Roundup: Nine’s Cyberattack, The Logies, Binge, Foxtel, Wayne Smith + more

Nine Cybertattack

• Stan, Sky News, Facebook, ViacomCBS, Domain, The Athletic, Soda and Erin, Sharon Osbourne ABC, SBS, and Andrew O’Keefe,

Business of Media

Cyberattack cripples Nine Sydney broadcasts as new CEO Mike Sneesby arrives

The Nine Network in Sydney had technical issues broadcasting on Sunday morning. The issues seemed to be confined to the network’s new Sydney studios. Production of Weekend Today and the Sunday morning Sydney-based sports shows were unable to proceed. NSW viewers got to see the Melbourne AFL Sunday Footy Show in place of Nine’s NRL equivalent, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios, Katina Curtis and Tom Rabe.

The Sunday afternoon NRL clash between Newcastle and Wests Tigers was covered live. However, the 6pm Sydney news came out of Melbourne with Alicia Loxley reading what seemed like a national bulletin.

A Nine spokesperson said late on Sunday morning: “Nine is responding to technical issues affecting live broadcasting. At this stage we are working through the impacts across the network and will provide an update as we resolve the systems. NRL, 6pm News Bulletins and our evening schedule will proceed as normal.”

However, in the 6pm news Nine claimed it was the victim of a cyberattack on its computer systems.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Nine Entertainment Co has requested assistance of the Australian Signals Directorate after a major cyberattack hit its broadcast systems in the early hours of Sunday morning.

As Nine worked to resolve the issue, Australian Parliament was also investigating a potential cyberattack in Canberra on Sunday evening, which is affecting government issued smartphones and tablets.

Incoming Nine chief executive Mike Sneesby confirmed on Sunday night the incident was a cyberattack, speaking on Nine News on the eve of starting his new job. Nine’s director of people and culture Vanessa Morley said the company may be unable to fully restore systems for some time and instructed staff to work from home indefinitely. The origin and motive of the attack is unclear, but no requests for ransom have been made.

“We wish to inform you there has been a cyber-attack on our systems which has disrupted live broadcasts out of Nine Sydney (1 Denison). Our IT teams are working around the clock to fully restore our systems, which have primarily affected our Broadcast and Corporate business units,” Morley said. “Publishing and Radio systems continue to be operational. While our IT teams work through this issue, we ask that all employees, in all markets, work from home until further notice.”

Nine News has flown producers to Melbourne for the week and an NRL commentary panel were told to drive to Newcastle to broadcast the football as part of a series of contingencies, according to people familiar with the plans.

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Effects of cyber attack on Nine set to linger

A cyber attack on Nine Entertainment’s North Sydney headquarters that disrupted publishing and broadcasting at the country’s largest media company remained unresolved on Sunday night, stoking concerns its effects may extend into the coming days, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward and Max Mason.

The ransomware attack impaired Channel Nine’s ability to broadcast from its Sydney studios, with operations having to shift to Melbourne.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre, Australia’s top government cyber security agency, has offered Nine assistance to deal with the attack. The ACSC sits within the Australian Signals Directorate.

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‘Cyber attack’ continues to disrupt Nine

Today show host Karl Stefanovic says Nine Entertainment is still working to understand what caused the cyber attack that disrupted Nine’s broadcasts in Sydney yesterday, as the network continues to be hampered by technical issues, reports News Corp’s James Madden and Nicholas Jensen.

The Today show reported that Nine has become “the victim of a mass cyber attack this morning and is the biggest on a media company in Australia’s history”.

“The sophisticated attack compromised Nine’s news bulletins around the country forcing digital production systems off-air. The nature of the cyber attack is being investigated and whether it has come from a foreign source.”

