I was a bidder, get me out of here! The Discovery Foxtel team has used this morning’s Australian Financial Review to walk a little further away from a bid for Ten by ruling out any co-operation with Bruce Gordon and his WIN TV group, which controls just under 15% the third-placed commercial channel. Gordon is opposed to Discovery but supportive of Foxtel’s involvement in a Ten takeover, and he is trying to use that preferential approach to deal himself into a bid (which will need clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and a change in the media laws, which is not going to happen).

But in the AFR’s Street Talk this morning it’s reported that Foxtel and Discovery “will not be a part of a takeover of Ten Network Holdings that allows major shareholder Bruce Gordon to have any control over the struggling broadcaster”. So for all intents and purposes the bid is dead, if it weren’t already by Discovery’s refusal to up the offer from 23 cents a share to around 25 to 26 cents. Bruce Gordon can’t afford to make a bid, and the regulatory problems are insurmountable, so the bid dies or remains in limbo until one side breaks. Ten shares were at 21 cents at the close yesterday, so where will they go today, down to the all time low of 18.5 cents, or drift higher in the belief that another bidder is going to appear out of the African jungles? — Glenn Dyer

Spruiking Celebrity. There’s another factor to be taken into account — the bet-everything ploy on the “reality” program Im A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here has gone badly, despite the continuing attempts of Ten chair and CEO Hamish McLennan to sell what appears to be a ratings flop in the making. When a company is in the midst of selling itself, it’s natural for the CEO to be upbeat and on the front foot — after all, they usually have a lot of money riding on the success of the sale process.

I’m a Celebrity‘s  national audience slid from just 1.595 million on its debut on Sunday night to just over a million on Monday night (1.019) million and just 922,000 last night. Its metro audience tumbled from 1.2 million to 755,000 on Monday night and 685,000 last night, which under the bottom of the range where it would be barely successful (700,000 metro viewers). Nationally the slide from Sunday has been around 670,000 viewers, or a rather massive 42%. In the metros the audience loss is 413,000, and 42% as well. Now a 42% drop in audience in three days is not a success, no matter how much you slice or dice it or spin it. Yes, the audience might be higher than The Biggest Loser a year ago, and things could yet improve, but the size of Celebrity’s audience is rapidly approaching TBL’s.

In this Fairfax Media this morning McLennan said Ten had “stemmed its decline” and the launch of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here would help lift the network’s share of total advertising revenue, which has been sitting just over 20%. “We are building a portfolio of strong franchises as we rebuild the schedule and this is off the back of the best summer we have had in 10 years and we are continuing to grow,” he said. I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here has already attracted 35% more viewers that the show it replaced, 2014’s The Biggest Loser, McLennan said: “Revenue always follows ratings. The feedback from the media buyers so far has been very encouraging.”

There are millions of dollars invested in the Celebrity project by Ten,and that is valuable cash. It needs it to work, but based on three nights of ratings, the audience is deserting. And that increases the pressure on Ten to either do a deal with Discovery/Foxtel at 23 cents a share (or lower?), or face a very uncertain 2015. — Glenn Dyer

Not all puns … The Age posted this, then speedily removed it and apologised this morning after an outcry by those who objected to the glib pun.

“Apologies to those offended by our Bruce Jenner tweet. Feedback noted. No offence was intended. We have deleted the tweet,” the paper tweeted.

NYT treads water. Unlike companies like Garnett, Tribune Co, Time Warner and the Murdoch empire, The New York Times has decided against spinning off its print business off from its growth assets. The result is that its December quarter results, released overnight, show that while revenue from digital subscriptions and advertising rose solidly, ad revenues in print fell sharply, again.

The company reported a 19.3% jump in digital ad sales in the fourth quarter, helped by content marked as advertising (also called “native advertising”), which accounted for 10% of the US$182 million in digital ad revenues in 2014. Subscription revenue from  the Times’ digital-only products rose 13.6% as the number of paywall subscribers reached 910,000, an increase of 150,000 from 2013. But the continuing decline in print sales is behind the continuing slide in print ad revenue which fell 9.2% in the three months to December. It’s the third straight quarter of decline, and The New York Times said it expected another mid-single digit percentage drop in print ad sales in the current quarter.

Despite the big rises in digital advertising and subscription revenues in the quarter, there was a less-than-stunning US$700,000 lift in the company’s total revenues in the quarter to US$444.7 million from US$443.9 million. That’s like running on the spot in financial terms. — Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. How HBO would do a leadership spill.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW