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13 November 2010

James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch And Stephen Conroy Talk Sports Media, by Greg Tingle - 13th November 2010

What might a gambling mogul, media king and big cheese of Australian politics and communications chat about over dinner at Crown Casino? Sports rights and media law of course. Media Man and Gambling911 continue to work our contacts at Crown Casino and in government corridors to get you some of the hottest news from down under...

What will happen to the Australian sports media and television landscape now that James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch have it squarely in their sights.

Old Packer mate and boss of PBL Media and Network Nine Australia, David Gyngell has let it be known he's not about to walk away from the 20 - 20 cricket or NRL football.

This media game however is much more complex that just a couple of key sports. There's even strong ties to sports betting and online casino offerings ala Cleopatra, Sinatra, online poker like Aussie Millions and FIFA gaming may also be linked in via interactive TV services, there's 2 way TV and more.

Conroy, 'Our James' and Murdoch enjoyed a bite and chat at Koko in Melbourne's Crown Casino on Thursday. Sports media talk was on the menu.

The Communications Minister's office was quite on detail of what exactly was discussed, but they were not focused on how well the meat was cooked!

The power dinner comes Aussie media rules protecting sports from pay TV is all the rage in media and legal circles. Those in gaming and gambling are also all ears, as with technology advancements the industry is becoming one, as PartyGaming chief Jim Ryan pointed out almost two years ago from his Gibraltar head office and while touring egaming seminars globally. Ryan didn't have to visit Australia in person for Packer, Murdoch and Conroy to pick up the message.

Conroy wants to change some TV - media laws as much of the "protected" sport intended for free TV is on pay TV already, in some way, shape or form.

Each pitch that their proposal is in the public interest in some way, which also seems to also add value to each one's financial affairs. Funny that.

Let's take a peek at the Aussie TV commercial channels. You have Seven, Nine and Ten, whose costs for the sports rights are reduced by the anti-siphoning rules limiting competition for them...pay TV cannot bid first. Being free to watch, they have the easier public policy argument. All however have enabled some of those rights to be sold on to Australian pay TV like Foxtel, Optus TV and Austar.

The deal helps defray costs and because they don't in fact have the capacity or inclination to screen, say, all the AFL games or every Olympic event. That will almost certainly change if they're allowed to air protected sport on their digital channels, but still the public interest in screening protected sport comes second to their bottom lines.

Foxtel, part-owned by Telstra, News Ltd and the James Packer-controlled Consolidated Media. Sport is key to Foxtel's business of encouraging people to pay for TV, and its public interest case is one for sports fanatics. Sport goes live and doesn't cut away to news which upsets viewers.

The key sports codes all want to make more money. The AFL for example is looking for a $1 billion rights deal for 2012 - 2016. All sports codes pitch the more bucks they get for rights, the more they can fork out on sport, and their public interest pitch has "grassroots", meaning community support, nurturing the sport, and all of that good hearted stuff, being the warm folks they are.

Senator Conroy has his hands full and relationships to nurture, as well as looking out for the Government bottom line and reputation, which has taken a battering in the past few years thanks largely to the internet and media censorship debates. Aussie's don't like 'Big Brother', but you likely knew that already.

He is playing the nothing-will-change one liner. "What people need to understand is that four [AFL] games are currently shown on free-to-air and four games are shown on pay TV," he told ABC Radio in Adelaide this week. "I can't imagine any change to that." Should he try more imagination?

Foxtel purchased those TV rights from Seven and Ten after a year of negotiations, and paid a cool $315 million for them, less than 50% of the total $780 million deal. That might hint free TV is willing to pay more for sports rights than Foxtel, except free TV gets the best games.

Conroy, how do you build a regulation that says the big games each round go to free TV and the rest can go to Foxtel, when it is in fact the codes that determine which games are played when and, as free TV fears, the schedule could be changed depending on the size of the broadcaster's payment?

Add the volatile and high stakes game of politics to the public policy, and its a bit of a mess, but good fun and pay days for lawyers.

The Coalition government is keeping its options open but Greens leader, Bob Brown, wants more information. He's Not Happy John and reckons he will disallow it in the Senate, or introduce legislation to "defend the public interest".

With all the complex matters its little wonder all the excitement and high stakes continuities to be known the world over as the 'Australian Casino Wars' and 'Australian Media Wars'.

Who will be the last man or army standing? Father time is ticking away, and Packer and Murdoch are pushing forward at a solid pace, and will not want to wait forever in what is now a very global media and gaming landscape, one that other power players like Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Dana White, Vince McMahon, Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta and Ted Turner also continuing to keep a close eye on. Will the Aussie media and casino wars lead to a new giant in the industry. That's anyone's guess, but don't change your dial so you will amongst the first to know as the war continues.

Aussie Mark Webber Will Not Quit F1 Win Or Lose...

