Schapelle Corby could net the biggest payout in Australian TV tell-all history once she’s released from her Bali prison. But the convicted drug smuggler also has good reason not to say anything.
Get ready: you’re about to see a lot of Schapelle Corby on your television.
And not just there. She’ll be in magazines and maybe even on Dancing with the Stars. At least, that’s how one celebrity manager reckons whoever snags that fateful first interview with her will try to get the most bang for their buck. Corby could rake in a record amount of cash.
Interest in the convicted drug smuggler, who could well be released on parole tomorrow, is enormous. She’s a controversial figure. Many think she’s innocent. Slightly more than half think she’s guilty, but they’ll tune in anyway.
Celebrity booker Max Markson says he can’t think of any Australian figure who’s so bankable for TV network executives. The big three networks — Nine, Seven and Ten — will pay millions to secure an exclusive interview. And once they get it, they’ll milk it for all its worth.
“They’ll run it over two or three nights,” Markson told Crikey. “You could have it on 60 Minutes, A Current Affair and the news. There’s just so much material there. You wouldn’t use it in one hour.”
Most television “tell-all” interviews net their subjects a few thousand dollars at most. This isn’t like that. A confessional with Corby could sell for $3 million, Markson estimates. After all, the Beaconsfield miners got $2.6 million between them. This is a bigger story than that, so that’s the floor on any negotiations.
A $3 million figure would be the highest amount ever paid for such an interview in Australian history. “This is the King Kong,” Markson said. “Nothing else comes close.”
One Nine insider told Crikey any interview would be ratings gold: “Any deal would be spread across multiple platforms and programs, possibly over a number of months [or] years.”
Markson tips Nine or Seven to tie in magazine exclusives with the interview. Seven, if it snags the exclusive, would cross-publish the interview throughout its magazine empire (probably New Idea), while Nine might do something similar with Bauer Media’s Women’s Day and The Australian Women’s Weekly.
But will there be an interview at all? Another high-profile celebrity agent who’s done this all before isn’t so sure. “I’d be very surprised if she’s in a position to do any interviews,” the agent said, insisting on anonymity.
Corby is likely to have stringent parole conditions attached to her release. The agent couldn’t see why she would risk her parole or eventual release by upsetting the Indonesian government. By the time Corby is allowed to return to Australia, it will be two years after her release, and while some interest will still exist in her story she won’t be able to command the same high price for it as she can now.
“The only way the TV networks can do this is to interview the family about how it’s been for them, maybe with her sitting in the room. That’s a TV moment that probably won’t breach the parole conditions. That’s where the exclusive could come from,” they said.
Any exclusive would net Corby a hefty sum, though this will decrease the more careful Corby is to keep within her parole conditions.When deciding which of the networks to go with, Markson says money talks — louder than any slights over previous coverage. Corby’s sister Mercedes won a defamation action against Channel Seven in 2008, while Channel Nine will soon be airing a TV movie based on a book that alleges the drugs in Corby’s boogie-board belonged to her father.
There are also legal considerations to consider. Apart from Corby’s parole conditions, Australia has laws against profiting from crime. With Corby in Bali, that could complicate matters. In 2007, Commonwealth authorities sized more than $100,000 in royalties from Corby’s 2006 autobiography My Story (the Queensland Supreme Court later allowed her to keep $280,000 of the proceeds). It’s reasonable to expect any similar payout over an interview would also draw the interest of the Tax Office. However, there’s also no law against the family profiting — Corby’s sister Mercedes has pocketed at least $100,000 from various media appearances, plus the defamation payout from Seven.
Who got paid the most? Australia’s most expensive tell-all interviews:
2007: Channel Nine paid freed Beaconsfield miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell $2.6 million;
2006: Channel Nine paid convicted (but shortly released) drug user Michelle Leslie $600,000;
2005: Channel Ten paid Iraqi kidnap victim Douglas Wood $400,000;
2004: Channel Nine paid wrongly convicted Lindy Chamberlain between $75,000 and $150,000;
1997: Channel Seven paid Thredbo disaster survivor Stuart Diver $250,000.