Merrill Lynch predicts big things for Foxtel. Merrill Lynch has upgraded its valuation of the Foxtel Pay TV business to $4.8 billion, which would make it more valuable than PBL Media. The upvaluation was detailed to clients on Monday in reports on Telstra (which Merrill listed as a “Sell”) and Consolidated Media Holdings which is being spun out of PBL. Merrills said “In our view, Foxtel will be the most attractive asset to sit within CMH post the demerger of PBL’s assets.” But while Merrills is impressed by Foxtel, confidently forecasting a lift in revenue, earnings and dividends, it isn’t too chuffed about the Cons Media spin-off. Under a headline “CMH likely to have limited market appeal”, Merrill Lynch said “Despite the appeal of Foxtel, Fox Sports and Seek, we believe CMH will trade below our revised $4.30/share valuation with the stock penalised due to its holding company structure.” Merrill Lynch said it remained “neutral” on PBL. “We remain cautious on Macau (ie. risks related to Crown Macau and future capex over runs), as well as the deteriorating visibility and increased volatility associated with future acquisitions.” PBL shares have fallen from $22.00 in early May to $19.56 yesterday on continuing worries about the huge cost overruns in Macau. — Glenn Dyer

Fun in the pun. From The Daily Tele website yesterday. Paris and Hawaii proved an irresistable pun combo for the News Ltd sub-eds:

Border Security reveals Seven’s programming depth. The return of Border Security to the Seven schedule last night made a mockery of Nine’s claims that the second half of Seven’s program schedule is looking weak. It averaged 1.775 million from 7.30pm to 8.30pm in an hour long ep to kick off the new season. It returns to half an hour next week. That made it the most watched program on the night, helped Desperate Housewives win the 8.30pm slot with 1.406 million, and boosted Seven to a win on the night and a lead for the week. Nine’s Diana concert from 8.30pm to 11.30pm averaged 1.328 million. Not bad, but not a winner. With a normal Monday night schedule, Seven would have beaten Nine easily. Tonight, Seven has the last three contenders in the very popular It Takes Two, which will further increase its lead. Nine has to claw that back tomorrow night with the State of Origin and then the debut of its expensive drama, Sea Patrol on Thursday night. Sea Patrol has to top the 1.5 million mark to improve on what RPA Where Are They Now and Missing Persons Unit were rating for Nine in the Thursday 8.30pm slot. But given the amount of money spent on it (even after the subsidies from the Film Finance Corporation and the Navy), Sea Patrol really needs to top 1.8 million viewers and average well above 1.5 million over the 13 weeks. — Glenn Dyer

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Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: A win to Seven with Border Security returning straight to the top position with 1.775 million people over an hour from 7.30pm. Seven News was second with 1.725 million, Today Tonight was next with 1.573 million people and Desperate Housewives had 1.406 million. Home and Away won the 7pm battle for Seven with 1.364 million and Nine News had 1.359 million viewers. Nine’s Concert For Diana averaged 1.328 million, followed by A Current Affair (1.316 million), Temptation (1.220 million), the 7pm ABC News (1.162 million) and Ten News (1.096 million). Deal or No Deal averaged 1.052 million, What’s Good For You had 1.032 million for Nine at 7.30pm, Brothers and Sisters averaged 1.028 million and Big Brother had 1.005 million at 7pm. Ten’s Torchwood, 774,000; Supernatural, 785,000; Top Gear back on SBS with 758,000.

The Losers: Ten was squeezed between Seven’s line-up and Nine’s defensive use of the Diana concert, nothing really registered for Ten. Ten News was the top rated program and it was out of prime time. Big Brother showed some life, but it was a struggle elsewhere.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market; Today Tonight lost Melbourne and won everywhere else. Ten’s Late News/Sports Tonight averaged 335,000 people. The 7.30 Report averaged 844,000; Australian Story, 977,000; Four Corners 852,000; Media Watch, 798,000; Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope, 755,000 on return (782,000 adjusted for real time of start and finish). Lateline 302,000; Lateline Business, 132,000. SBS News, 272,000 at 6.30pm; 169,000 at 9.30am. 7am Sunrise 422,000; 7am Today, 202,000.

The Stats: Seven won with 31.4% (29.5% last Monday night) from Nine with 27.9% (26.5%), Ten with 18.3% (20.4%, the ABC with 15.4% (17.8%) and SBS with 7.0% (5.9%). Seven won all five metro markets (Ten was especially weak in Sydney and Melbourne with shares of just 16.4% and 16.9% respectively). Seven leads the week 20.0% to 28.5%. In regional areas though, a very different result. They stuck by Nine with WIN/NBN on 31.5%, from Prime/7Qld with 28.7%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 18.4%, the ABC with 13.7% and SBS with 7.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Seven had the five top programs and led from 6pm to around 9.30pm. Nine kept itself in the game with the three hours of highlights from the Diana concert but it couldn’t stop Seven from winning the night and taking the lead. It Takes Two is down to its second last program and, along with All Saints, Seven will win tonight. Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope started last night with a solid interview with Gill Hicks, the Australian woman who lost both her legs in the London bombings two years ago. A good interview, devoid of any tabloidism. The Today show had a surprisingly sharp slump to 202,000 average from 7am yesterday. That’s the lowest since Lisa Wilkinson started. Seven’s Morning Show fell below 200,000 last Friday morning but recovered yesterday to average 225,000, while KAK on Nine at 9pm jumped to 136,000 and 9am With David and Kim crept up to 107,000.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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