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US executives behind ‘blank cheque’ bid for Foxtel to search Australia again

The US cable TV veteran behind a $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) offer for Foxtel will cast an eye over the Australian media and telecommunications industry for the second time in a year as he prepares to list his second “blank cheque” company on the New York stock exchange, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Leo Hindery, the American businessman who offered to buy the Rupert Murdoch-controlled pay TV operator mid-last year, is planning to look over several local media and technology assets in a renewed attempt to invest in the Australian market through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Sources close to the plans who could not speak publicly for confidentiality reasons said Mr Hindery’s soon-to-launch SPAC, Trine Acquisition Corp II, was planning to speak to several local companies again, a move that could lead to a second offer for Foxtel or taking closer look at Nine Entertainment’s streaming business Stan. A spokesperson for Trine Acquisition Corp II declined to comment.

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US sports website The Athletic prepares for Australian launch

Closely watched US subscription sports website The Athletic has established a foothold in Australia in a sign of a possible push into the nation’s sports journalism market, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show The Athletic Media Company Australia was registered as a local entity in mid-January in South Yarra, Victoria.

The directors of the local company include The Athletic’s US founder Alex Mather, chief legal officer David Ortenberg and local head of technology Mark Whelan. The Athletic is also actively recruiting for two Australian-based engineers with subscriber and sports betting expertise.

The Athletic, which specialises in video, news and analysis for sporting leagues such as the NBA, NFL and English Premier League, has been rapidly expanding since it started operating in 2016. The outlet surpassed 1 million subscribers in September and was last valued by private market investors at $US500 million ($655 million).

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Domain board position up for grabs as Hugh Marks steps down

Outgoing CEO of Nine Entertainment Hugh Marks has stepped down from the board of real estate classifieds company Domain with no replacement named, leading to the suggestion that Nine chief digital and publishing officer Chris Janz will be offered the position, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward.

Marks’ resignation to the Domain board was announced to the ASX on Friday evening, with it effective from March 31, his last official day as CEO of Nine Entertainment, which owns 60 per cent of Domain.

“We will keep the market informed regarding the appointment of any new director,” the announcement said.

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ViacomCBS stock tanks, losing more than half its value in less than a week.

Shares of ViacomCBS, the media goliath led by Shari Redstone, took a nosedive this week, with the company losing more than half of its market value in just four days, reports The New York TimesEdmund Lee.

The stock was as high as $100 on Monday. By the close of trading on Friday it had fallen to just over $48, a drop of more than 51 percent in less than a week.

What happened? Several things all at once. First, it is worth noting that ViacomCBS had actually been on a bit of a tear up until this week’s meltdown, rising nearly tenfold in the past 12 months. About a year ago, it was trading at around $12 per share.

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News Brands

Sky News Australia expands in Victoria with new Melbourne studios

Sky News Australia has bolstered its news presence in one of the nation’s key media markets by creating a new and expanded bureau in Melbourne, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

Victoria is home to two prime time shows — Bolt hosted by Andrew Bolt and Credlin hosted by Peta Credlin — as well as flagship show The Friday Showdown, co-hosted by Rita Panahi and Nicholas Reece.

The launch of the new TV studio, inside the Herald and Weekly Times building in Melbourne’s Southbank, has reinforced the station’s commitment to providing Victorians and national viewers with live breaking news and robust opinions by some of Australia’s best commentators.

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Facebook News product may not work for regional publishers

Smaller publishers are worried Facebook’s mechanism to pay for journalism on its yet to be launched News product is not appropriate for them and may mean they won’t be able to get a commercial agreement to be paid for their journalism, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward.

According to sources close to discussions who cannot be named as they are confidential, the News product, which is a special section of the social platform dedicated to quality news, is more focused on a national feed and will be less applicable to regional publishers’ audience strategies as readers would need to scroll through national news before seeing a local news story.

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Sky News Australia expands in Victoria with new Melbourne studios

Sky News Australia has bolstered its news presence in one of the nation’s key media markets by creating a new and expanded bureau in Melbourne, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

Victoria is home to two prime time shows — Bolt hosted by Andrew Bolt and Credlin hosted by Peta Credlin — as well as flagship show The Friday Showdown, co-hosted by Rita Panahi and Nicholas Reece.

