Roundup: Pointsbet, Showtime Paramount+ merger, BBL


Australian streaming accounts, social media sites in court, Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward, Spotify, Ladbible, BBC Arabic Radio

Business of Media

Pointsbet cash burn accelerates, NBCU deal expands, in talks with News Corp

Gambling group Pointsbet’s cash burn accelerated in the December quarter even as it boosted the money it made on customers’ bets by more than a third and extended its partnership with American mass-media company NBCUniversal, reports Nine Publishing’s Millie Muroi.

In an investor presentation on Tuesday morning, the Melbourne-born company said its total net win – the profits made from customers’ losing bets minus money paid out to customers with winning bets – jumped to $103.4 million in the three months to December 31, up 34 per cent from a year ago.

Group chief executive Sam Swanell said the improvement in winnings was driven by a return on years of investment in the United States, now its biggest market.

But Swanell said the company’s marketing expenses in the US would decline to about $US90 million this year, down from $US118 million in the previous financial year, after extending its existing partnership with NBCUniversal by two years to August 2027 and stretching its committed marketing expenditure for the remaining two years of the original agreement over now four years.

Pointsbet confirmed it was in preliminary discussions about potentially selling its Australian business to News-Corp backed wagering startup Betr in December, but declined to provide further comment on Tuesday morning.

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Showtime, Paramount+ merger: $300M-plus in cost savings estimated

On Jan. 30, Paramount Global became the latest Hollywood conglomerate to revamp its streaming setup and strategy, unveiling a sweeping combination of the Paramount+ streaming service and Showtime, reports The Hollywood Reporter’s Georg Szalai.

The move will also bring changes to programming — originals like Kidding, Super Pumped and American Rust, among others, were removed from the Showtime platform — and likely additional layoffs as Paramount CEO Bob Bakish acknowledged “uncertainty for the teams working on these brands and businesses.”

Wall Street analysts took stock of the plans, weighing in on Paramount’s streaming business in broader terms. Both the Showtime linear pay-TV channel and the premium tier of Paramount+ will be rebranded as Paramount+ With Showtime, with Chris McCarthy to lead the Showtime studio and linear channel, while Tom Ryan oversees the streaming business. Pricing and other details are expected to be disclosed later.

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Showtime changes its name in a nod to its streaming future

Showtime, the premium cable network known for popular series like Homeland and Dexter and once a viable rival to HBO, is getting a name change for the first time in its 47-year history. It will be called Paramount+ With Showtime, Paramount’s chief executive, Bob Bakish, announced on Monday, reports The New York Times’ John Koblin.

The name change is yet another significant mile marker as the media world leaves behind the cable world for the streaming era. Bakish had earlier said Showtime’s content would soon be integrated into the Paramount+ streaming app.

The rebranding later this year will almost certainly result in layoffs at the company, which is a Paramount subsidiary, and probably rein in Showtime’s ambitions as an original programmer.

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Australians cancel 1.3m streaming accounts in three months

Australians cancelled more than 1.3 million video streaming accounts in the December quarter, as cost of living pressures and inflation worries weighed on household budgets, reports Nine Publishing’s Sam Buckingham-Jones.

Data from research company Kantar’s Entertainment on Demand survey found 6.11 million Australian households subscribed to at least one streaming service such as Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video. Kantar surveys 10,000 Australians each quarter about their streaming habits.

Those 6 million households with access to streaming – 61 per cent of the country – represent a fall of 38,000 during the December quarter, and add to the 180,000 drop in the September quarter. The data does not break out subscriber numbers, but rather measures households.

The proportion of Australians with Netflix fell for a fourth consecutive term to 76.8 per cent. It is the dominant platform by far, followed by Amazon Prime Video (33.4 per cent) and Disney+ (31.2 per cent).

The number of cancellations was led by Apple TV+, which had a 22 per cent churn rate, Optus Sport, with 20 per cent, and YouTube Premium, with 18 per cent. Netflix had a 3 per cent cancellation rate, and the data showed that 16 per cent of new subscriptions were for its cheaper, advertising-supported tier.

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Social media companies in the US brace to battle onslaught of legal challenges

Social media companies in the United States are bracing themselves to battle an onslaught of new state and federal legislation and legal challenges with far-reaching regulatory implications this year, reports The Guardian’s MacKenzie Ryan.

The majority of US state legislatures have introduced or passed bills attempting to reform how social media giants moderate their content and increase security measures for American users.

Elsewhere on the legal front, the supreme court will hear no fewer than four high-profile cases against tech giants, ranging from liability in terrorist attacks to alleged censorship of conservative viewpoints on their platforms.

State and federal lawsuits, two of which were announced this month, also take aim at how social media apps and their highly effective algorithms negatively affect the mental health of American teenagers.

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Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward over The Trump Tapes for $50m

Donald Trump has sued Bob Woodward for a fraction less than $50m, claiming he did not agree to the veteran Washington Post reporter publishing tapes of their conversations as an audio book, reports The Guadian’s Martin Pengelly.

Woodward’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, and its parent company, Paramount Global, were also named as defendants.

In a joint statement on Monday, Woodward and Simon & Schuster said the lawsuit was “without merit and we will aggressively defend against it.

