Roundup: Peacock, AFL Grand Final, Harper’s Bazaar, Total TV + more

• Guardian Australia, GB News, Hamish Macdonald, Seven secures The Everest and Golden Slipper

Business of Media

TV needs to flick the ratings switch to total audience

It was more than 16 years ago, but I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was 8.35am the morning after Desperate Housewives had launched on Seven. The OzTAM overnight audience numbers arrived, and we had a huge hit our hands: 2.5 million viewers in metropolitan markets alone. The rebirth of Seven had begun, writes Seven CEO and Managing Director, James Warburton for AFR.

Fast-forward almost two decades and, until a couple of weeks ago, the TV industry was still obsessing about overnight audience numbers. What that meant, of course, was we were leading the public discussion about free-to-air TV audiences with the smallest number we had.

Never mind the rise of time-shifted viewing, broadcast video on-demand (BVOD) and live-streaming: as an industry, we were ignoring the dramatic change in how our content is consumed and pushing overnight numbers which were, not surprisingly, in steady decline.

Overnight audience numbers are misleading. In some cases, they represent less than 70 per cent of a TV program’s true audience. When catch-up viewing in its various forms and live-streaming are added, some programs add hundreds of thousands of “new” viewers. Not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands.

For years, self-appointed experts have proclaimed TV is dying. They are, of course, wrong (and, in many cases, biased). TV isn’t dying. It is changing. It is adapting to changes in how, where and when people want to watch video content.

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NBCUniversal mulls options for streaming service Peacock

US media giant NBCUniversal is discussing the prospect of partnering with a local media company as it tries to decide the best way to bring its streaming service Peacock into the market, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

The Comcast-controlled entertainment company, known for programs such as Gangs of London, I Hate Suzie, Brave New World and more recently The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reboot, does not have a local presence and its contract with streaming service Stan expires in less than a year, though there is an option to extend the deal for a further 12 months.

Multiple industry sources who spoke anonymously because talks are confidential, said Seven West Media, Foxtel and Nine Entertainment Co (which owns Stan and this masthead) are already discussing ways to partner with NBCUniversal once that deal expires, to avoid the prospect of it entering the market on its own.

The potential arrival of Peacock is significant as it could dramatically alter the state of Australia’s local streaming landscape. Stan and Foxtel both rely on content from NBCUniversal and any deal with Seven or ViacomCBS could lead to the loss of programming that attracts new and existing subscribers.

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News Brands

Guardian Australia under fire for refusing to join Australian Press Council

The Guardian Australia has come under renewed criticism for its refusal to join the media industry’s peak self-regulatory body, arguing its internal “corrections” system — which has only issued a handful of minor local clarifications in the past four months — is “rigorous”, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

The Australian Press Council, which represents almost all of the major newspaper and magazine publishers in the country as well as the leading commercial digital news sites, is the industry’s principal body through which complaints about the nation’s press outlets are assessed. Australia’s two biggest media companies, News Corp (publisher of The Australian) and Nine Entertainment (publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review) are members of the APC, as is Country Press Australia, the Community Newspapers of Australia, the Daily Mail Australia, and several smaller online publishers including Mumbrella and Crikey.

But since the inception of the Guardian Australia – the website was launched in 2013 at the urging of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, although his support for the project wasn’t made public until the release of his memoir in 2020 – the local offshoot of the British Guardian Media Group has steadfastly refused to join the APC, despite repeated approaches to do so.

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British broadcasting giant takes aim at new network and the Australian running it

When Andrew Neil swings he rarely misses – the giant of British broadcasting is famed for skewering countless public figures over a 50-year career anchored by long stints as a BBC presenter and editor of The Sunday Times, reports SMH’s Bevan Shields.

He now has two new targets: GB News – the television channel he helped launch just 15 weeks ago – and the network’s boss Angelos Frangopoulos, the Australian media executive who ran Sky News Australia for nearly two decades.