The launch of the new TV studio, inside the Herald and Weekly Times building in Melbourne’s Southbank, has reinforced the station’s commitment to providing Victorians and national viewers with live breaking news and robust opinions by some of Australia’s best commentators.

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Soda and Erin off air again

Mark “Soda” Soderstrom and Erin Phillips will not return to their top-rating breakfast show until mid-April, reports News Corp’s Lisa Woolford.

ARN’s chief content officer Duncan Campbell told The Advertiser after the huge start to the year the team behind Adelaide’s No.1 FM breakfast show need a break.

This is the despite the station saying on Friday the popular pair would return to our airwaves on Monday, after two consecutive days off.

Most national radio shows take time off in ratings survey breaks – Thursday is the last day of the current survey, with most teams taking just two weeks off returning on April 19.

Mix 102.3’s crucial timeslot was again filled with music this morning and hosted by the show’s regular anchor Shane Loewe, a former star of rival station Nova 919.

Soderstrom and Phillips were unavailable for comment.

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TV Week Logie Awards return to Gold Coast in November 2021

The Logies will make a star-studded return to the Gold Coast in 2021, with a new end-of-year ceremony confirmed, reports News Corp’s Amy Price.

After last year’s June event was cancelled amid the global pandemic, the Queensland Government will today announce TV’s night of nights will be held at The Star Gold Coast for a third time, moving to a new date on Sunday, November 28.

The ceremony will be a full production attended by Australian television’s biggest names, unlike the virtual awards ceremonies currently being held in the US, and will fall amid a week of related events on the Gold Coast in a boost for the state’s tourism industry.

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Networks’ fury as Logies return in non-ratings season with absence of TV talent

The blockbuster return of the Logies in November — after a two-and-a-half year hiatus — could be derailed, with networks threatening to reject hundreds of thousands of dollars each in subsidies offered by the Queensland government and TV Week magazine because of the event’s new timing, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

The Australian understands November 28 will be the Logies return date, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk talking to host broadcaster Nine as early as Monday to announce it. The event is normally held in May or June. The new date — which would finally bring comedian Tom Gleeson’s two-and-a-half year reign as Gold Logie winner to an end — is an attempt to allow for a fully coronavirus-vaccinated TV industry to attend a larger, glittering risk-free event at The Star casino on the Gold Coast.

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Sharon Osbourne out at The Talk after defending Piers Morgan

Sharon Osbourne is permanently stepping away from CBS’ The Talk as a result of the network’s recent investigation into her contentious on-air racism debate with fellow co-host Sheryl Underwood, reports Kimberly Roots at TVLine. [The US show is screened on Network 10 in Australia. It has been on hiatus and is due to return next week.]

Osbourne “has decided to leave The Talk,” CBS said in a statement on Friday. After an internal review conducted during the show’s unplanned hiatus, the network has decided that Osbourne’s behaviour “toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace.”

On that now-infamous March 10 show, the daytime series’ hosting panel discussed whether British TV personality Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan Markle were racist. Osbourne was very vocal, both in her defence of Morgan and in her apparent worry that she would be considered racist for offering her support.

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Foxtel battles Stan for James Bond franchise

Pay TV company Foxtel is vying with streaming service Stan to strike a deal with the Hollywood studio that owns the James Bond franchise and shows such as Fargo, in an effort to secure what remains of the slate of Hollywood programming available to Australian streaming services, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Foxtel, which owns streaming service Binge, is preparing to bid for an output deal with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, an agreement that would shore up new international programs and films for its subscribers.

Stan currently airs programs such as Fargo, The Handmaid’s Tale and Clarice in addition to the James Bond films on its service, which are part of its existing deal with MGM. MGM was one of the first Hollywood studios to sign agreements with Stan before its 2015 launch. The current agreement, signed in 2018, will expire in the middle of the year.

