After a lot of speculation about who was going to take over the top job at Nine after Hugh Marks stepped down, Mike Sneesby was announced as Nine CEO on March 3rd. Before stepping into the Nine CEO role, Sneesby had been CEO of Stan Entertainment since its inception in 2015.
The announcement was made at a press event that saw chairman Peter Costello take questions from journalists, with several asking about claims of a “fractured board”.
“The board is not fractured and the board is totally behind Mike Sneesby and this is a decision of the board. He will have every support of the board,” Costello said.
In August, Sneesby spoke with Mediaweek about delivering his first results for the 12 months to June 2021.
Mar 3: Stan man gets the Nine CEO gig: Hugh Marks successor named
Nine has announced the appointment of Mike Sneesby as Chief Executive Officer, effective 1 April 2021, following the decision by the current CEO, Hugh Marks, to step down.
NEC Chairman Peter Costello made the announcement this morning at Nine’s HQ in North Sydney.
Costello said: “The board and I have every confidence that, under Mike’s leadership, Nine will be able to maintain the significant momentum it has built. Mike is well placed to continue to drive Nine’s transformation as a digitally led business which is actively adapting to meet the contemporary media consumption habits of Australians.
“I also want to pay tribute to the remarkable tenure of Hugh Marks, who in 2015, inherited a legacy television business with a market capitalisation of around $1.3bn. Through the combined strength that came from the Nine-Fairfax merger, our current market capitalisation has grown to just over $5bn. This is a remarkable turn-around and Hugh has my sincere thanks and gratitude for his work. His time as CEO has seen Nine make a number of key strategic decisions, which not only redefined Nine but changed the wider media landscape in Australia.”
Sneesby said “I am honored to be entrusted with this important role, to be the custodian for many of Australia’s most important, valuable and iconic media brands. I have worked alongside my colleagues at Nine for many years and I look forwarding to building our future together as we embrace the opportunities presented in the emerging and growing digital future. The Nine family is made up of journalists, technicians, producers and so many dedicated to their craft, it will be the honor of a lifetime to lead them.”
Marks will finish his term as Chief Executive Officer on 31 March 2021 and will remain available to assist with a handover to Sneesby in the following months.
Mike Sneesby Biography
Sneesby is an experienced media executive with a depth of local and international experience. He has been the CEO of Stan Entertainment, since its inception.
Sneesby was formerly the CEO of the Microsoft/Nine ecommerce joint venture, Cudo, up until its sale in 2013. Prior to that, Sneesby set up the invision IPTV service in Dubai as Vice President of IPTV for the Saudi Telecom/Astra Malaysia joint venture lntigral. Before joining lntigral, he headed Corporate Strategy and Business Development at ninemsn where he led the company’s corporate strategy function and established a portfolio of high growth digital media businesses including the start-up of MSN New Zealand and management of the EPG and listings business HWW. Prior to ninemsn, Sneesby led a company-wide program for Optus rolling out and launching their national ADSL broadband network.
Sneesby spent his earlier career in leadership and consulting positions gaining broad experience in digital media, technology and telecommunications in Australia, Asia and the USA. He holds an Honours Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wollongong and an Masters of Business Administration from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.
Aug 26: Nine’s Mike Sneesby on opportunities and challenges across broadcasting & publishing
By James Manning
Mike Sneesby delivered his first Nine results this week, revealing how Australia’s biggest media group performed over the previous 12 months.
Sneesby spoke with Mediaweek about the results and how he got on top of all Nine’s different divisions.
Television: Nine and 9Now
Television combined, revenue increased by 12% and EBITDA by 73%, with growth across both Nine Network and 9Now.
9Now continued to grow, with revenue growth of 46%. EBITDA of $73m was up 48% on FY20.
Mike Sneesby didn’t acknowledge that Seven is making 2021 any more difficult for Nine in terms of finding an audience and generating revenue.
