Gone after 15 years. A whole cable news TV channel has been wiped out by the decision to axe Your Money, the Sky News Business/Nine hybrid of free-to-air and digital that was bound to fail.
The writing was always on the wall. Other specialist business TV programs, magazines and newspapers have struggled for decades in this country and yet the top people in News Corp and Nine ignored those trends and will now be responsible for at least 30 redundancies and the destruction of an idea that had survived for 15 years.
Specialist business TV hasn’t worked
The collapse of Your Money means that Australia no longer has a specialist business-skewing TV channel. It completes the long list of failures by commercial TV to make the concept work. In a country with one of the largest superannuation investment pools in the world (around $2.8 trillion), close to $600 billion in self-managed super funds and dividend imputation (which is a big issue in this election campaign), a specialist business TV channel or programs should have been a dead cert. Lots of money, huge advertisers, big names, and yet there is a long line of failures in the last three decades.
Some history: Nine had the Monday to Friday Business Today and Business Sunday, Seven had a Sunday competitor which became Weekend Sunrise and dropped the business skew while Ten also had a Sunday business program which lasted until the channel collapsed the first time. The ABC had Business Breakfast (and got funding from the federal government for it) before it was hacked into a 20-minute effort called The Business which aired just before 11pm. During this time of upheaval at the commercial channels, Sky Business was a constant. It had small audiences, small revenue and small staff numbers, but was considered to be an essential part of the Sky News package.
It’s a similar story in print. Magazines like BRW, Australian Business, The Bulletin (which had a strong business section as well as politics and other content) and Business Daily have come and gone. Fairfax’s now defunct National Times had a solid, investigatory financial news component and its once stablemate The Australian Financial Review is a shadow of itself as print sales and readership have shrunk. Likewise News Corp’s key paper The Australian, which has a strong business skew, has seen sales fall and now depends on its digital platform and its hard right-wing political content to remain in operation.
Overseas business news channels CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg TV are all watched in dealing rooms; but apart from CNN, all struggle with non-financial markets audiences and have done for years. And yet, despite all this evidence to the contrary, News and Sky and Nine decided they could reinvent the wheel and went ahead and decided to convert Sky Business into something completely different.
The brief life of Your Money
Your Money was born on June 25 last year. News Corp provided the content and Nine provided the channel (95), as well as some of the other support. The idea, according to CEO Kylie Merritt, was that: “the channel will retain Sky Business’ market focus during trading hours but will focus on more aspirational and lifestyle programming outside those times”.
That never worked. Every idea that had been tried and failed on other networks over the past 20 years was reactivated and flopped on Your Money. Audiences were sparse and ad sales never took off. It was never included in TV ratings (that costs money) and the results would have been embarrassing anyway.
On 24 July 2018, a month after Your Money came to life, the founding editor and boss of Sky News and Australian News Channel Angelos Frangopoulos announced he was leaving to Dubai to head up Sky News Arabia. The current CEO Paul Whittaker (former editor and editor-in-chief of The Australian) took up this job from October 7 — a week after Your Money launched. Your Money was Frangopoulos’ parting gift.
Your Money will cease broadcasting on May 17, a day before the federal election. This tells us how highly it ranked in the scheme of things at News Corp. That will be three weeks or so after the two partners announced that the digital platform of Your Money would be closed and the traffic directed to News Corp digital platforms. A spokeswoman for Sky News said about 30 people would be made redundant after they moved as many people as possible to roles at the joint venture partners (Sky News, News Corp and Nine).
What happens next?
Dozens of producers, assistants, directors and reporters will go. Some presenters may be picked up by Sky News. The most outstanding performer on the channel, Brooke Corte, should be. After all she was fronting Sky News’ First Edition program each morning and was convinced to move to Your Money. She had been with Sky News and Sky Business for more than a decade. Leo Shanahan and Chris Kohler (son of well-known finance commentator and website owner Alan Kohler) should also get gigs at Sky News because of their obvious competence and ability.
At this stage only one person has survived: high-profile presenter Ticky Fullerton, who will get a weekend program on the main Sky News channel. That program will be sponsored by Westpac so you can bet there will be a lot of in-depth, well-researched reports and analysis on the performance of the big banks such as Westpac in the wake of the Hayne royal commission.
A Sky News spokeswoman did not respond directly to Crikey‘s question as to whether Sky would re-establish a dedicated business channel. She instead sent a line from a note sent to staff by Sky News chief executive Paul Whittaker.
“Sky News has a proud history of providing expert business journalism and analysis to Australians,” he said. “We remain unwavering in that commitment as we now consider how best to optimise our talent and expertise across the Sky News platforms to ensure we continue to deliver this important service to our audience.”
Disclaimer: Glenn Dyer previously worked on Channel Nine’s Business Sunday.