Former News Corp boss John Hartigan can lord it over most of his competitors in the Australia media — the company he chairs, Prime Media Group — has turned in a higher (yes higher) profit, joining Southern Cross Austereo as one of the few companies to do well in the December 31 reporting season. Prime has done better than his old employer, News Corp Australia, which suffered a near A$400 million asset impairment charge and trading losses. Fairfax Media made a profit, thanks to Domain and it was weaker. All in all Hartigan made the right call when he decided to accept the chairmanship – he is helped of course by the well known TV executive, Ian Audsley who was at Nine for a while

But there is one important difference between the two regional TV groups that makes Prime’s performance better than Southern Cross’. The latter got its big boost from switching to become the regional affiliate of the Nine Network, moving from the weak Ten Network. Prime is the regional offshoot of the Seven Network — the best-performing of the commercial networks, but one that has fallen in a hole from weak revenue growth, the Amber Harrison debacle, and being monstered by ASIC, the corporate regulator, into a $75 million write-down of its Yahoo7 joint venture. That loss caused Seven West Media’s net profit to plunge 91% for the December half year. The irony is that compared to its big city partner, Prime has exploited (financially) the Seven programming better than Kerry Stokes’ 41% owned network did in the December half.

Prime by way of comparison recorded a 7.2% rise in its net profit to $17.4 million on a 4.9% rise in revenue to $130 million (Seven West could only manage a 1.4% rise). Prime’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 7.1% to $31.2 million. Southern Cross lifted revenue and profits, Seven West didn’t Ten has told us it will now make a loss because revenues are weak, while Nine Entertainment saw its revenue and profits fall, and it took a big impairment on the value of its TV business (Prime took one in 2015-16). — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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