Michael Bodey, The Australian May 31, 2007
THE Seven Media Group is taking on pay-television group Foxtel’s dominance of the digital video recorder market with a new alliance to introduce the TiVo digital recorder to Australia by 2008, even though it enables faster forwarding of ads.
Seven Media Group, a joint venture between the Seven network and US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, is teaming with the Nasdaq-listed DVR group TiVo in a move it hopes will revolutionise free-to-air TV.
The deal also sees Seven re-emerge as a subscription-TV player, as some of the TiVo services will require monthly subscriptions.
It will also strengthen Seven’s ties to telco groups, with Seven’s director of digital media Rohan Lund saying the TiVo would be sold as a bundle with telco groups’ mobile phone and internet deals.
TiVo and Seven downplayed the impact of being able to fast-forward ads and pushed the benefits of its interactivity and functionality, saying TiVo users watched 20 per cent to 25 per cent more TV.
"We think the interactivity presents an exciting upside as we’ll have the capability to communicate directly with the audience," Mr Lund said.
"It’s something we are embracing and it’s one thing to think about in terms of higher viewership of free TV in homes with these services."
Mr Lund also denied giving viewers the ability to fast forward through ads would force Seven to reduce its advertising rates.
"On the contrary, it will increase the viewing of the ads and increases activity, which will bring a greater brand recall," he said.
Seven said the TiVo platform could be used by the other TV networks and broadband content owners to "create a compelling, interactive, free-to-air digital terrestrial TV offering".
The service will require co-operation for the first uniform free-to-air electronic program guide, a service that some argue should have been launched with the introduction of digital broadcasts in 2001.
Bridget Godwin, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the Seven network, said the free-to-air TV industry supported an industry-wide EPG and concerns that Nine or Ten would not participate were moot given the participation of the industry body, FreeTV.
The TiVo service allows viewers to pause live high-definition TV, fast-forward ads, record shows from any of the free-to-air digital TV channels and access broadband content such as video on demand and other interactive web-based applications.
It does not have an ad-skip component, is copy-protected and will be able to update its software when required through downloads.
Seven and TiVo were reluctant to release key numbers including pricing for the DVR box or subscription packages and the kinds of bundled content packages that will be available other than to say it will be a "low price point, incredibly compelling".
The present high-definition TiVo model is sold in the US for $US599 ($732).
But TiVo’s main local competitor, pay-TV group Foxtel, questioned the wisdom of trying to sell DVR boxes, a notion backed up by the poor penetration of digital set-top boxes in Australia.
"We discovered that when we introduced it and when we went to a subscription model, they took off," said Foxtel’s executive director of content, product development and delivery, Patrick Delaney.
"And these things really come into their own when you’ve got a lot of content feeding in.
"When you’ve got 130 channels, it’s a ripper."
Foxtel’s DVR, known as the iQ, is in more than 200,000 Australian homes, and Foxtel says more than one-third of all new Foxtel customers take the service.
"Foxtel welcomes Seven to the 21st century by finally dipping their toe in the water of digital TV," a Foxtel spokesperson said.
But TiVo is also developing time-sensitive advertising and expanding capabilities through its web applications.
"You can have enhanced ways to interact with a sponsor," said Josh Danovitz, head of international for Tivo.
He said TiVo users remembered ads better, and disputed the reported number of people who skipped ads while watching TiVo-recorded TV, said to be 70 per cent to 80per cent, saying it was "probably less than 50 per cent".
Internet telephony group Engin, which is partly owned by Seven, will be one of the telecommunications providers expected to distribute and support the TiVo product.
Newcastle’s Mr Radio Dies30May07
Legendary Newcastle radio announcer Pat Barton, popularly known as “Mr. Radio”, has died early yesterday aged 92.
Barton spent 55 years on the air, mainly in the breakfast slot at Newcastle station 2KO (now KOFM). Barton’s career started at Young’s 2LF in 1938, later moving to 2KO in 1941, before spending four years in the army in World War II. His show on 2KO was so successful, rival 2HD lured him away in 1952, before returning to 2KO in 1957, staying there until 1993.
In his time, he interviewed such stars as Buddy Holly and Nat King Cole, and even took in then in-experienced 22 year old John Laws, introducing the top 40 format to the Hunter. His on air trademarks included witty ad-libs and precise time calls (e.g. “it’s twenty-eight and a half after eight”).
He is survived by his three children and two grandchildren, as his wife Margot passed away in 2003.
Nick Tabakoff, The Australian, May 29, 2007
JAMES Packer’s PBL empire has confirmed it is in discussions to once more halve its stake in PBL Media, in a move that would see it relinquish management control of its flagship assets and move the family fortune away from "old media" assets.
