Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
The Olympics delivered ratings bonanzas to Australia’s Nine Network and pay TV platform Foxtel although it was a loss-making exercise for Nine and Foxtel reported there was “a tick up” in signing new subscribers. But the halo effect of the Games helped ensure strong launches Monday night for Nine’s Big Brother and Australian crime series Underbelly: Badness. Nine picked up Big Brother after it was cancelled by Network Ten in 2008 after eight seasons and installed a new host in Sonia Kruger. The premiere episode aired at 7 PM and drew an average of 2.25 million viewers nationally, followed at 8.30 PM by Underbelly: Badness, which averaged 2.37 million. Nine’s live broadcast of the Olympics Closing Ceremony (6AM-9AM Australian Eastern Standard Time) averaged 1.48 million viewers. Nine and Foxtel jointly paid $A120 million ($126 million) for the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Games. Jeff Browne, Nine’s managing director, said the network would lose “less than $20 million” on the London Olympics. Foxtel aired the Games on eight dedicated channels, provided at no cost to Fox Sports subscribers, posting record ratings for subscription channels. Read More »
Australia’s Nine Entertainment Seeks $700 Million U.S. Debt Facility
Nine Entertainment Co. CEO David Gyngell and advisers UBS are approaching U.S. lenders this week to set up a $700 million debt facility as part of the company’s recapitalization. Standard & Poor’s has given the proposed raising a preliminary BB credit rating with a stable outlook. According to local media, the ratings agency has given Nine the same rating for a separate $700 million senior secured term loan it aims to arrange in Australia. Existing creditors are due to meet on January 21 to approve a $3.4 billion debt-for-equity swap that will result in U.S. hedge funds Apollo Global Management and Oaktree Capital emerge as the controlling shareholders, replacing previous owner CVC Asia Pacific. Nine posted a $972 million loss in 2011-12, mostly due to asset write-downs, but the network saw a ratings resurgence last year, finishing No. 1 in prime-time in the key demos 25-54, 18-49 and 16-39 in the five capital cities, driven by The Voice, The Block and Big Brother. The new owners reportedly are planning an IPO within 18 months, which S&P said could lead to an improvement in its rating. –Don Groves Read More »
Gérard Depardieu Embraces Russia Citizenship Offer
Actor Gérard Depardieu has hailed Russia’s decision to grant him citizenship following a tax spat with the government of his native France. In an open letter broadcast on Russian TV Depardieu said, “I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia — its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence.” The actor said he had spoken to French President Francois Hollande and told him Russia was “a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby” — referring to how French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu’s decision to leave the country. Depardieu’s tax feud began last year after Hollande moved to raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than €1M ($1.6M). The actor accused the new socialist government of punishing “success, creation and talent” and announced in early December he would move to Belgium. Wonder how he feels about Wild Bunch film sales exec Vincent Maraval’s remarks accusing French actors of abusing the nation’s generous film subsidy system and getting “rich from public funds”.
