BOTW: TV gets its way; Zav's last stand; Nine's AI faux pas; Paramount on the block; A Corden coincidence?
Welcome to Best of the Week, written on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning at windy Sisters Beach, Tasmania.
Today: The TV networks (mostly) win the ratings reprogramming; Nine’s AI-driven PR problem; a change of ownership looms for Ten; Peter Zavecz bows out; Vinyl Group’s first day on the Unmade Index starts in the red; and James Corden’s new project looks suspiciously familiar
Happy National Carrot Day. And, for the specialists, happy National Carrot Cake Day.
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Clarkson rides the grooms’ coattails
The week began with the first day of the new TV ratings system.
For the most part, the realignment unfolded the way the TV networks would have hoped. Most coverage of the ratings began to realign around a show’s reach (the number of people who streamed at least 15 seconds on BVOD or one minute via linear broadcast).
But the decision to slip out the announcement of the changes as the Australia Day weekend was getting under way didn’t leave the move away from average audience numbers entirely unremarked.
TV Blackbox rushed out a special edition of their podcast examining the switcheroo. B&T publisher David Hovenden raised an eyebrow: “Historical comparisons are now much harder and rely on individual broadcasters to supply journalists with like for like numbers. Given their tendency to guild their respective lilies, we look forward to some confusing and dare we say perhaps less than truthful times ahead!”
Meanwhile, Dentsu’s outgoing chief investment officer Ben Shepherd developed his own new metric plotting a show’s reach against its Total TV audience number, as a proxy for engagement.
To the right of his graph, Nine’s Married at First Sight had the greatest reach on Tuesday, but ABC News had the highest - and lowest - engagement ratio with the evening bulletin scoring close to 80% engagement and the morning bulletin below 20%.
Later in the week, B&T was first (I think) to point out a major flaw with the emphasis on reach as the metric. It means that shows following popular programming are automatically hits too, as the viewer only needs to stick around for another 15 seconds on BVOD or minute on linear.
So suddenly the likes of Clarkson’s Farm with a “reach” of 1.5m but average Total TV audience of 350,000 was in the official top five shows for the night, thanks to riding in Nine’s Married At First Sight slipstream.
Overall though, the TV networks have achieved a net positive for themselves. Even the publications pointing out the switch away from the average audience number still fell into line and prioritised coverage of reach. B&T, TV Blackbox, Media Week and Mumbrella (in the couple of days it covered the ratings) all went that way.
As far as I could see, AdNews and Mi3’s “fast news” AI PR scraper both left the ratings alone altogether this week. Whether that was because the data is now later and less complete, or simply because they weren’t interested in covering the ratings isn’t possible to say.
Still, you don’t need access to the old data to know one thing about the TV week. MAFS is once again going to be a juggernaut.
Nine’s AI faux pas
Sticking with Nine, on Tuesday the network became a global case study in the risks of generative AI.
Victorian MP Georgie Purcell complained that an image of her had been altered to make it appear she was bearing her midriff.
Nine apologised, and said the issue had arisen through the use of Adobe’s generative fill tool in its Photoshop tool. The software has the capability of expanding images beyond the original frame.
Adobe quickly pointed out that such decisions still require a human instruction.
Adobe’s defence of the robot was somewhat weakened though by clever reporting from Crikey’s Cam Wilson. He used the Adobe tool on various images of male and female politicians. Photoshop tended to put the men in suits and the women in bikini bottoms.
Paramount on the block?
And before we move on from the TV networks, the ultimate ownership of Ten took a twist on Wednesday, US time. The Allen Media Group, owned by Byron Allen, has lobbed in a US$14bn bid to buy Paramount.
Allen Media Group has an old school focus on broadcast television, and would likely break up the business, keeping the company’s US TV arm, and selling on its film assets. As is the case with the machinations of global media, the local implications of any such deal would take a while to filter through. Up to now Allen Media Group’s focus has been on the US. Retaining Paramount’s assets in other countries (including Australia of course) probably wouldn’t be part of the plan.
However, chances are this won’t be the winning play to own Paramount anyway. Although the company’s share price spiked, it has since fallen away, suggesting the market doesn’t think this proposal will happen.
But it will likely flush out the other potential suitors. As we’ve previously covered here, Paramount boss Bob Bakish held talks with Warner Bros Discovery boss David Zaslav in December about a potential merger. Private equity firm Apollo (once the part owner of Nine, as it happens) may be in the frame. And the privately owned Skydance Media is also circling.
