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06 February 2011

Australian Media And Gambling Wars; Aussie Rich List, by Greg Tingle - 6th February 2011

G'day punters, journos, sports nuts, high rollers - casino whales, gambling millionaires and billionaires, media tycoons, politicians, insiders, outsiders, ... one and all. You know who you are. This is yet another instalment into the Australian media wars, with a dash of the Aussie rich list (a few gaming gambling types there) for good measure... Media Man and Gambling911 prob the Australian media business, and do the math on whose loaded up to the hilt down under...

James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch Rumoured To Be Worried With Network Ten News Progress...

After only two weeks on air, the Ten Network’s news evolution has reportedly come under scrutiny from new stakeholders James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, thanks to a poor ratings performance. On Thursday night 6pm with George Negus attracted its lowest audience to date with only 398,000 viewers. The state based Ten Evening News at 6:30pm performed even worse, attracting only 362,000 viewers. The direction and performance of the George Negus fronted news vehicle is said to be of particular concern to new stakeholders Packer and Murdoch, the press reports. The pair reportedly told Ten Network executives they're worried that the international content of the bulletin is a turn-off for viewers. "Basically (an) email sent to Ten bosses said the predominance of overseas stories was unwise and indulgent and not calculated to build ratings," a well-placed source told Confidential. However, another Ten executive dismissed the report as "utter bollocks", going on to reaffirm the network’s long term commitment to the two-and-a-half hour news and current affairs block. "This is not a two-week plan or three-month one - you can't do what we've done and expect instant results - this is a long haul," a spokeswoman said. Rivals from other network’s have also expressed their thoughts on the $20 million a year investment in news, with one source pointing towards the timeslot winning lead-in 6pm with George Negus receives. "Aren't they conveniently overlooking the substantial lead-in it's provided every night by Ten's 5:00pm news which has always rated respectably for yonks?", said the source. On Thursday, David Gyngell, chief executive of the Nine Entertainment Company, described the performance as worse than he had expected.

Nine Network Presents Weekend 5pm New Slot...

The Nine Network will launched a new national 5:00pm weekend news bulletin Saturday, taking advantage of the Ten Network's recent departure from the timeslot. Nine's director of news and current affairs, Mark Calvert, told The Spy Report that the bulletin will be a permanent addition to the network's Saturday and Sunday schedule once the cricket season concludes tomorrow. Calvert unexpectedly announced the move via his Twitter account. "Missing having news at 5:00pm? Feeling abandoned by Channel Ten News at weekends? See Nine News first at five with Wendy Kingston," he posted. "Incredible flood rescue pix Nine News at 5:00pm. Yep, 5:00pm. You know...when Channel Ten News used to be on at weekends. Nine News at 5:00pm and 6:00pm. "Working harder than ever - Peter Stefanovic, Tracy Vo, Lizzie Pearl to get ready for Nine News first at 5:00pm then more at 6:00pm." Ten abandoned its national 5:00pm bulletin on weekends as part of its $20 million early evening revamp it unveiled two weeks ago. Since then, it has instead opted for a 6:00pm state-based service rivalling those on Nine and Seven. At this stage, it's unknown whether the half-hour bulletin will broadcast into Sydney and Brisbane when Nine's Sunday Afternoon Football returns on March 13. Nine's Afternoon News Hour will also continue to air weekdays from 4:30pm.

Australia's Richest Person Gina Rinehart Adds Value To Channel Ten Sports...