“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement. Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.”

The Trump Tapes was released in October 2022, under the subtitle Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews With President Donald Trump.

Amid generally positive reviews, the Guardian called the audiobook “a passport to the heart of darkness” of Trump’s presidency.

Woodward also wrote three print bestsellers about Trump and his administration: Fear, Rage and Peril – the last co-written with Robert Costa. The interviews which formed The Trump Tapes were mostly carried out from December 2019 to August 2020, when Woodward was writing Rage.

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Spotify hits 205M paying subs, grows ad revenue, but loss widens amid higher expenses

Audio streaming giant Spotify ended 2022 with better-than-expected user growth, but its latest quarterly loss widened amid investments in podcasting growth, among other factors. The company said on Tuesday that it ended the fourth quarter with 205 million premium, or paying, subscribers, up from 195 million as of the end of the third quarter and ahead of its own target, “aided by promotional intake and household plans,” report The Hollywood Reporter’s Georg Szalai and Etan Vlessing

Spotify also disclosed that it hit 489 million monthly active users (MAUs) as of the end of December, up from 456 million at the end of September. “Net additions of 33 million represented our largest-ever fourth-quarter growth,” the firm highlighted.

The Stockholm, Sweden-based company, led by CEO Daniel Ek, had previously forecast it would wrap up the year with 202 million premium subscribers and 479 million MAUs. On Tuesday, it predicted it would end the current first quarter with 207 million premium subs and 500 million MAUs.

Spotify’s stock rose about 3 percent in pre-market trading on Tuesday after the quarterly results update.

Fourth-quarter advertising revenue at the firm continued to grow despite slowing ad momentum at some digital giants amid fears of a recession. Spotify’s quarterly ad-supported revenue rose 14 percent year-over-year, or 4 percent on a constant-currency basis, to 449 million euros ($486 million), driven by podcasting.

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News Brands

How Ladbible grew to become the biggest news publisher on Tiktok

Since launching on Tiktok in 2019, Ladbible Group has grown to become the biggest news publisher on the platform, with almost 46 million followers across the group’s accounts, reports Press Gazette’s Aisha Majid.

The company’s biggest and best-known brand, Ladbible, currently counts 11.5 million followers on Tiktok – almost three times as many as the next biggest British newsbrand in Press Gazette’s top 50 rankings according to a recent Press Gazette analysis.

Entertaining viral video content, much of it user-generated, helps the publisher build up its followings when accounts are first launched, says Rebecca Tyrrell, Ladbible’s group Tiktok and Instagram lead.

“For the majority of our channels when we first launch them and we’re really focusing on the growth, we focus a lot on user-generated content like viral videos because we know that’s what is the most reliable and shareable and that’s what really helps us to build up an audience,” explains Tyrrell.

“But once we’ve got that audience there, it’s then about feeding in more of the original content that we do elsewhere. That obviously helps in terms of the algorithm. We’ve got a bit of both and I think that’s really what sets us apart.”

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BBC Arabic Radio airs final broadcast after 85 years

The BBC’s Arabic Radio aired its last broadcast on Friday, ending 85 years of programming on the network’s first foreign-language service — one depended on by millions of listeners, reports The New York Times’ Maya King.

The broadcaster cut its Arabic radio service as part of a far-reaching cost-cutting measure that will also end radio services in 10 other languages including Persian, Chinese and Hindi. The downsizing will cut roughly 382 jobs, according to a September statement from the company.

A main driver of the cuts, according to the BBC, was an immediate need to save nearly 30 million pounds (roughly $35 million), as part of a larger annual savings of 500 million pounds ($617 million). Steep inflation and an ongoing funding dispute between the BBC and the British government brought on these changes, the company said. In 2022, the British cabinet member overseeing the network froze increases to the annual licensing fees that make up three-fourths of the BBC’s annual funding.

The broadcaster’s leaders also said that the demands of an increasingly digital media landscape preceded their decision to scale down radio services. While BBC Arabic’s content reaches 39 million people per week, 12 percent of the total audience listens to the radio programming and 5 percent listens to it only on radio, according to a spokeswoman for BBC World Service, the international news arm of the outlet.

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Sports Media

BBL turns corner back to growth after bargain rights deal

Batting heroics from Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja, David Warner’s return and huge crowds in Perth and Adelaide have helped the Big Bash League turn the corner back to growth – making Seven and Foxtel’s rights contract look like a bargain deal, reports Nine Publishing’s Daniel Brettig.

Cricket Australia’s investment in getting Smith and Warner back to the BBL in particular has reaped plenty of benefits, including the most competitive tussle between the Twenty20 league and the Australian Open tennis in some years.

But the health of the competition – likely to build again in future years when the league pulls back to 10 games per club in a search of quality over quantity – may leave some to wonder whether Seven and Foxtel’s cut-price deal for CA’s rights was sealed too hastily.

OzTam figures compiled across the 12th edition of the BBL show that in purely linear television terms, the tournament has recorded a 3.2 per cent uplift on last season, while Foxtel’s streaming service Kayo has experienced a booming 40 per cent audience rise.

These numbers defy a widespread downward trend in broadcast audiences for the likes of AFL and tennis, each the beneficiaries of big money rights deals in recent years.

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