Today in Media Files, Ten’s creditors have been revealed, and it looks like the company didn’t have to be pushed into receivership. Plus: the ABC has cut its Radio National religion editor as its local content production slips.
Ten creditors revealed. In what appears to be a scoopette this morning the Fairfax Media tabloids had details of the creditors to the Ten Network, and they make sober reading. It’s clear the company need not have been pushed into administration and, now, receivership. The report reveals that Ten only had $129 million of secured creditors, which in a company with over $600 million a year in revenue seems to be too little to push the company into the corporate knackery.
Accumulated losses of $1.3 billion were declared. Unsecured creditors — mostly production/program suppliers, employees and everyday suppliers — are owed tens of millions of dollars. Endemol Shine Australia, which is 50%-owned by 21st Century Fox, claims to be owed $12.4 million for programs like MasterChef, Survivor, Offspring and Shark Tank. Working Dog Productions, which makes quiz show Have You Been Paying Attention?, claims to be owed $4.9 million, while the creator of Neighbours, Fremantle Media, says it is owed $3.1 million.
If Ten can’t continue paying its share of Neighbours‘ costs then the future of the program will be in doubt because of growing resistance in the UK from Channel 5, where it also appears. Channel 5’s owners, US group Viacom, have struck a deal with Fremantle Media to keep it going for another four years, but that was done in April, well before Ten’s problems. If Fremantle can’t recoup the money owed and can’t get assurances of future payments, then the program’s future will be in real doubt, despite the UK agreement. Ten is not paying the full costs for its rights to the program here in Australia.
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ITV Australia is owed $3.5 million for producing I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! for Ten. That program finished three months ago and the fact that it is still owed millions confirms reports that Ten had forced its program suppliers to finance much of their productions for themselves while Ten made periodic payment for the programs well after they had finished on TV.
The Fairfax report says Cricket Australia is owed $21.6 million, presumably for the next Big Bash season this summer (which will be the last under this current contract). The biggest claim is from CBS in the US, which claims it is owed more than $840 million under a contract to supply programming for Ten and its digital channels. The Commonwealth Bank claims it is owed $98 million under the $200 million revolving credit with the bank that was due to expire on December 23, 2017. Bruce Gordon, Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer have claimed $11 million each in guarantor fees for that loan. The trio has allowed Ten to draw down another $30 million until August 31. — Glenn Dyer
ABC cuts religion editor in unholy row. The ABC has cut its religion editor as part of changes to Radio National. Editor Jane Jeffes has been made redundant as part of managing director Michelle Guthrie’s plan to flatten the management structure of the public broadcaster. The Australian foreshadowed the changes last week, running with outrage from religious leaders over having someone in charge of religious coverage who was not a specialist. This morning, recently retired media columnist for The Australian Mark Day has opined in an extensive piece in today’s Inquirer that the “unholy row” might be destined to continue for some time, despite the ABC’s Judith Whelan’s assurances that the cuts are to a single management position, not any programs. Day, of course, knows his stuff when it comes to religion. The former editor of Melbourne’s Truth presided over a racy agony aunt column called Health Balm, which then-editor Stanley Cecil (Sol) Chandler reportedly once told a sub, “I don’t care what the letters say, but your answers must sound like an Archbishop”.
Local content on ABC slips. The ABC is producing less local content than four years ago, according to answers to questions asked on notice in Senate estimates. In 2012-13, the broadcaster produced 321 hours of children’s programs, compared to 279 hours in 2015-16. It produced 40 hours of narrative comedy compared to 18 hours in 2015-16, and 77 hours of documentaries compared to 51 hours in 2015-16. In its response, the ABC said 69% of its content was locally produced, which is more than the 55% required of the free-to-air commercial networks. The ABC reiterated that it doesn’t think it needs a local content quota.
Newspaper’s picture balls-up. An Irish newspaper has apologised after using a picture of rapper Stormzy wearing a soccer jersey on its back page to illustrate a story about football player Rumelu Lukaku signing with Manchester United.