Larrikin Entertainment Boards Australian Thriller ‘The Reckoning’
Greg Coote’s LA-based Larrikin Entertainment has boarded its first Australian film, The Reckoning. Callan McAuliffe, who plays the young Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, is set to star. Writer-director John V. Soto’s thriller focuses on a detective racing to find two teenage runaways who have video of a murderer. Filmscope Entertainment’s Deidre Kitcher tells Deadline pre-production will start in Perth in February, and with the rest of the cast to be announced later this month. Lightning Entertainment has worldwide sales rights excluding Australia. Coote and Larrikin partner David Calvert-Jones and exec Robert Lundberg will serve as exec producers. Kitcher raised funds from Screen West, private investors, the 40% producer offset and Lightning. Soto’s most recent pic Needle was released in the U.S. by Lionsgate. – Don Groves
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Mark Wahlberg Calls On Canada To Restore Film Tax Incentives
Mark Wahlberg is urging the Canadian government to restore federal tax incentives for film production. “We are really trying to encourage the government to reinstate these tax incentives to bring film and cinema back to Canada,” Wahlberg told The Globe And Mail in Toronto. Wahlberg, who has made seven movies in Canada, says a steady reduction in government tax subsidies means fewer Hollywood projects will be made there. Wahlberg’s Canadian-shot films include Fear, Shooter, The Big Hit, and Max Payne. Read More »
Australia’s FTA Networks Outperform International Peers But Pay-TV’s Margins Are World Leaders
Australia’s three commercial free-to-air networks have been zapped by falling revenues and profits and rising costs but collectively are outperforming their peers around the world, according to a Citi survey of FTA broadcasters in 12 developed markets, excluding the U.S. The Seven, Nine and Ten networks will post average pre-tax earnings of 22% this year, above the European average of 19%, Citi found. Australia’s commercial networks command a 69% share of total viewing, higher than every other country surveyed except Italy’s 82%. Citi’s report says Australia’s pay-TV services are the most expensive in the world, with average annual revenue per subscriber of nearly $A1,100 ($1,139), which it believes may explain the low penetration rate of 26% (the pay industry claims it’s 34%). However Citi rates Australian pay-TV operators Foxtel and Fox Sports as world leaders in that category, racking up pre-tax earnings of 38.9%, ahead of Cablevision’s 33%, Comcast’s 32%, DirecTV’s 26% and BSkyB’s 21%. - Don Groves Read More »
‘Australia’s Got Talent’ Finds a New Home
The Nine Network has picked up Australia’s Got Talent less than 24 hours after the Seven Network pulled the plug on the show after six seasons. Ratings for the FremantleMedia-produced show based on Simon Cowell’s format flagged this year against Nine’s The Voice. But it was a consistent ratings winner last year, averaging 1.8 million viewers per episode. Nine intends to freshen up the format and hire new judges; the judges on Seven’s show were singers Dannii Minogue and Brian McFadden and shock jock Kyle Sandilands. The new AGT is expected to launch in the second half of 2013, possibly against Seven’s top-rating The X Factor. – Don Groves Read More »
New Top Programmer At Australia’s Ten
Beverley McGarvey starts tomorrow in perhaps the most challenging job in Australian commercial broadcasting: chief programming officer at Network Ten, the network languishing in third place in the ratings behind Seven and Nine. A six-year Ten veteran, McGarvey had been acting in that role since August 24 following the ousting of the respected and long-serving David Mott. Last week Ten reported a net loss of $A12.9 million ($13.3 million) in the year to August 31 and embarked on another round of cost-cutting, with plans to shed more than 100 jobs in the news and production departments. Before joining Ten as network head of programming in 2006, McGarvey served as director of programming for New Zealand’s TV3. Previously she was head of program scheduling and promotions at Ireland’s TV3. –Don Groves
With an eye toward boosting overall subscription revenue Sky Deutschland is betting that its growing customer base will accept higher rates and fewer discounts. The German pay-TV provider half owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp this month raised premium packages by €1 ($1.31) monthly for the first time in nearly 2 years. CFO Steven Tomsic said he eventually hopes the market will accept further increases in the current €32 ($41.92) average monthly bill of as much as €5 to €10 ($6.55 to $13.10). Unlike European peers such as British Sky Broadcasting Group, also partly owned by News Corp, Sky Deutschland hasn’t raised prices regularly. Tomsic believes subscribers will be attached enough to the service to accept the increases. Bloomberg noted that Sky Deutschland stock is up 133% this year. CEO Brian Sullivan hopes the company will be able to reach its target for operating profit in 2013, which would be its first since News Corp began investing 5 years ago.
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Australia’s Ten Network Sinks to Loss, Flags Further Cuts
After recording a net loss of $A12.9 million ($13.3 million) in the year to August 31, Australia’s Network Ten has flagged another round of cost-cutting, including voluntary buyouts. The broadcaster reduced TV costs by 6.6% or $42 million in fiscal 2012 but chief executive James Warburton insisted “that has not come at the expense of content.” Warburton said a strategic review launched earlier this year is ongoing and covers all departments. Revenue from continuing businesses fell by 15% to $729 million. In the first half of this year Ten captured 25.5% of the capital city television advertising market, trailing Seven’s 40% and Nine’s 34.5%, as the overall market shrunk by 3.6%. Ten’s shares edged up to 32.2 cents after hitting a record low of 30 cents yesterday after the company revealed a deal to sell its outdoor advertising business Eye Corp. to private equity firm Champ for $145 million had fallen over. Ten said it’s still negotiating with Champ. Broker CBA has raised the prospect that Ten’s four major shareholders, chairman Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon, who collectively own 40% of the stock, will opt to take the company private. – Don Groves
Netflix Goes Live In Sweden, Denmark And Norway
Netflix began rolling out this week in the Nordic territories. The UK’s ITV Studios Global Entertainment has now pacted … Read More »
UK Phone-Hacking Could Haunt Murdochs For Three More Years
Rupert Murdoch could be 84 years old before the British police complete multiple investigations into The News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who’s in charge of three overlapping probes into alleged criminal wrongdoing by journalists, said the task may continue through 2015, according to the Guardian. Akers, who is retiring in October, told a Commons home affairs select committee that “resources have been factored in for the next three years.” She said the force had identified more than 4,700 potential phone-hacking victims and found 1,069 were likely to have had their voicemail messages intercepted. So far 79 people have been arrested including former News International legal adviser Tom Crone, former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson. Akers said the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service would consider the likelihood of further criminal prosecutions, adding, “We are now prioritising getting cases through court.” Scotland Yard still has 185 officers working on the investigations.
Network Ten Shares Slide To Record Low
Australia’s Network Ten board members Lachlan Murdoch (chairman), Gina Rinehart and Jack Cowin seem powerless to stop a steep slide in the company’s fortunes. The share price hit a record low of 37.5 cents today, down from 80 cents in March, and broker Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research forecasts it will sink as as low as 30 cents. Ten’sratings have taken a hit from the failures of three Australian shows launched after the London Olympics, Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive and Don’t Tell the Bride, which resulted in the exit of chief programmer David Mott. The only new show that has any traction is Puberty Blues, a drama inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 feature. The ratings of Ten’s main channel have declined by 5% this year while Nine is up by 5.3% and Seven is off by 0.3%. The broker said Ten is “working hard to reposition itself and build out a new programming lineup, however we see continued ratings/revenue share risk given the large number of hours that need to be replaced and expect the TV ad market to remain challenging.” - Don Groves
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Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
The debt-ridden private equity owners of the Nine Entertainment Co. are poised to sell the ACP Magazines division after meeting with potential buyers including Germany’s Bauer Media Group, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reports. That suggests the rumored $A3 billion ($3.1 billion) offer for Nine Entertainment from former Hollywood MGM mogul Harry Sloan and U.S. private equity group TPG hasn’t developed. A source close to Nine Entertainment tells Deadline that Sloan-TPG were “tirekickers” who were never going to make a serious bid. Read More »
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
The hedge fund which bought Australia’s Nine Network and magazine group from James Packer for $A5.5 billion in 2007 and has since struggled to pay down the debt may have find a lifeline- although it may be forced to take a sizable haircut. Hollywood mogul Harry Sloan is teaming with private equity group TPG to launch a $3 billion bid for Nine Entertainment Co., according to The Australian Financial Review. Nine’s owner, CVC Asia Pacific, is under pressure to do a deal as it is obliged to repay $2.8 billion in senior debt in February 2013. It also owes about $1 billion to mezzanine or second-tier lenders led by a Europe-based Goldman Sachs fund. The paper said TPG managing partner Ben Gray met with Nine chief executive David Gyngell and other senior management in Sydney this week. Nine comprises east coast free-to-air TV stations, ACP Magazines, the Ticketek agency, the Allphones Arena in Sydney and a 50 per cent share in NineMSN. In May the Fin Review reported Sloan had met with CVC Australia boss Adrian McKenzie to discuss a proposal whereby Sloan’s Global Eagle Acquisition Corp. would raise the capital to pay back Nine’s senior lenders and take a controlling stake in a refinanced Nine listed on the Nasdaq. Read More »
‘The Walking Dead’s International Premiere Eats Competition
The highest-rated non-sports telecast among adults 18-49 on all of U.S. television this fall was the third season premiere of AMC’s zombie drama The Walking Dead. The international premieres weren’t too shabby either. Fox International Channels completed its weeklong rollout of the first episode of Season 3 with 8.5M viewers, up 20% on the Season 2 debut. The first episode of Season 3 premiered in 122 countries across Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, defeating all cable competition in its time period with total viewers, and in some cases also beating its broadcast competition. Among some of the key markets that outpaced last season’s start are Peru (up 155%); Chile (up 133%) and Australia (up 44%). Across Fox in Latin America, the show was number 1 among all Pay TV channels in the 18-49 demo, delivering double or triple ratings compared to the previous 6 weeks’ primetime channel average. Other strong territories included the UK, Poland and Spain, where the premier outperformed Fox’s primetime average in the market by 712%.
