Starting the week: Nine closes on NRL; bids in on Junkee; Seven claims crown; New owner for Radio Today

A busy beginning for the week

Welcome to Unmade, written at Sisters Beach, Tasmania, on a day with just enough early morning cloud for a photogenic sunrise.

There are, as usual, a number of daily holidays to be acknowledged, including National No Beard Day, Newspaper Comic Strip Appreciation Day and Meatloaf Appreciation Day. I’m not a supporter of the first of those, but two out of three ain’t bad.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Portishead - Dummy. Just timeless.

If you know a colleague or friend in the industry who might enjoy reading Unmade, please do urge them to sign up. Recommendations are where Unmade’s growth is coming from.

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Monday wrap

Today represents another modest experiment. Monday is the day of the week when the metro and national titles focus on the media and marketing world. I’m going to run an eye over some of today’s most interesting pieces. If you find it useful, I may turn this into a regular feature.

In years gone by, I used to resist sharing links to paywalled content as it could be frustrating for the reader, but In think we’ve reached the point in the subscription media model where it’s enough of a norm in high quality content that it is now justified.

NRL in play

The most significant media issue of the week is the bidding for the free-to-air right for NRL.

According to Zoe Samios and Michael Chammas, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Nine has offered around $600m over five years.

At roughly $115m per year, it’s a big number. Before the arrival of the streaming services, I’d have said that sports rights had peaked - they risked sending the networks broke.

But it can be even more expensive to lose rights. When then Ten boss Lachlan Murdoch gave up the network’s slice of AFL, and then failed to win any NRL, he condemned the broadcaster to a decade of pain which is yet to end.

While there had been rumblings that Seven and Foxtel - which already renewed its NRL pay TV rights for another five years - might team up to try to grab the free-to-airrights, it seemed like a might expensive path to take. If it involved Seven passing some of the games along to Foxtel (and its streaming service Kayo) exclusively, it would have effectively meant the subscription company paying twice for the same games.

Meanwhile, The Australian’s James Madden and Nick Tabakoff are reporting a similar line. They say Nine is set to pay “top dollar”.

They add that Ten had also hinted that it might be interested in NRL but that the idea had “fizzled out”.

The Oz article suggests that NRL and Nine have reached “in principle agreement” but the final number is still being finalised.

While a change of rights holder would have turned the TV market on its head - the winter sports of AFL and NRL really are that important in deciding the ratings for the year - I suspect it will be one of those moments that we’ll quickly forget if Nine seals a deal to renew and maintains the status quo.

Seven claims the crown

Still on the subject of the TV networks, in the Australian Financial Review, Miranda Ward says that Seven has already claimed victory in the ratings year.

That’s always a complicated claim. Being number one in Oztam’s total people measure may be culturally significant, but the main battleground is the demographic of 25-54 because that’s the group advertisers most want to talk to. And then there’s the question of whether to count the full 52 weeks of the year, or whether to go with the 40-week ratings season which excludes the main holiday periods. And in an Olympics year, there’s the question of whether those weeks should be counted too.

And then there’s the matter of which counts more - share across all of a network’s channels, or just the main channel.

Regardless, Ward makes the point that Seven has already won 26 weeks of the calendar year to date in total people, and 19 weeks of the ratings year, excluding the Olympics.

More contentiously, Seven is also claiming in the article to be on course to win in 25-54. That one will be challenged by Nine.

Junkee’s progress

There’s also a progress update today on the sale of youth publisher Junkee Media by Ooh Media.

According to Zoe Samios in the SMH, non-binding bids have landed at around $7m to $10m.

As I previously revealed, The Brag Media is interested, although that sort of price would represent a jump on what proprietor Luke Girgis has spent on building his entertainment industry portfolio so far.

And Samios reports that Val Morgan, best known for its cinema advertising arm, has also stayed in the running. As I mentioned the other week, I’d be intrigued at the politics of a Chinese company ending up as the owner of one of the country’s biggest youth publishers in the current climate.

Unmade - by Tim Burrowes
Will Brag Media buy Junkee? It wants to; And are we about to see a fourth breakfast TV player?
Welcome to Unmade, mostly written on a cloudy but pleasant Tuesday afternoon at Sisters Beach, Tasmania. Pleasant enough that it was a good day for my local builder to finally finish painting the deck, three years after starting. On a not-entirely-unrelated matter, does anyone know of a good technique for cleaning paint off cats’ paws…
Read more

Speaking of Brag Media, I’d been wondering whether that would be a natural home for industry newsletter Radio Today, after owner Jake Challenor launched a PR consultancy for the music industry.

Instead, a press release arrived this morning that Radio Today has been bought by Radioinfo, meaning a consolidation. of that particular trade press niche.

I’ve been a big fan of the Radio Today Tonight podcast, led by my former Mumbrella colleague Vivienne Kelly. For anyone interested in the Australian radio industry it was unmissable. I’m sad to read in today’s announcement that she’s leaving the business.

The dog that didn’t bark

Unless I’ve overlooked it, there’s also an article I’m surprised not to see today. On Wednesday lunchtime, it will be the Ten Upfronts, when the network reveals its plans for 2022. Usually, theres more buzz about each network’s upfronts, with articles in the media and marketing pages the Monday before.

I’ve no idea what the lack of noise means. Maybe Ten is keeping everything under wraps for a big surprise. Worse for the network - which has been a distant third this year, well behind Seven and Nine - would be if nobody was interesting in getting an early preview.

