Seven steps up WAN board campaign. The Seven Network’s campaign to get representation on the board of West Australian Newspapers has lifted a notch with a letter pointedly asking the company if it can explain to shareholders that nominations for the meeting requisitioned by the network will close next Monday. Seven kicked off its campaign on Monday with a letter requesting a shareholder meeting at which it will seek to remove the five independent directors, install two representatives of its own and look for new independents, while leaving the CEO in place. Seven wants WAN to publicise the early closing date, which is required under WAN’s constitution, so as to end claims by the WAN board that it is after control: an angle that media in the east have swallowed by referencing the way Kerry Stokes stalked the board of Seven and then asserted control. The WAN board, led by chairman Peter Mansell, has rejected Seven’s approach, claiming there will be a conflict of interest, though they haven’t answered Seven’s accusations of poor performance. — Glenn Dyer

… But underwhelms with latest profit results. Meanwhile, Seven Media Group “delivered a strong performance across the six months to December, with earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $239 million – up 10 per cent on the prior period’s $218 million,” according to the network. Well, perhaps it did, but disclosure was minimal compared to what was released a year ago when the TV and magazines businesses were 100% owned by the Seven Network — now they are 50% owned by Seven and 50% owned by the US private equity group, KKR. Seven said, “Television advertising revenue was up 11 per cent in the half – outpacing the overall market growth of 9 per cent. Seven’s broadcast television business delivered an EBITDA of $206 million and an operating margin of 33 per cent – reflecting Seven’s leadership in breakfast television, news and public affairs and primetime across the 2007 calendar year.” That was a mere $9 million up on the EBITDA figure of $197 million in Seven’s interim report a year ago, which is not very good. “Seven’s magazine publishing business, Pacific Magazines, delivered an EBITDA of $33 million and an operating margin of 19 per cent – with Pacific Magazines acquisition of key titles from Time Inc, including Who Weekly, and the launch of Women’s Health complementing and strengthening the business’s portfolio of market-leading titles.” A year ago Pacific reported EBITDA of $21 million, but there have been some acquisitions since then, specifically magazines from Time Inc. “Seven Network Limited’s share of associate profit in Seven Media Group in the six months to December 2007 is $41.5 million.” The market didn’t like the result, especially in TV, and the shares fell 24c to $12.46 by 11am. — Glenn Dyer

Fresh Underbelly eps leak online. Several unscreened episodes of Nine’s Underbelly series are now available to download on file sharing websites. They include the fourth episode, which screens tonight, up to the eighth episode. These could only have come from people associated with the production: either producers, lawyers, actors or selected advertisers who may have been provided with advance copies. The series is banned in Victoria and according to media reports in Melbourne at the weekend, may remain banned until 2009 because other trials related to the events depicted in the program are still to be held. — Glenn Dyer

Czar or Tsar? A piffling point (really, very piffling) but one that might get subeditors gassing. The Oz front page, above the headline, has described Sir Rod Eddington as a “Tsar”. I venture they meant “Czar” but stuck with style. The usage, as I understand it, stemmed from the Nixon administration, which had a Energy Czar, and, in later presidencies, there came the Drugs Czar and later still they went mad with it – health-care, Aids, zoning, food etc. The idea being that such an official would wield exotic power in the bureaucracy. To use “Tsar”, misses the point – but then you’ve gotta know your Richard Milhous Nixon… More on Czars can be found here. — Crikey reader, Rob McKay

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
Seven News was tops again with 1.446 million people, It Takes Two averaged 1.340 million from 7.30pm to 9.30pm and Today Tonight had 1.308 million. Home And Away was next with 1.254 million, followed by All Saints (1.215 million), the 7pm ABC News (1.158 million), A Current Affair (1.119 million), Nine News (1.109 million), The Biggest Loser (1.040 million) and Bondi Rescue (1.020 million and down substantially from last week).

The Losers: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 848,000 and sagging on Nine at 8.30pm. How many more robots can we take? Burn Notice on Ten at 9.30pm, 750,000. Women’s Murder Club, 899,000. Not yet a loser but heading that way. Just not convincing enough.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market; Today Tonight won everywhere bar Brisbane. The 7pm ABC News was the most watched news in Melbourne and second in Sydney. Both Nine News and ACA failed to crack 300,000 viewers in Sydney. Ten News averaged 826,000; the Late News/Sports Tonight, 381,000. The 7.30 Report, 843,000; Lateline, 223,000; Lateline Business, 127,000. SBS News, 183,000 at 6.30pm; 191,000 at 9.30pm; Insight, 258,000. 7am Sunrise, 410,000; 7am Today up to 305,000 and narrowing on Sunrise.

The Stats: Seven won with 33.5% (31.6 last week) from Nine with 24.3% (23.3%), Ten with 20.9% (23.1%), the ABC with 15.3% (16.6%) and SBS with 6.0% (5.3%). Seven won all five metro markets and had very large wins in Sydney and Perth. Seven now leads the week 29.0% to 27.3% for Nine. In regional areas, Prime/7Qld won with 34.6% from WIN/NBN with 26.2%, Southern Cross with 20.1%, the ABC with 13.4% and SBS with 5.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Last night was a replay of Monday with Nine failing to have a program with a million or more viewers after 7pm. It’s also a replay of 2007 when Tuesday was Nine’s worst night of the week. Two And a Half Men (870,000) continues to give Nine no kick at all — it lost 249,000 viewers from ACA. The Allan Border Medal from 10.30pm averaged 439,000. That sounds low, but it ran second to Seven’s programs, which was probably a bit better than Nine thought. Tonight it’s Underbelly on Nine versus Lewis on Seven, Spicks and Specks on the ABC and House on Ten. Quite a clash on what is still the best night of the week. And Newstopia is back on SBS at 10pm. It Takes Two was an average program last night on Seven. Grant Denyer is becoming shriller by the week and yet Nine and Ten can’t find anything to knock it off.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey