Roundup: Nine cuts sales jobs, Paramount Global stock slides, Kerry Stokes to privatise?

Nine Upfront 2024

James Packer, Bruce Lehrmann inquiry, Vladimir Putin, Disney, Gogglebox Australia, AWGIE Awards

Business of Media

James Packer bets big on US tech stocks; Emailed ‘termination’ subject of much grovelling

Billionaire James Packer has more than doubled his investment in the US sharemarket to just shy of $US800m ($1.2bn), taking massive bets on the future of Facebook and chipmaker Nvidia, report The Australian’s Yoni Bashan and Christine Lacy.

The headlong dive into tech and the sudden reshaping of his portfolio has seen about a quarter of his wealth moved into three listed companies – Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms, Nvidia Corporation and software behemoth Adobe.

The overhaul has also resulted in Packer dumping the majority of his previous stock holdings in 24 companies across financial services, hospitality, tourism and private equity-led funds.

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Putin says he prefers Biden to Trump and mocks Tucker Carlson’s questions

Vladimir Putin has said he would prefer a Joe Biden presidency to Donald Trump and mocked the former Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson for a “lack of sharp questions” during their interview at the Kremlin last week, reports The Guardian’s Pjotr Sauer.

Asked by a Russian state journalist on Wednesday to choose between Biden and Trump, Putin said without hesitation that the current US president was “more experienced, predictable, an old-school politician”, but added: “We will work with any US president who the American people have confidence in.”

It was the first time Putin had spoken about the forthcoming US presidential elections, at a time when Kyiv waits anxiously to see if the US House of Representatives will approve a critical wartime aid package for Ukraine.

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Paramount Global stock slides after Warren Buffett chops stake

Stock in Paramount Global slid after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway reported a one-third stake cut in the major studio, reports The Hollywood Reporter’s Etan Vlessing.

Paramount Global shares fell by 36 cents, or nearly 3 percent, to trade at $12.83 on the NASDAQ Exchange at the market open on Thursday morning. That extended a late-day collapse in the studio’s stock Wednesday, falling by around 6 percent to $13.19 at one point in after-market trading.

Berkshire Hathaway in a securities filing late Wednesday said it had sold 30.4 million shares in Paramount Global, or around a third of its investment stake, during its fourth quarter to Dec. 31, 2023, according to a Bloomberg tally.

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See Also: Australian job losses confirmed as Paramount Global swings the axe

Bruce Lehrmann inquiry chair had informal communication relationship with conservative columnist, court hears

Lawyers for the ACT’s former top prosecutor have argued Walter Sofronoff did not adhere to the conventions of engaging with media, during his time leading an inquiry into the prosecution of former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann, reports the ABC’s Patrick Bell.

A hearing has been underway this week into a legal bid by the former director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold to set aside the findings of the inquiry.

It concluded today in the ACT Supreme Court.

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News Brands

Nine cuts sales jobs to ward off weak TV ad market

Nine Entertainment has cut jobs in its sales division for the second time in three months, as the company continues to chip away at its cost base in the face of ongoing weakness in the television advertising market, reports Capital Brief’s John Buckley

Nine Entertainment, which owns its eponymous free-to-air network as well as streaming platform Stan and The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, has cut 22 roles from its Powered by Nine marketing services business, according to people familiar with the matter.

The cuts are due to see 15 people exit the business, while seven staff have been redeployed into other roles, the people said.

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Time right for Stokes to privatise media empire

One of the things that may have been lost on observers of Seven West Media’s result last week is that the company’s market value is now close to the overall net debt, reports The Australian’s Bridget Carter.

With net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation at 1.3 times, or one times before acquiring a stake in ARN Media, could now be the right time for billionaire Kerry Stokes to privatise his media empire?

Seven West’s net profit fell 53 per cent for the six months to December to $54m. Its market value is now $384.8m, and its net debt is $257m. Yet if the market value falls further, the reality is that the Stokes family could buy the publisher of Western Australian newspapers and free-to-air broadcaster and run it for cashflow.

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Debra OConnell to oversee news at Disney

The Walt Disney Company announced on Wednesday that a longtime executive at the company, Debra OConnell, would become the president of a newly created division that will include ABC News and the company’s local stations, reports The New York Times’ John Koblin.

The move, in effect, puts OConnell in charge of ABC News’s signature properties, including Good Morning America and “World News Tonight.” Kim Godwin, the ABC News president since 2021, will remain in her role — executives said on Wednesday that she had signed a new contract — but with an important caveat: She will now report to Ms. OConnell.

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The shows Gogglebox’s couch critics would like to press pause on

Ten years ago, when Matt Dalton was just a Melbourne dad working for a healthcare company, and not the frank and funny patriarch of the Dalton family on Gogglebox Australia, he had reservations about the show, reports Nine Publishing’s Bridget McManus.

Not the kind that many people first recall having about a show that is essentially people watching television – “Why would you watch that?” – but because Dalton’s daughters, Holly and Millie, were in high school.

Such is the popularity of the Goggleboxers, which this season includes fellow OG couch critics the Delpechitra family and grandparents Lee and Keith, plus familiar faces from season nine, that the Daltons are often approached by fans in public. “There’s a lot of love for the show,” says Dalton.

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AWGIE Awards 2024: winners

Winners of the 56th Annual AWGIE Awards were announced last night at NIDA’s Parade Theatre, hosted by Alex Lee and Suren Jayemanne, reports TV Tonight.

Amongst the winners were US drama The Great and UK drama The House Across the Street, both written by Australians Tony McNamara and Guila Sandler, respectively.

Locally produced winners included writers behind Colin From Accounts, Neighbours, Crazy Fun Park and The Last Year of Television.

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