All sides agree GB News got off to a rocky start. The launch was plagued by technical glitches, gloomy lighting and the absence of chemistry between some presenting duos. In one incident that damaged the channel’s pro-free speech mission, journalist Guto Harri was suspended after taking the knee on-air during a discussion about racist abuse of black English footballers. He later quit, and the director of programming and a senior executive producer followed him out the door.

The early technical glitches have been rectified and the channel is pushing ahead – just without Neil.

The 72-year-old retreated to his French holiday home in June after presenting just nine primetime shows, and formally parted ways this month, claiming that to stay as chairman and host would have “killed” him. The drama has delighted the media and political elite who were suspicious of the first new entrant to the broadcast market for three decades.

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What does Hearst think of the new Harper’s Bazaar?

Veteran financial commentator Peter Switzer’s Switzer Media + Publishing recently announced it had secured the rights to publish Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar locally after a 14-month hiatus. The first issue, featuring Indigenous playwright Nakkiah Lui, came out last week. But already cracks are appearing in the glamorous facade, reports AFR‘s Myriam Robin.

Harper’s veteran Eugenie Kelly was initially announced as the editor-in-chief of the relaunched title, but was gone before the first edition. Features editor Lauren Sams left soon after, as did art editor Kristina Harrison.

And into Kelly’s shoes has stepped publisher Maureen Jordan – Switzer’s wife – who keeps saying it’s important Harpers’ makes “a break from the past” to “resonate with a broader audience”. Evidenced, presumably, by the first issue’s many black-and-white pages or Jordan’s hopes of one day putting Macquarie’s Shemara Wikramanayake on its cover.

Precisely what Hearst Corporation makes of this shift, which appears to include the magazine’s all-important design as well as its content, is now the topic of fevered speculation in Sydney publishing circles.

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Hamish Macdonald imports Q+A woes to The Project

Have Hamish Macdonald’s well-chronicled struggles with ratings on the ABC’s flagship panel show Q+A now spread to 10’s The ­Project? reports Nick Tabakoff.

More than a month since Macdonald made his big switch back to commercial TV, the early numbers are in. And so far, there’s been no Hamish-led ratings boom on The Project, despite all of the fanfare of the announcement of his “homecoming” to 10.

Ratings, of course, can be an unforgiving – some would say unfair – beast. But to put it as kindly as possible, The Project’s Friday and Sunday ratings have somewhat flatlined since Macdonald came back.

Even the numbers of Peter van Onselen – now back full-time as 10 political editor after being elbowed aside in July to pave the way for the triumphant return of Macdonald – were generally higher than those of his celebrated successor, particularly on Fridays.

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Sports Media

‘Do the maths’: pressure on AFL to make night grand final permanent

A second year of huge television audiences for a night-time grand final is set to put pressure on the AFL to dump its traditional afternoon timeslot, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

Melbourne’s thrashing of the Western Bulldogs to end its 57-year premiership drought was watched on Channel 7 by 3.006 million metro viewers and 3.910 million nationally. The numbers translated into an audience share of 61.9 per cent for Seven, according to overnight figures from OzTam.

It is the biggest audience for an AFL grand final since 2016 and is the most-watched program of any sort this year.

“They are huge numbers,” said Colin Smith, managing director of media rights value at Global Media & Sports.

“If I was in the AFL I would certainly be thinking about making the switch to a night grand final permanent, and if I was the broadcasters I would also be thinking about that because there were 61,000 at the Optus Stadium but there was 3.9 million watching on television. Do your maths on that.”

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Seven wins The Everest, Golden Slipper in racing broadcast deal

Seven West Media will become the home of all major NSW horse racing events including The Everest and the Golden Slipper after securing a new long-term deal to broadcast the sport on its free-to-air network, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

The Kerry Stokes-controlled network will broadcast 52 weeks of horse racing on Channel Seven and its digital channels under the long-term deal that expires in 2027, according to multiple industry sources familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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