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Binge’s Justice League biggest premiere yet

Streaming service Binge has secured its biggest audience yet with the launch of Zack Synder’s Justice League feature film, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The Foxtel-owned streaming service revealed, since the film’s airing on March 18, it has surpassed Binge’s global smash hit, The Undoing, which featured Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, to become the biggest show or movie to premiere on the platform.

Australian fans of Justice League could view the movie at the same time as the global premiere.

And fans will be able to view Synder’s vision in a black and white version on Monday, March 29, with the premiere of Justice League: Justice is Gray.

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Film industry fears trigger Coalition push for ABC, SBS to lift their game on local content

The federal government is renewing a push to impose local content requirements on the ABC and SBS, amid concerns the national broadcasters’ lack of commitment to homegrown show production is hurting the film and television ­industry, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

In November, Communi­cations Minister Paul Fletcher issued a green paper on media reform in which he proposed that the ABC and SBS should face formal local content requirements, similar to those that apply to commercial broadcasters.

Last week during a Senate estimates hearing, ABC managing director David Anderson said a local content obligation would be “in breach of our own independence” but writing in The Australian today, Fletcher says that stance is “surprising and dis­appointing … Requiring the ABC to meet a local content quota, as is the case with the commercials, or to meet a specific level of investment in Australian programming, is a very different thing from telling the ABC what that content should be.”

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Andrew O’Keefe makes plans to return to rehab ahead of court appearance

The game show host is set to return to rehab following his release from a Randwick hospital, where he was treated last month for unspecified issues following his arrest on January 31 for the alleged assault of his partner, Dr Orly Lavee, a mother of two and a doctor at St Vincent’s Hospital, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

After being let go by Channel 7 in February and replaced as host of The Chase with Larry Emdur, O’Keefe now has all the time he needs to focus on his recovery from the mental health issues that have plagued him for years and contributed to his frequent absences from the ITV production studio.

He plans to return to rehab in future weeks, we understand, but this time at a private facility, where he will continue the work begun at Randwick, where he was admitted involuntarily.

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Sports Media

Wayne Smith’s farewell to journalism: Hell of a ride for 50 years

In his final column for The Australian on his retirement, sports writer Wayne Smith wrote:

“It all came crashing down on me that this wonderful adventure I have been on for the past half-century was about to end. This is my final day. This is my farewell column.”

Smith started writing rugby union in 1971 when he covered his first Test and hasn’t really stopped since. A former assistant editor of The Courier-Mail, he joined The Australian in time to cover the 2003 Rugby World Cup. He has also covered swimming since the 1970s and has been to eight Olympics and 10 Commonwealth Games.

[Read his final column here]

Writing in The Weekend Australian, Peter Lalor paid tribute to Wayne Smith, interviewing some of his colleagues:

Chris Mitchell, his editor at The Courier-Mail and editor in chief at The Weekend Australian, remembers how he described to various editors the relationship he had with his words: “I am like a general and the words are my soldiers. I feel the loss of each one.” It was a warning to treat his copy carefully.

Rugby union was his one true love, but he crafted a brilliant career as a swimming correspondent and later, in the manner of Tim Paine, a successful late-life recruit to the cricket round.

He could, literally, file a story in his sleep. Weekend Australian sports editor Wally Mason marvelled at Smith’s stamina during the Rio Olympics, but even the little general had his limits.

“The night Kyle Chalmers won gold, Nicole Jeffery wrote the splash and Smithy was doing colour to pull the whole night in the pool together,” he said. “We had all worked a succession of 20-hour days and it was about midnight when he came in and briefed me about what he was going to write.

“He takes great delight in reminding me that I went to sleep mid-briefing. Apparently I started snoring, but about an hour later I went looking for his copy and found him asleep over his laptop. It wasn’t the last time I had to shake him awake to get him to finish his yarn.”

[Read more]

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