It’s impossible to say where this will land for the staff of Paramount in Australia. A WBD merger would more likely seem them stay part of the same family. The other options would make a further sale of non US assets more likely.
(Declaration of interest: I own shares in Paramount, bought late last year, through my super fund.)
James Corden takes five
Intriguing developments from the US this week where actor and TV host James Corden was spruiking his new podcast, “This Life of Mine”.
The format sees guests nominate five things: a place, a possession, a piece of music, a person and a memory.
The format is not unlike former Aussie adman Nigel Marsh’s long running podcast Five Of My Life in which he talks to prominent guests (and on one occasion, me) about: a place, a possession, a piece of music, a film and a book.
No doubt all a coincidence: There are only so many guest format ideas. But considering Corden’s notoriety over the pilfering of a Ricky Gervais joke in his monologue, you’d have thought there’d have been a little due diligence.
Incidentally, Marsh is currently looking for a new sponsor for the podcast after chocolate maker Darrell Lea dropped out.
Peter Zavecz pulls up stumps
This week saw one of media’s great innings approach an end.
Peter Zavecz, currently MD for News Corp’s Victorian and Tasmanian operations, announced he’d be retiring in July after 50 years in the media industry. While much of that was with News Corp, Zav (as he’s universally known in the industry) also spent a key decade at Pacific Magazines and a similar amount of time with ACP magazines. He also chaired the Magazine Publishers Association.
He is one of the last people still here who had a hand in delivering the glory days of Australian’s magazine industry when it could boast the highest per capita sales in the world.
Campaign of the Week: Every vape is a hit to your health
In each edition of BOTW, our friends at Little Black Book Online highlight their most interesting advertising campaign of the week.
LBB’s APAC reporter Tom Loudon writes:
Bastion's 'Every Vape is a Hit to Your Health' campaign for The Cancer Institute NSW is a potent effort to address vaping's serious health risks among 14 to 24-year-olds. The peer-to-peer approach ensures authenticity and relatability by featuring real stories and insights from affected youth and respiratory doctors.
The campaign employs a well-informed behaviour change model, effectively balancing the depiction of consequences with understanding the perceived appeal of vaping to the target audience. Multi-channel dissemination, including cinema, digital, and social media, enhances its impact, making it a comprehensive initiative in combating youth vaping.
Read more at LBB Online
Vinyl in dismal day one on Unmade Index
Regular readers of the Unmade Index may notice that we’ve today added a couple more stocks to our listing. New on the index - which tracks the ASX’s listed media and marketing stocks - is Vinyl Group. The music tech player completed its acquisition of The Brag Media this week, with publishing house now accounting for the bulk of the company’s revenue
And we’ve also added News Corp, which is dual listed in Australia and the US, to our daily list.
Until now, we hadn’t tracked News Corp in our daily coverage of The Unmade Index because the company’s large size, most of which comes from revenues in the US and UK, would have distorted the index.
Although we will now include coverage of News Corp in our day-to-day Unmade Index, the company’s market capitalisation fluctuations will not be included in our calculation of The Unmade Index’s movements. That’s because the company’s size is approximately twice that of the rest of the media and marketing stocks put together and mostly non-Australia derived, which would have a distorting effect on the index.
As it happens, Domain, 60% owned by Nine, is similarly partly excluded from the index. To avoid big movements in Domain, which has a knock-on effect on Nine’s capitalisation being double counted, the index weighs Domain at 40%.
Meanwhile, the Unmade Index followed the wider ASX upwards yesterday, with larger media and marketing stocks seeing gentle improvements, while several of the smaller stocks slumped.
The index rose by 0.95% to 619.7 points.
From the big end of town, the bet performer was Domain, up by 2.4%.
Meanwhile the worst performer for the day was out of home minnow Motio, down 6.25%. And Vinyl Group made an inauspicious debut on the Unmade Index, losing 5.8% on its first day.
Time to leave you to your Saturday.
I’ll be back on Monday with Abe Udy for Start the Week.
And I’ll be in Sydney on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve a nagging feeling I promised more than one person I’d let them know when I was in town. If you’d like to grab a coffee, please ping me.
Have a great weekend
Publisher - Unmade