Letters: Flash and Facebook

The Flash launch

My analysis of Foxtel’s new launch, Flash, last week, triggered something of a postbag.

Unmade - by Tim Burrowes
Not so Flash?
welcome to unmade, written on thursday morning as what looks like 48 hours of constant rain for my corner of nw tasmania gets under way. happy national lowercase day. Don’t worry, I’m not going to carry on with that joke for the entire newsletter. Today’s writing soundtrack…
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Gavin writes:

I'm not sure many hardened news junkies who want this much content would need to pay $8 a month for the convenience of having it all in one place. Most of it is already available for free, and sites like

https://livenow.news/

are already aggregating it for us.

The only context I can think of is that it's filling a currently empty slot in the "Foxtel App" portfolio. You can buy a subset of the Foxtel suite in a Sports app and a Drama app, so a News app seems like an obvious addition. Particularly if you imagine a future where you can bundle those apps together to get closer to the current "Foxtel" experience. $8 a month is a lot, but discount that to a couple of dollars a month on top of Kayo or Binge and you'd probably get a few more takers.
All we need now is a Documentary app, and the portfolio is complete.

Anthony Eales writes:

I'm wondering why Foxtel have their Streamotion apps on Apple TV/tvOS (Binge, Kayo and soon to be Flash) while completely ignoring the mothership Foxtel app itself. It launched on Google Chromecast + Google TV in early September and works great

I just don't understand Foxtel's strategy. Are they too thrifty to follow the Netflix, and locally Stan model of being on every platform they can realistically roll out to?

Apple TV/tvOS has had an App Store since 2015 and three set top box iterations. I just don't understand Foxtel's reluctance. Are they trying to prop up their iQ3/iQ4/iQ5 set top boxes? Their Streamotion apps?

If Foxtel had their mothership app on more platforms at the same time as they are rolling out their Streamotion apps, would it funnily enough cannibalize their new streaming apps?

A quirk of Foxtel's platform rollout is that they have the Foxtel mothership app on LG Smart TVs/webOS but no sign of the Streamotion three. Their video game console platform strategy rollout is even messier.

Don't even get me started on every Foxtel affiliated streaming website's failure to playback on Linux. I don't have this problem with any other streaming service - audio or video. Another Foxtel quirk. Possibly an anti-piracy measure I suspect. Those pesky Linux users are a threat apparently. A single digit percentage of the market threat. But why throw away a chance at a potential subscriber in a small population such as Australia?

I'm also two thirds of the way through your book Media Unmade and absolutely loving it. Keep up the great work!

James Cridland writes:

Half the channels on Flash are available for free online anyway - so in reality, you're really paying for Sky News Australia, Sky News UK (which is available in every other country for free online, except here, thanks Foxtel), BBC World News, CNN International (only available on Foxtel, thanks to an exclusivity deal), and Fox News US (similar).
If you're in a capital city and want access to Sky News Australia, which is quite a decent channel before 5pm, then it costs a minimum of $49/month on Foxtel. So, for $8/month on Flash, that's quite a saving.
Indeed, Binge + Kayo + Flash = $47, which is rather cheaper than Foxtel's equivalent pricing of $79.
I'm surprised that they haven't added (US) ABC News Live, CBSN, and NBC News Now; and the television-done-on-the-cheap-but-actually-not-bad Ticker News, a strange global-but-Australian news channel from Melbourne. I'd personally have grabbed rather more channels - TRT World, Euronews, CBC News Network, and a few more similar services.

Indeed, there might be an excuse in the future to expand it to foreign-language channels: if it's relatively cheap to add these channels (many of which would be pleased just to have cost savings from Foxtel paying for the bandwidth), you'd think that 24-hour news channels from France, Germany, Italy, etc etc, would be worthwhile adding.

What I like: you can watch from the start of the hour - so you can watch the most important news story first (on traditional TV news channels like BBC World News).
What I don't like: I've gone to watch BBC Newsnight, only to discover Foxtel's automated recording system has got the wrong 30 minutes, recording something called "Our World" which was not what I wanted at all. And the user interface appears to be identical to Binge, which works well for on-demand content, but not really for live. And having no Android TV app, for now, seems a bit silly given how cheap the Chromecast with Google TV device is.

Facebook freezes out B2B

I also wrote last week about Facebook’s decision to exclude business publishing from its journalism fund.

Unmade - by Tim Burrowes
Facebook and the tradespeople
Welcome to Unmade, written during a stormy dawn at Sisters Beach, Tasmania. It’s one of those wild sorts of mornings where even the lightbulb in the kitchen is dripping. A little indoor rain is fine, right? Happy National Cheese Curd Day. Today’s writing soundtrack…
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Martin Sherrard writes:

I joined Business Press International (later absorbed into Reed) in Sydney in 1986, and worked on TravelTrade. There were some good journalists and we had a lot of fun and there was also a lot of good journalism.

We were never in anyone's pocket, but that was the misconception of what was then the "mainstream media". There was a feeling that we were second-class or not real journalists. Similar to how I felt a couple of years later when I was a reporter on the Truth in Melbourne ... and the sort of thing that you sometimes leave off your resume.

But trade journalists were every bit as good and often better because they were specialists - in two metro newsrooms where I worked, we had aircraft experts who had edited aviation mags, and many others who were experts in their fields, who came from trade magazines - and they made a major contribution to getting it right. This is going to leave a big hole in what's left of journalism.


As ever, I welcome your thoughts - either to letters@unmade.media, or via the comment button.

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Have a great day.

Toodlepip…

Tim Burrowes

Proprietor - Unmade