Donald Trump Tries To Stop BBC Airing Doc
Lawyers for Donald Trump reached out to the BBC two days before it was set to air Anthony Baxter’s documentary You’ve Been Trumped about the real estate mogul’s alleged bullying of residents near his golf resort in Scotland. The attorneys were trying to stop Sunday night’s BBC Two broadcast, claiming it was highly defamatory, biased and misleading, according to The Guardian. The Trump organization threatened to complain directly to British regulator Ofcom if the screening went ahead. But the BBC showed the doc anyway to about 1.1M viewers. The letter from Trump’s reps had also asked for a right of reply at the end of the broadcast. Trump International Golf Links exec VP, Sarah Malone, told The Guardian: “We totally denounce the BBC for further abandoning its own editorial integrity by blatantly refusing us a right of reply at the end of the broadcast.” Picking up on the unfolding – and unrelated – turmoil at the BBC, she added, “It just goes to show that recent criticism of the BBC’s lack of sound editorial judgment to be correct.” In reply, the BBC issued a statement: “You’ve Been Trumped is an award-winning Read More »
The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts has set nominations for its 3rd AACTA Awards. The feature prizes, considered the local equivalent of the Oscars, aren’t as young as they seem: they’re a continuum of the Australian Film Institute Awards which were established in 1958. Baz Luhrmann’s Oz-filmed The Great Gatsby scooped 14 nods followed by Kim Mourdant’s foreign language Oscar entry The Rocket with 12. The AACTAs also honor TV and gave 10 nominations to Jane Campion’s New Zealand-set BBC mini Top Of The Lake. Along with Gatsby and The Rocket, the nominees for Best Feature include Tony Krawitz’s drama Dead Europe; Ivan Sen’s thriller Mystery Road; family pic Satellite Boy by Catriona McKenzie; and omnibus The Turning, with directorial efforts by the likes of Mia Wasikowska and Justin Kurzel. Rose Byrne is nominated for lead actress in that pic, along with Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby; Tasma Walton in Mystery Road; and Naomi Watts in Adoration. Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated as Best Actor for Gatsby; Tribeca winner Sitthiphon Disamoe has a nod for The Rocket; Ewen Leslie is nominated for Dead Europe; and Hugo Weaving picked up a mention for The Turning. That film’s ensemble of helmers has a Best Director nomination along with Luhrmann, Mourdant and Sen. The AACTAs will be handed out over two events on January 28th and 30th. Following is a full list of nominees: Read More »
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
Nominated for 12 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, The Sapphires won six gongs at a ceremony hosted by Russell Crowe in Sydney on Wednesday night. The musical drama about four Aboriginal girls who formed a singing group in the 1960s won best director (Wayne Blair), lead actress (Deborah Mailman), lead actor (Chris O’Dowd), supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy) and adapted screenplay (Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs). That’s in addition to five craft awards presented on Monday. The Weinstein Co. will release the film in the U.S. on March 22. Thriller Wish You Were Here took the AACTA original screenplay award for husband-and-wife creative team Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price, and supporting actor for Antony Starr. German actress Saskia Rosendahl received the best young actor trophy for Cate Shortland’s Lore, which was Australia’s entry for the foreign language Oscar. The Byron Kennedy Award, named for George Miller’s late producing partner, went to director/animator Sarah Watt (Look Both Ways, My Year Without Sex), who died of cancer in 2011. John Edwards’ Puberty Blues, which was inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 film, was named best TV drama series. Presenters included AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters leads Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. It was the second annual ACTAA awards, the successor to the Australian Film Institute’s awards. The complete list of winners follows: Read More »