Mark Webber has squashed small talk he will quit Formula One if he wins or loses the world championship this Sunday. Webber, 34, is under a1 year contract with the mighty Red Bull and says he plans to race on in 2011 and beyond. "Yes, pretty much I'm taking on a year by year basis," Webber said. Webber strongly hinted he was looking forward to another stoush with young German teammate Sebastian Vettel, as well as proving he still had the speed to match it with the best. "The youngsters' eyes are really big when they arrive but I've been so proud of what I've done this year. "I'm not an old guy but to take Fernando (Alonso) and Lewis (Hamilton) and Seb on week-in week-out I feel proud I've been able to do that. "I've had to lift the bar up and I think next year I can still drive very well. "Timing is very important. To drive at 85-90% in this category - forget it, you need to be on top of your game." Webber advised he was confident Red Bull had not committed all their resources to this year's car and would again be competitive in 2011. "Time will tell but we've had a lot of god cars in the last two years," he said. "Last year was very, very taxing for us but the team responded for this year really well and produced another cracker. "Next year we'll find out in the next few races. There are a lot of big new changes and the pedal's going in one direction for this team. Much has been said of the tactics Red Bull will adopt in this season-ending race, but Webber said it was "too hard to call" whether Vettel should help him if in position to do so. "I think it is a question for Seb. What he does is going to be very dependent on how the race unfolds and there are so many scenarios that can happen," Webber said. "I can win this championship by finishing fifth and I can lose it by winning it (if Fernando Alonso finishes second). "Let's just see how things evolve. It actually is very, very tough to make a call at the moment and we know the team's position. "The team's position is that the gloves are off between Sebastian and I. They want us to race, which we've done all year." Webber will take an eight-point deficit into the race, trailing Alonso's Ferrari after the Spaniard took over the running when Webber spun out in Korea recently.

ACMA Rules Against Gambling Adverts On Network Nine And Ten...

Network Nine and Ten have both been found to have breached their license for running interactive gambling advertisements. The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that both networks ran several promotions for PokerStars.net, an interactive gambling service which contravenes the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA). .net means that it was a play for free websites "These are the ACMA’s first investigations into advertisements prohibited under the Interactive Gambling Act," said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, "All providers of television, radio and datacasting services need to ensure sure they are fully aware of and comply with their obligations under the IGA.” Network Nine ran ads for PokerStars during its Wimbledon broadcast in July 2009 while TEN ran similar ads in November 2009 in conjunction with its reality series on ONE, The Poker Star. ACMA says these are the first investigations relating to the broadcast of prohibited advertisements under the IGA. Both networks have agreed to measures intended to increase awareness of the IGA, with staff training, education and periodic reports to ACMA.

Aussie Tony Hachem Wins Player Of The Year...

Tony Hachem has scored a second consecutive victory as Player of the Year in the premier local event, the poker tour designed to reward ongoing strong performances, the PokerStars.net Australian New Zealand Poker Tour.

Gambling And Selling Arms: Not Cardinal Sins...

Gambling is not so bad says Australia's most senior Catholic cleric. Don't get him started on selling arms and smoking!

We kind of like this guy already.

Pell spoke at a an ethics in business lunch hosted by Notre Dame University, Cardinal George Pell hinting it might be hypocritical for the Catholic Church to totally condemn gambling, since poker machines are such a prominent attraction in New South Wales Catholic clubs.

"I must confess I do feel a bit uneasy about that, but only a bit uneasy," he admitted. "Because culturally I'm an Irish Australian and we grew up gambling."

Gambling in itself was not intrinsically wrong, he said. Only when it became an addiction, threatening the well-being of oneself and one's family, did it become a sin.

Warming to the forum's theme "God and Mammon: need or greed in the big end of town", Cardinal Pell said as far as the ethics of selling tobacco went, supplying the drug to adults who were aware of the risks and still chose to smoke was nothing to rush to the confessional sin box about. And when probed about the ethics of selling arms, he hypothesised that global military contractors may in fact be acting on a moral imperative.

"I think you can produce arms morally...You might say in some cases it is necessary. We are a peaceful country. If we were unarmed that would be an enticement to evil people. The best way to stay as we are is to be strong and effectively armed so I think you could make the case," he said.

Another question re Telstra's $10 million-a-year chief executive caught involved a comparison of his nice-guy reputation to that of his predecessor, Sol Trujillo, and its possible relationship to Telstra's all-time low of $2.58 a share. So can nice guys succeed in business?

"It's not about being nice or not nice," said Thodey, with a passing reference to the latest round of Telstra redundancies. "It's about doing things in an ethical and considerate way … in the best interests of our shareholders - which of course include customers and employees."

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Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, how did you like our report? How's things looking for Packer and Murdoch? Is having a punt a sin? Tell us in the forum.

If you have a bet, please bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.

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