former journalists and media professionals are being recruited to conduct the Melbourne Press Club’s independent review into its unanimous decision to strip The Age’s Sam McClure of his Quill award, as new details emerge of what took place in the board meeting that decided the sportswriter’s fate, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

Information obtained by The Australian reveal the meeting, held via zoom on February 9, was chaired by the board’s vice-president Heidi Murphy, a journalist at Nine News Melbourne and 3AW, and those present debated in detail the motion put forward by the Herald and Weekly Times’ commercial director and managing editor Tom Salom.

Contents of the minutes, obtained by The Australian, show that the motion stated: “The 2020 Quill award for sports news report awarded to Sam McClure of The Age be annulled and awarded to the highly-commended recipient (Herald Sun sports journalist) Michael Warner.”

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Channel 7 moves Wayne Carey from Friday night AFL for Daisy Pearce

Wayne Carey is out of Friday night football as Channel 7 turns to AFLW star Daisy Pearce in the prime time commentary spot, reports News Corp’s Scott Gullan and Alice Coster.

The former North Melbourne great Carey has been a fixture of the channel’s flagship team since 2014 but he is set to be shuffled to Saturday nights this season.

Pearce will be joined by Hawthorn premiership captain Luke Hodge in the special comments chairs alongside callers Brian Taylor and James Brayshaw.

Channel 7’s managing director Lewis Martin confirmed the change at the exclusive Herald Sun Lunch of Victoria’s Newsbreakers and Newsmakers at Crown’s Evergreen, adding the Kangaroos champion was still a much valued asset given he’d just appeared on the hit series SAS Australia.

Carey’s change of timeslot will impact the rest of Seven’s commentary team given the regular Saturday night team involved Richmond legend Matthew Richardson as special comments next to Luke Darcy and Hamish McLachlan.

Brownlow Medallist Jimmy Bartel, Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling and former Essendon skipper Jobe Watson will also be a part of the rotation with games from Thursday night through to Sunday this season.

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Nine shuffles its NRL team ahead of season kick-off

Joey Johns will make a comeback on Channel 9’s Sunday Footy Show this season, reports News Corp’s Phil Rothfield.

His return coincides with the departure of Erin Molan, who has been replaced by Danika Mason as host. Joey quit the show two years ago, telling producers he couldn’t work with Erin. The Sunday Footy Show will also feature Origin coaches Brad Fittler and Billy Slater.

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Racing authorities want out of Sky Channel broadcast deals

Australia’s greyhound racing authorities are considering taking back control of their broadcast rights in a move that will pile more pressure on Tabcorp-owned Sky Channel, reports SMH’s Chris Roots.

Industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential, said Greyhound Racing NSW, Greyhound Racing Victoria and Harness Racing Victoria are all eager to explore deals away from Sky.

Any such move will put another dent in Tabcorp’s media division, which is already fighting to keep its NSW horse racing overseas broadcast rights out of the clutches of a consortium led by Seven West Media boss Tim Worner.

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Top Photo: HWT Chair Penny Fowler and Herald Sun Editor Sam Weir (Picture: David Caird)

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