The discussions, exclusively revealed in The Australian last Wednesday, were about PBL selling down a further 25 per cent interest in PBL Media to "funds advised by CVC Asia Pacific and CVC Capital Partners", its joint venture partner, the company said yesterday.
If the selldown proceeds, it will release about $500 million into the coffers of PBL to invest in "new media" assets, in areas like pay television and the internet.
The deal could also free up a CVC-led PBL Media to become a major player in Australian media consolidation, after some reputed disagreements with PBL on acquisition targets since the private equity firm first took joint control of the vehicle in October.
Under the selldown, PBL Media CEO Ian Law would be charged with executing CVC’s media plans in Australia.
The deal would see the PBL Media-controlled Nine, Ninemsn and ACP Magazines – the latter of which includes a number of iconic Packer family brands such as Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day – removed from PBL’s grasp.
It is understood PBL wants to finalise its PBL Media selldown ahead of the split of PBL into two companies: Crown, which will hold PBL’s gaming assets; and Consolidated Media Holdings, which will hold the PBL Media stake, as well as a number of "new media" plays it wants to remain undiluted, including its 25 per cent stake in Foxtel and holdings in Fox Sports and Seek.
It is proposed that the split will be executed, subject to shareholder approval, in August. Documentation detailing the terms of the split is still to be finalised.
But Mr Colman did not believe it necessarily represented the end of PBL’s media ambitions, saying the funds PBL and Consolidated Media raise from the selldown could be put towards a possible Foxtel takeover of Austar.
"It looks like it could be an Austar refinancing, if Foxtel decides to go for Austar without James putting extra money into Consolidated Media."
Talks between Foxtel and Austar about an acquisition recently stalled over price, but Foxtel is believed to maintain a long-term interest in a takeover.
Sources close to Park St have told The Australian that PBL Media’s capital structure of 70 per cent debt and 30 per cent equity could see it remain as an attractive vehicle for PBL to make media purchases through.
Given Consolidated Media’s likely 25 per cent stake in PBL Media, it would only have to contribute $75 million in equity towards every $1 billion purchase PBL Media would make.
Pay TV Audiences28May07
We hear about the growth of Pay TV but occassionally its nice to have some figures to put things in perspective. While Pay is growing it still has a long way to go to make a differences to many advertisers, especially in the Hunter. The biggest audience on NBN was around half that of the biggest audience on Pay Nationally.
What Pay TV subscribers watched last week
1 NRL SEA EAGLES V STORM Fox Sports 3 317,000
2 NRL TITANS V RABBITOHS Fox Sports 3 301,000
3 NRL SEA EAGLES V BRONCOS Fox Sports3 258,000
4 THE KING TV1 220,000
5 AFL BRISBANE V COLLINGWOOD Fox Sports 1 170,000
6 AFL SYDNEY V PORT ADELAIDE Fox Sports 1 161,000
7 AFL WEST COAST V MELBOURNE Fox Sports 1 160,000
8 AUSTRALIA’S NEXT TOP MODEL FOX8 159,000
9 NRL WARRIORS V WESTS TIGERS Fox Sports 3 149,000
10 NRL SHARKS V ROOSTERS Fox Sports 3 144,000
(OzTAM whole nation)
Nine Finally Wins a Week28May07
Channel Nine has won its first ratings week of the year, thanks to rugby league. To put it another way, Channel Seven has lost its first ratings week of the year, thanks to rugby union.
As of last Wednesday morming, Seven was ahead of Nine in prime time audience share, but the huge numbers watching the State of Origin match in Sydney and Brisbane pushed Nine to the front by Thursday morning. Seven was able to claw back viewers on Thursday and Friday nights, so that on Saturday morning the stations were neck and neck, each averaging 28.6 per cent for the week.
Everything depended on how viewers in Sydney and Brisbane responded to Seven’s coverage of the rugby union match between Australia and Wales on Saturday night.
Well, 252,000 watched it in Sydney and 144,000 watched it in Brisbane (compared with 856,000 and 734,000 who watched the league on Wednesday). Union may be the game they play in heaven, but it’s not the game they watch in Australia.
The prime time audience shares for the week ended up thus: Nine 28.3 per cent, Seven 28.2, Ten 21.2, ABC 16.4, and SBS 5.9. Seven will be scrambling to shore up its end of week programming before the next State of Origin — and it may decide to leave future rugby union to Pay TV.