Ricky Martin will get his own red chair on Australia’s version of The Voice when the show returns to Oz’s Nine Network next year. The announcement was made on Nine’s A Current Affair program in Australia Thursday evening after weeks of speculation. Martin is replacing outgoing coach Keith Urban who confirmed his departure in September. At the time, Urban cited “a new album, a tour, and other commitments” as reasons. He later joined American Idol as a judge. Martin will join returning coaches Seal, Joel Madden and Delta Goodrem. The inaugural season of the show kicked off last April and consistently won its time slot to become a ratings powerhouse. Nine’s Peter Wiltshire recently said the network will add hours of The Voice for next season. A debut date has yet to be set. The Voice is produced locally by Shine Australia.
Rome Film Festival Announces 2012 Lineup
The 2012 International Rome Film Festival lineup includes 59 world premieres and 5 international premieres. There also are two surprise films yet to be announced. Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III starring Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman is competing for the event’s top prize, as is Gabriel and Alan Polsky’s The Motel Life, starring Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. Also on the competition list are Japanese director Takashi Miike’s thriller Aku No Kyoten, Jacques Dollion’s Un Enfant De Toi, and Enrique Rivero’s Mai Morire. The festival will be held November 9-17 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. You can read the entire line-up on the festival’s website. Read More »
Three special episodes to mark Absolutely Fabulous‘ 20th anniversary were enough to land the iconic comedy series an International Emmy nomination. BBC’s Ab Fab, which won an International Emmy 18 years ago, was one of 38 nominees in nine categories for the 40th International Emmy Awards announced today by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at MIPCOM. The list also includes two series getting high-profile remakes in the U.S. — Australia’s The Slap, nominated for best drama series, and UK’s Spy, nominated for best comedy series. NBC just ordered an 8-episode event limited series based on The Slap, while ABC is developing an American version of Spy as a put pilot. Also among the nominees is Awake star Jason Isaacs for Case History.
As previously announced, the International Academy will present Special Founders Awards to Alan Alda and Norman Lear, while the 2012 International Emmy Founders Award will be presented to producer-writer Ryan Murphy. Winners will be announced at the 40th International Emmy Awards Gala on November 19 in New York. Here is the full list of nominees: Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is making a major move in the event programming arena with The Slap, an eight-episode limited series based on the 2011 Australian short-run series. Brothers & Sisters creator Jon Robin Baitz will write the adaptation, which is being produced by Universal Television and Australia’s Matchbox Pictures, which produced the original. Playwright/screenwriter Baitz and Matchbox’s Tony Ayres will executive produce with Universal TV-based Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald as well as Ted Gold.
The Australian series, an adaptation of the 2008 best-selling novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, examines what happens when a man slaps a child (unrelated to him) at a suburban barbecue. Subsequent episodes focus on the different viewpoints of those who attended the barbecue. (Watch trailer below) The original, which also had a limited 8-episode run on ABC1 last fall, starred Jonathan LaPaglia, brother of Anthony LaPaglia, Melissa George and Hotel Rwanda‘s Sophie Okonedo. It earned nine nominations at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, winning five awards, including best telefilm, mini-series or short-run series. The Slap also was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best international program.
NBC brass have talked about adding event programming to the network’s lineup. In June, NBC announced its plans for The Sound Of Music, a live broadcast of a new production of the original Broadway musical to be produced by Smash … Read More »