What Murdoch will make from selling Ten. In what would be a first, the Ten Network and its advisers seem to be conducting a Dutch auction to sell the company — starting with a high price that then falls until a price level is set by bidders and it clears the market. The putative bidders for Ten seem to be now aiming at 23 cents, after lobbing in an offer in the range of 25 to 30 cents. That’s why Ten Network shares fell to 22.5 cents yesterday, a fall of 6.25% on the previous day, and nearly 14% since November 26. That 14% fall tells us investors think the “takeover battle” for the company is verging on the absurd and may not happen. Ten’s independent directors could always reject the offer various offers — although it seems there is at least one offer for a change of control and others for a refinancing to get rid of the $200 million loan from the Commonwealth Bank. Foxtel and Discovery Communications have cut their offer because they found a problem in Ten — almost certainly the iron-clad documentation covering the programming deal with Fox TV in the United States, owned by the Murdoch clan’s 21st Century Fox.

Ten’s market cap is worth $651 million (at 22.5 cents a share), which means the losses incurred by shareholders Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer and Gina Rinehart are substantial, but not crippling. The losses of Bruce Gordon, the owner of Nine regional TV affiliate WIN, which owns 14.9% of Ten, are harder to work out. He has built his stake during 10 years, buying at a variety of prices, between $2 and $4 at one stage.

Lachlan Murdoch is said to be an eager seller of his 8.5% stake, which is now worth $53.16 million from a total outlay of about $166.6 million. He just wants to be rid of Ten, as does James Packer who is staring at a similar-sized loss. Rinehart’s losses are larger — she paid nearly $210 million for her 9.5% stake, which is now worth around $53 million at 23 cents a share. Both Fairfax and News Corp reported this morning that both Packer and Lachie Murdoch want to sell — they are not interested in refinancing the group’s $200 million revolving credit from the CBA, with its capitalising interest bill. Ten used that to repay a $150 million private loan from the US, so the $200 million plus loan from the CBA will add up to a third to the effective cost of any bid for Ten. No wonder News Corp commentators such as Stephen Bartholomeusz thinks a Foxtel/Discovery bid for Ten “makes sense” — for Lachlan Murdoch it does. — Glenn Dyer

Seven’s reshuffle betrays unsuccessful programming. It’s a brutal life at or near the top of Australian companies, especially those in the media. We don’t have to tell you how executives of the late Kerry Packer were made to disappear from time to time, likewise those around Rupert Murdoch. Stokes though seemed to have a more stable structure, especially at Seven West Media — until yesterday, at least, when the second managerial revamp in 14 months was unveiled.

Seven has been hacking and slashing at costs for much of this year — the slashing stepped up after ad revenues tanked in the September quarter. A dozen executives at Pacific Magazines were retrenched early in November as part of this cost cutting, which goes on. Chief Operating Officer Nick Chan was among the fallen, and his departure is perhaps the biggest news from the management shake-up. But Seven’s biggest problem is the slide in TV performance this year and that’s the real story from the latest reshuffle.

Seven’s performance — in its most important business, commercial TV — worsened considerably this year. Yes, Seven won the battle for Total People, but Nine won the key demographics (16 to 39, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54).

Seven’s second-half ratings died away, its performance at 6-7pm in the news battle with Nine didn’t improve. Nine was a big winner again on the east coast. And while Seven had mega hits such as House Rules and My Kitchen Rules, The X Factor  (a mega hit in 2013) flopped badly this year, while The Big Adventure, Seven’s 2014 attempt at finding a new reality format, bombed so badly that no one remembers it. Seven’s biggest win of the year was in breakfast where Sunrise  Nine’s Today.

There was a much smaller announcement from Seven in Melbourne where long time programmer, Graham Hill has retired after 14 years in Melbourne and 33 years with Seven. Seven’s programming consultant, John Stephens will fill the programming role on a temporary basis. He has obviously recovered from that bout of ill health and mild flirtation with Ten. — Glenn Dyer

iSentia granted unique content-harvesting licence. ASX-listed media monitors iSentia Group have got the first Australian licence to scrape certain online news and magazine content for clients. The licence has been developed by the Copyright Agency, acting on behalf of Australia’s newspaper and magazine publishers including Fairfax Media and News Corp Australia. iSentia will harvest free and paywalled content, including headlines and portions of text from online articles and deliver “news alerts” to clients with links giving full access to the original article on the publisher’s website. Negotiations between iSentia and Copyright Agency were overseen by Copyco, the publishers’ joint venture company responsible for group copyright licensing which is chaired by Fairfax group counsel Gail Hambly. “The fact that we have achieved agreement on this licence through co-operative negotiation is a credit to all involved,” Hambly said. “In the United Kingdom and the USA scraping licences were only agreed after long and expensive litigation.” — Paddy Manning

I can’t believe it’s not sex. There’s sleazy ads, ultra-sleazy ads and ads by John Singleton … and then there’s this, the new American ad for “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”. This seems to represent a new genre, the ad which parodies itself. Enjoy in particular, the hipster baker’s first line. And remember, it’s just food, it’s not love:

Front page of the day. Slow news day but giant typeface was on special offer, eh, Daily Mirror?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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