What Australian watched, week ending May 26
1 STATE OF ORIGIN RUGBY LEAGUE 1ST – MATCH Nine 2,020,000
2 SEVEN NEWS – SUN Seven 1,673,000
3 60 MINUTES Nine 1,668,000
4 WHERE ARE THEY NOW Seven 1,531,000
5 SEVEN NEWS Seven 1,503,000
6 DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES Seven 1,444,000
7 TODAY TONIGHT Seven 1,438,000
8 STATE OF ORIGIN PRE MATCH Nine 1,434,000
9 GREY’S ANATOMY Seven 1,417,000
10 IT TAKES TWO Seven 1,414,000
11 NCIS Ten 1,403,000
12 NINE NEWS SUNDAY Nine 1,401,000
13 RPA WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Nine 1,374,000
14 MY NAME IS EARL Seven 1,306,000
15 CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION -RPT Nine 1,302,000
Origin Big for NBN28May07
NBN’s State of Origin coverage was the big winner last week, giving the station some of their biggest audience share for the year.
1 State of Origin Game 1 – Match NBN 162000
2 State of Origin Game 1 – Post Match NBN 134000
3 State of Origin Game 1 – Pre Match NBN 125000
4 NBN Evening News Sunday NBN 104000
5 A Current Affair NBN 99000
6 NBN Evening News Monday to Friday NBN 95000
7 1 VS 100 NBN 90000
8 Friday Night Football Bulldogs v Broncos NBN 88000
9 20 to 1 Rpt NBN 87000
10 My Name is Earl PRIME 84000
Sunrise to Begin Local News24May07
The Seven Network’s Sunrise breakfast program will launch local news bulletins within the program from next Monday 28th May 2007.
Local news bulletins specific to their region will follow national news at 6am, 7am and 8am.
This adds to the local weather and traffic updates already aired during the program.
“Sunrise viewers told us they want to know what’s happening in their own backyards,” Sunrise Executive Producer Adam Boland said.
“Sunrise has newsrooms in every single major city. These local updates will ensure Sunrise has the most comprehensive and most relevant news service in Australia between 6am and 9am.”
There is no word yet as to what Seven’s regional Queensland station, Prime, GWN or Southern Cross plan to do in these timeslots. It follows speculation that Nine will launch local news bulletins within the Today Show.
Source: Seven Network Press Release & MediaSpy
PBL Changes to NBN21May07
New graphics are apparently to be into the station, to be used on air from July 2nd.
NBN is to relaunch as Nine on July 2nd with Today the first program in the new brand. All other programming will run in sync with TCN. A tipster says a farewell to NBN program may be screened the previous night.
The tipster claims the infrastructure will remain in place, with HD facilities to be used for shows, possibly including Hi-5.
ABC TV No.1 In Newcastle21May07
In an amazing result, ABC have recorded the two highest rating programs on Newcastle TV for the last week. The Chasers War on Everything and Spicks and Specks have outrated everything the commercial stations could offer for the first time in memory. These two programs have been rating extremely well nationally but not 1 & 2 for the week.
It goes to show that there is a place for innovative and entertaining material on Aussie TV. Chaser and Spicks & Specks are relatively low budget programs relying on the abilities of some very talented people to deliver highly entertaining products. What a turn-around to see comedy outrating forensic investigators, reality TV and even rugby league. We obviously needed a laugh!!
1 The Chasers War on Everything ABC 107
2 Spicks & Specks ABC 98
3 NBN Evening News Sunday NBN 87
4 20 to 1 NBN 86
5 A Current Affair NBN 83
6 NBN Evening News Monday to Friday NBN 83
7 NBN Evening News Monday to Friday NBN 83
8 RPA Where Are They Now? NBN 79
9 Friday Night Football Dragons v Titans NBN 78
10 CSI: Miami NBN 75
What Australia watched, week ending May 19
1 60 MINUTES Nine 1,552,000
2 IT TAKES TWO Seven 1,546,000
3 SEVEN NEWS Seven 1,535,000
4 THE CHASER’S WAR ON EVERYTHING ABC 1,477,000
5 SEVEN NEWS – SUN Seven 1,469,000
6 TODAY TONIGHT Seven 1,441,000
7 SPICKS AND SPECKS ABC 1,410,000
8 RPA WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Nine 1,392,000
9 WHERE ARE THEY NOW Seven 1,387,000
10 1 VS 100 Nine 1,386,000
11 NCIS Ten 1,361,000
12 SEVEN NEWS – SAT Seven 1,356,000
13 HOUSE Ten 1,355,000
14 NINE NEWS SUNDAY Nine 1,349,000
15 ALL SAINTS Seven 1,325,000