News Corp ends the platforms truce; Optus wins the EPL; the audio industry's talent war; and a CMO responds

Soccer fans will need multiple subscriptions; and the ACCC may have forced Google and Facebook to give News Corp more than $100m a year, but Murdoch is still going hard on the murky programmatic chain

Welcome to Unmade, written in the UK, mostly while you were sleeping. (And then hastily re-edited to take in this morning’s Optus Sport news)

Remember that cosy new writing routine involving the superior sandwiches and free wifi of Pret A Manger that I mentioned yesterday? It immediately hit a speed bump. I arrived shortly after opening time to discover that the store has abruptly closed down.

The hospitality industry across the developed world is struggling to hire staff. It would appear that the owner of the Horsham franchise of Pret has opted to close altogether rather than pay its staff more. It’s fun to have a front row seat to watch late stage capitalism in action. In this case the seat was in Caffe Nero, across the cobbled street.

Happy International Men’s Day. It’s going to be a busy Friday for Richard Herring.

Optus retains the EPL

About 40 minutes ago , Optus announced that it had retained the rights to show English Premier League soccer, for another six years.

It was always the most likely outcome - Optus seemed likely to bid the most because it also had most to lose if it missed out. The absence of the code would have left it with next to no content for its Optus Sport service. No number has yet emerged, but the EPL was fortunate that the timing of the process coming just as the streaming services became serious about live sport. It will have been top dollar.

Optus said in this morning’s announcement that it has now surpassed a million subscribers to its streaming service, which is, I believe, also new information.

As well as keeping the men’s EPL until 2028, Optus has got the women’s version of the English game until 2024.

For soccer fans, it means split allegiances, or multiple subscriptions.

While Optus retains the EPL championship, the rest of the game is spread around.

ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus and Ten have got the rights to the FA Cup knockout tournament from the UK, and to the A League locally,

Stan Sport holds the rights to the UEFA Champions League, which is the major European tournament.

And next year’s World Cup men’s championship in Qatar will remain free-to-air with SBS, while Optus also has the 2023 women’s World Cup rights.

Now the only remaining major sports right loose end is Nine’s NRL extension, which must surely be just a formality. Surely…

Meanwhile, in New York

This week saw the News Corp annual general meeting.

As is the way of such things, executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and chief executive Robert Thomson had prepared short speeches.

Thomson’s address was almost an exact repeat of his introduction to the company’s annual report which was published back on October 25.

But Murdoch had new things to say.

As has been widely reported, he offered what amounted to a “stand down” message to his sort-of-friend Donald Trump about continuing to dispute the 2020 election. Calling for conservatives to be part of the political debate, Murdoch said: “That will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.”

Which was an interesting political signal. But I was more interested by the signal he sent about the digital platforms. With the deals forced onto Facebook and Google - confirmed by Thomson at the AGM to be worth more than $100m to News Corp - one might have assumed that peace had broken out.

But Murdoch has reopened hostilities, referencing the extraordinary lawsuit being taken out against Google over allegations about its programmatic advertising practices. The process is being led by Texas’s attorney general Ken Paxton. I wrote about it in some detail back on October 25.

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Murdoch signalled that he still intends to use News Corp’s considerable influence to get legislators and officials to go after the big two. He told shareholders:

“The collusion between the two companies on ad tech as alleged in the Texas attorney general’s complaint is extraordinary.

Let us be very clear that the consequences of that digital ad market manipulation: obviously, publishers have been materially damaged, but companies have also been over-charged for their advertising and consumers have thus paid too much for products.”

I find myself wondering whether publishers might come together to launch a class action for damages against Google, based on the evidence turned up by the lawsuit.

Murdoch is clearly not going to let it drop.

(Incidentally, I was a guest on Crikey’s Murdocracy podcast this week, talking about the company’s finances, and Lachlan Murdoch’s business career.)

Another CMO list

I wrote a few days ago about the CMO website’s ranking of the top 50 marketers in Australia, and the remarkably short tenure many of them have enjoyed since making it onto the CMO50 list.

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A week on, trade website MI3 has joined the party, creating its own ranking, this time based solely on longevity in the role. Rather boldly, considering they’ve only so far come up with 39 names, MI3 has called its list The 100 Club. Sounds twice as good as CMO50, doesn’t it?

The longevity ranking is an interesting idea, even if I’m not convinced that time in the job automatically equates to success. Time in the role may be a necessary component, but marketing abilities must surely be the key differentiator.

Anyway, the longest serving CMO that MI3 has uncovered is Alastair Doak, marketing director of Mazda, clocking up 14 years and three months in the job.

Second was Southern Cross Austereo’s Nikki Clarkson, with 12 years in the role.

Inspiration Paint’s Joel Goodsir was third with just over nine years, and Budget Direct’s Jonathan Kerr was just behind.

JK offered an excellent piece of advice to CMOs in the article:

“Your foundation must be the five P's of Marketing, not bits and pieces. Be passionate about those fundamentals and become known in your company/sector as the absolute expert on those elements and then via a credible commercial viewpoint apply them to your business challenge.

“Don't be caught talking 'about the work', be known for talking about commercial outcomes.”

By a happy coincidence, Budget Direct also does good work.

Tom Tilley re-signs

I mentioned yesterday that there’s a new business development in the Australian podcasting sector every week. Maybe I should have said every day.

Yesterday Southern Cross Austereo’s Listnr announced that Tom Tilley, host of its daily news podcast The Briefing, has signed a new contract.

With 520,000 downloads in October and 164,000 monthly listeners, The Briefing is ranked number 16 in the Australian Podcast Ranker.

It’s interesting that podcasts have now become such a big deal that the networks think it’s worth making announcements about the presenters, of the sort they used to only do about big radio moves.

Yesterday’s Mumbrellacast discussed the acrimonious exit of Lawrence Mooney from Triple M. Based on some of the presenter salary numbers Calum Jaspan shared during that chat, I suspect that the networks are getting far more bang for their buck from the podcasters.

And a further thought occurs: Almost none of the top podcasts are repackaged radio shows any more; they’re almost all podcast-first products. The only one that I can spot in the top 20 that started life on the radio is The Kyle & Jackie O Show from Kiis FM.

It’s not just Pret A Manger. The audio companies are facing a new war for talent too.

Letters: Polarisation and bullying

Three days ago, Dr Spin gave a shoutout to Optus CMO Melissa Hopkins (Number nine on MI3’s 100 Club, and number four on the CMO50) for diving into the piranha-infested waters of the Campaign Brief comment thread.

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Dr Spin wondered in that article whether anybody would take the trouble to email Hopkins in response to her challenge to send examples of good work.

Melissa Hopkins writes:

Dear Dr Spin,

I had two peeps reach out and share their work - neither had contributed to the commentary. A massive shout out to Andrew Howie and Ben Lilley for sending a note and sharing some work.

Polarisation in creative is often a good thing. Living under a pseudonym to bully, and not provide constructive feedback, not good.

I was surprised with the response to my post ... a view that anyone can comment on a chef or a general view on advertising. I was mistaken thinking this was industry press where expertise was important.

Let's consider it was an architectural publication, where only the industry contribute and interact. Would the same individuals say the design is crap, the engineering poor, the build impossible without providing an alternative approach and indeed their examples of better ???

All I ask is the craftspeople that give their commentary have the balls to say who they are, and provide to me the inspiration and examples of their work to counter their view.

Simply put the creators are always brave.

And hats off to Van Gogh, Wes Anderson, Phil Knight and Oprah - where nameless bullies said they were shit !

As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the topics tackled above, via, or via the ugly brown comment button.

Leave a comment

Look out tomorrow for the next instalment of the audio edition of my book Media Unmade in the Unmade podcast feed. We’re up to chapter four, which covers the strife that Nine was in at the turn of the previous decade. I’ll email out the link in the morning.

Have a great Friday.


Tim Burrowes

Proprietor - Unmade