“Our team has a great strategy for this year’s back end in terms of programming and the way that they’re thinking about next year and beyond. We have safe hands like Stepho (chief sales officer Michael Stephenson) and Michael Healy (director of television).
“I have been working closely with them getting across free-to-air which is very different to subscription television in terms of the revenue model and how you think about an audience.”
The CEO claimed that Nine remains a clear leader in the commercial demos. “We continue to select content around delivering into those commercial demos for Nine and increasingly for 9Now. That underpins a great revenue result.”
Publishing: The SMH, The Age & The AFR
Publishing revenue was $505m with a combined EBITDA of $117m, up 28% on FY20.
Growth in digital subscription revenue for the year more than offset decline in print sales.
Getting across Nine’s publishing assets was possibly the division where Sneesby needed to do the most work in terms of learning the business.
“There is no chief executive who could have taken this role with detailed experience in every part of this organisation. It’s been really important to rely on the executive team. Part of that has been Chris Janz who will soon finish at Nine, somebody who has contributed a great deal to the business and where it’s at today. We have an extremely competent pair of hands in James Chessell [new MD Publishing] to run publishing.
“We also have Alex Parsons [new chief digital officer] returning to run digital across the board who will work closely with me across a number of our growth initiatives.”
Radio: 3AW, 2GB, 4BC, 6PR
Coupled with a double-digit cost decline, Nine Radio reported EBITDA of $8m.
Radio revenue declined YOY from $103m to $91m.
The most challenged sector is the one with perhaps the most dominant ratings success – radio. Until recently both 2GB and 3AW were unchallenged leaders in their respective markets.
Mike Sneesby: “Clearly, the radio business had some real challenges around advertising, boycotts, and our approach to the on-air product. Credit should go to Tom Malone [Nine Radio MD] and his team at Nine Radio who have completely reshaped that business in a way that focuses on commercial outcomes. They have now right-sized the cost base. Our half year EBITDA for radio was up significantly and that is a function of getting the costs right in that business. While radio has been impacted more by Covid and lockdowns than our other advertising categories, we’re starting to see the opportunity for that to come back. And on a new cost base that means much greater leverage to profitability as the market comes back.”
Stan active subscribers grew from 2.2m to 2.4m YOY, Stan Sport has 250,000 subscribers.
The business Sneesby launched has been increasingly operating in a world where content giants dominate internationally and where consolidation is starting to play out.
“The streaming space over the years has always been an exciting and moving feast. These days [acting Stan CEO] Martin Kugeler and the team are doing a fantastic job over at Stan and taking that business forward. As we look at the evolutions in the international category, there really are no big changes beyond the sorts of things that we’ve seen year-on-year.
“Go back to the earliest days when Stan launched, we were launching in Australia with Netflix still to start their service and a lot of speculation around what Netflix would do to Stan. We’ve seen the growth of Netflix, we’ve seen Disney launch their service, and Amazon and Apple enter the market. It’s a really exciting space. Internet TV is still at a relatively early stage in its overall development. Stan is really well placed in that and the team’s going to continue to do a great job.”
One of the ways Stan is successfully safeguarding against any potential loss of international content is with local production.
“Original content is something we’ve produced since we started the business. As you’ll recall, we announced our first original production just months after launching the service. That strategy has been very successful for the business. This is really an extension of that strategy. Creating our own content gives us a lot more control over our destiny so it’s certainly an important part of the strategy.
“Our long-term agreements continue with supply from Hollywood studios, and you’ll note a number of those deals were renewed recently.”
When asked if Martin Kugeler is in the running to be the next chief executive of Stan, Mike Sneesby said: “I was very clear when I came into this role at Nine that we wouldn’t be going out to immediately commence a search for the chief executive. Martin is doing a brilliant job over there with the rest of the team. And at this stage, I’m not going to speculate or talk about what happens long term. The business is in great shape and it’s in great hands.”