Billionaire head of Seven West Media Kerry Stokes.

There was no word from Seven West Media or the ASX on Monday about the revelation (reported in rival Nine newspapers) that company chair and biggest shareholder Kerry Stokes had tried to sell the tottering Seven to ViacomCBS via a merger with the equally shaky Network 10.

The silence from Stokes and Seven confirms the story. It’s at least the second time Stokes has tried to unload his shattered media empire (he has reportedly talked to News Corp in the past).

Perhaps that explains the odd run up in Seven West shares earlier this month to 19 cents on October 22 (17 cents by Monday 26). That was a doubling of the share price since October 7.

In an October 9 reply to a query from the ASX, Seven West said it knew of no reason for the rise in the share price and higher volumes. At that stage, shares were at 13.5 cents. They then rose 40% until their peak on Thursday, and fell on Monday when Nine papers broke the story of the aborted talks with ViacomCBS.

Meanwhile, the Seven Network was giving us another example of its rollicking sense of humour. In the channel’s 2021 season launch, it described its line up as “home to the freshest and most innovative content in 2021, providing unmatched opportunities for brands and partners”. (Note: not viewers.)

Hmmm, “home to the freshest and most innovative content in 2021”. This is an outrageous statement from the network that resurrected Farmer Wants a Wife and Big Brother in 2020 after both had died at Nine (and Big Brother was interred by Ten). The claim is made even more laughable by the big news from the launch that Seven is bringing back Ten’s old (and also dead) fave Australian Idol.

It would be more accurate for Seven to be described as “Resurrection TV” or “The Living Dead” (hang on, is there already a series about that?). Call Bondi Rescue and get the Packer whackers out, but don’t tell investors who continue to believe in fairies at the bottom of the stock exchange.

It is quite clear Stokes and son Ryan (who is CEO of Seven Group Holdings) want to be rid of Seven West Media so they can go and play in Boral, the struggling building products group which has fallen on hard times. That’s something the Stokes know a lot about given the collapse in the Seven West share price in the last two years (it was falling before COVID-19 happened on the scene).

With $750 million in debt due by the end of 2022 and a market value of $269 million, Seven West Media is going to remain unloved and unwanted by any prince charming.

All the old “innovative” content in the world is not going to save it, not even screwing over the AFL, which produced a tremendous 2020 competition and grand final that boosted Seven’s sliding ratings.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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