'Our Gina' loves sport, at least as far as it being a strong part of the line up on Network Nine. Fellow shareholders James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch also like sport, especially the cricket (sports betting connection), but Rinehart is more of an all rounder when it comes to the sports media side of the business. Our friends and Fairfax Media have secured a strong leak aka deep throat delivering the following: "She's tough, opinionated, sometimes difficult but never frightened". Rinehart is understood to be very happy with her 10% per cent stake in the network, and intends on getting her money's worth (and continuing to exercise her clout). Packer and Murdoch recently told Ten executives that while they like sport, they believe the network more than they should be, particularly for AFL broadcasting rights. The late great media and gambling tycoon, Kerry Packer, put aside an AFL $780 million deal over five years, not long before his passing away, but Packer Jr may want to talk it about a bit more. The AFL is set to receive the $1 billion at its next contract commencing at 2012. Ten wants to renegotiate its deal with Channel Seven over AFL coverage. David White, the sports director of Ten, has advised analysts that returns from AFL over the past season were not good. It is anticipated Ten will go after an improved ratio with Seven of their share of future fees, or demand an allocation of higher-rating match ups. Under the existing 7 - 10 agreement both networks must bid together, however if Ten is unable to improve its payment or game quality ratios, the deal might collapse. "Ten now has two directors (Packer and Murdoch) who would support the move to walk," a leak said. Rinehart may lobby to retain the agreement in support of Kerry Stokes, the owner of Seven. The word is her main reason for investing a dab of her $4.75 billion wealth for 10% of Ten is political influence. He took note of the success of the advertising campaign against the mining tax and sees the powerful control of the media on the political landscape, and those who work in it. Packer snatched his 17.9% take in Ten ($128 million) to boost his political clout, and then went on to selling half to Murdoch. JP likes the gambling and sport connection, as do many NRL and AFL clubs ala Rabbitohs - Star City and his own Crown Casino - Melbourne Storm baby. Packer gets on well at this stage of the game with Australian Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, and they are understood to enjoy a spot of golf from time to time. Packer and Murdoch famously had a bite with him at Crown Casino months ago. This past Thursday Conroy announced amendments to sport's anti-siphoning list, allowing free-to-air networks to show live sport on their digital channels! This falls into line with the ministers strategy to move Australia quickly away from analog TV. Ten has the only sports-dedicated digital channel (One) at this time. Should Packer and Murdoch be successful in convincing the Network Ten board that One is too costly and must be closed up, or switch programming, it would automatically undermine Conroy's plan to use sport to boost along the uptake of digital TV. It would also quite possibly piss off the big wigs at the NRL and AFL. AFL games shown live on a free-to-air network's principal channel in Melbourne could be shown live on its digital channel in New South Wales and Queensland, rather than suffer piss weak ratings, as Ten suffered in Sydney and Brisbane, especially on Saturday evenings. At the moment Queensland AFL fans who want Seven's coverage of Friday nights must subscribe to pay TV operator Foxtel, part-owned by companies associated with Packer and Murdoch. Shutting up shot on One would be a strategic step with a major goal being to protect this money machine, but a leaker revealed Packer would be hesitant to make too much noise or agro that might stir up regulators, with Crown Limited going so well. Best not have the government tests applied to the ownership of a casino licence if you follow. Packer is also keen to ramp up online gambling, expanding on his 50% owned Betfair. He's also aware of overseas gaming giants like PartyGaming eyeing off the Asia Pacific region, and its well known PartyGaming have the smarts to ink big government deals, as well as land based casino and b2b deals. Party also have the Hollywood branded deals performing well, so Party could be an opportunity or a threat to Packer, depending upon which way the wind is blowing, and what Australian politicians decide will be law in the online space, with the Liberal Party calling for full regulation, something PartyGaming, Media Man and we understand, Betfair, are all keen to see happen. In will also get rid of any bad eggs in the iGaming space down under. Back to the traditional news media, if Ten walks from its AFL deal with Channel Seven, it would therefore leave a 7 - Foxtel consortium as the only bidder worth their salt. Sen. Conroy "decoupled" the existing anti-siphoning arrangement where free-to-air on-sold the bottom 4 games a week to pay TV, permitting Foxtel to bid directly. Gyngell's Network Nine reserving its art of war strategy for NRL rights which expire in 2012, it is unlikely the Australian Football League will be able to hold a auction for the rights. So, no challenger to Seven for the top 4 games and Nil to Foxtel for the other 4, the AFL may not get their $1 billion bucks with JP and Murdoch Jr paying less for rights, helping make sure of continuing solid profit margins in Foxtel and Fox Sports. 'Our Gina' out in the Wild Wild West - West Australia, looks to be a key player in all of this, and not just because she's loaded and is now down under's richest woman. Yep, politics, power and money all take a seat in the box beside professional sports being broadcast on Australian TV. Don't even start us on Aussie TV being broadcast on the internet. That's all sports, but stay turned in the coming days and weeks for more on the art of war that is Australian news media.

Australian Rich List

1 Georgina Rinehart, 56, $9b (mining)

2 Andrew Forrest, 49, $6.9b (mining)

3 James Packer, 43, $4.4b (gambling, media and new media)

4 Frank Lowy, 80, $4.3b (property)

5 Harry Triguboff, 77, $3.4b (property)

6 John Gandel, 76, $3.3b

7 Anthony Pratt, 50, $2.7b

8 Kerr Neilson, 61, $2.4b

9 David Hains, 80, $2b

10 Kerry Stokes, 70, $1.9b

11 Lindsay Fox, 73, $US1.7b

12 Angela Bennett & Michael Wright, 66, $1.55b

13 Leslie Alan Wilson, 69, $1.5b

14 Paul Ramsay, 75, $1.45b

15 Michael Hintze, 57, $1.4b

16 Chris Wallin, 58, $1.3b

17 Gerald Harvey, 71, $1.2b

18 Solomon Lew, 65, $1.15b

19 Leonard Buckeridge, 75, $1.1b

20 Stanley Perron, 88, $1.05b

Source: Forbes

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Australian Casinos

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