The Herald has apologised for the error in a note from the editor, saying they got it “badly wrong”. “To be honest, we are totally embarrassed and want to say sorry to all involved and our readers for the error. We will keep our eye on the ball in future,” editor Alan Steenson wrote.
Stormzy was understandably upset by the mistake, tweeting that he didn’t find it funny.
Are bikes ‘Melbourne’s new yellow peril’? Probably not. You can only imagine the subeditor at The Age responsible for this headline, which was also tweeted, yesterday had heard the phrase “yellow peril” without knowing what it usually refers to. Why else would such an old-fashioned racist phrase be used to describe the Singaporean bicycles popping up around Melbourne as part of a new bike-sharing scheme? The story remains, but the headline has now been updated to something less racist.
Another Murdoch tech favourite fails. Not even an endorsement from fanboy Rupert Murdoch could save Jawbone from becoming another failed hot tech wannabe. Back in 2013 Rupe was a proud wearer of the device, as he boasted at the start of a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
“In this country, I have a reputation as a man who occasionally likes to jawbone. In fact, I now wear a Jawbone. This is a bracelet that keeps track of how I sleep, move and eat — transmitting that information to the cloud. It allows me to track and maintain my health much better. It allows my family and I to know more about one another’s health too, which means it encourages more personal and social responsibility instead of just running to the doctor when we don’t feel well.”
Pity that consumers were not listening to Rupe (who was in full strut after separating his empire into two companies, News Corp and 21st Century Fox on July 1). Jawbone was overtaken by Fitbit and a cluster of me-too devices, and it is now in the process of being buried. The News Corp/21st Century Fox co-chair has again showed he has the kiss of death when it comes to all things technology. He was an enthusiastic buyer of MySpace in 2005 for US$580 million — it was sold for US$35 million back to several of its founders and is now buried inside the stumbling Time Inc. And remember Rupe was also a booster of the News Corp tablet paper, The Daily Planet, which lasted just over a year and cost more than US$30 million. And then there was its digital education business that became a company called Amplify. It is no longer a News Corp business, having been sold back to some of the founders. The cost to News, a US$371 million write-down and millions in other costs and losses.
Back in September 2014, Jawbone was valued at US$3.2 billion, but by December 2015 it was worth 69% less, and by the next year its value was down to US$1.5 billion and by last week it was dead. Value destruction, now that is something Rupe knows a lot about. — Glenn Dyer
Glenn Dyer’s TV ratings. Nine Ninja’d its way to the top for a second night in a row, and will be there again tonight and tomorrow night (with the third State of Origin Game). Seven executives and the board might be obsessed with the Amber Harrison court case in Sydney, but in the real battle ground, Nine has the ascendancy and will continue to dominate while Australian Ninja Warrior remains on air — which will then pass the baton to the latest series of The Block. After boasting of winning the first 25 weeks of the 2017 ratings battle, Seven might have to put up with second place for quite a while. Seven will have a miserable tonight with the weak knock off in Behave Yourself at 7.30pm, followed by the appalling (Last Resort appalling) Yummy Mummies at 8.30pm.
The Ninjas not only whacked Seven last night, but Ten as well, and the ABC which had a very poor night. The Ninjas managed 2.27 million nationally, down just 52,000 from the debut on Sunday night with 1.60 million in the metros and 670,000 in the regions. And that was the night. Masterchef scrambled to 1.040 million for Ten. The ABC was weak — starting with the 7pm News — only 1.05 million national viewers, 7.30 had 699,000, Australian Story, 690,000, Four Corners, 729,000 and Media Watch 605,000. Those figures used to be OK for metro audiences a couple of years ago, not nationally.
In regional markets, Seven News led with 734,000 viewers, then came the Ninjas in second with a solid 670,000, Seven News/TT was third with 579,000, The Last Days of Diana (Seven) was fourth with 523,000 and the 5.30pm part of The Chase Australia as fifth with 503,000. — Read the rest on the Crikey website