Acquiring a regional broadcaster ‘not high on priority list’ claims Nine CEO Hugh Marks


Marks: “What does adding an acquisition of regional Australia add to us as a content business? Perhaps very little”

The CEO of Nine Entertainment Co., Hugh Marks, has poured cold water on the idea the network is keen to do a deal to merge with a regional broadcaster saying he thought it would add “very little” to its current operations.

Speaking at the latest round of hearings in the Senate Inquiry into media reform Marks said the company had pivoted from a broadcast to a content business which had become platform agnostic. Nine has been linked with a deal with regional broadcaster and radio player Southern Cross Austereo in recent months.

When asked how big a priority acquiring a regional broadcaster is for the company, Marks said: “What does adding an acquisition of regional Australia add to us as a content business? Perhaps very little. We run this company as a content business which is focused on expanding the number of platforms on which we provide content; the business models around that.

“I don’t see acquiring a regional broadcaster as high on our priority list.”

During questioning Marks also admitted the ABC was “ahead of us” in the way it delivers content across different platforms, saying he felt the public broadcaster was becoming more of a competitor for commercial media.

He said: “I would love to have the funds available to be able to do some of the things the ABC has done, not to criticise them because they’ve done some amazing things across platforms, but again they are almost ahead of us in the ways they are able to provide content across those platforms.

“We’re developing those models, we have to innovate our business and be able to get into those new platforms and develop business models.”

Yesterday Nine won its court battle with current regional affiliate station WIN to allow it to continue to stream its 9Now service into its regional broadcast areas. That ruling was based on a 16-year-old ruling that determined internet streaming does not constitute broadcasting.

Asked if that should be overturned, Nine managing director Amanda Laing told the hearing: “I think that’s the perfect example of looking at one regulation rather than the whole industry. If that is changed the way we negotiate our rights is turned up on end.

“We negotiate different digital rights to broadcast rights and that’s how the industry operates. If we do look at a rule like that we can’t look at it in isolation.”

Marks admitted: “Unfortunately I think it’s the way we acquire rights. It’s not modern, but it is the way the industry has adapted.”

He also said issues like the WIN stoush should not be put in legislation but rather hammered out as part of the affiliate agreements during negotiations.

“A rational and efficient affiliate arrangement should be able to deal with streaming and other issues by way of commercial negotiation in the same way we negotiate with people we acquire rights from,” he said.

But he said the streaming technology could be a boon for regional broadcasters if they get in on the affiliate agreements, saying the opportunities for more targeted advertising gave them the chance to increase ad yields.

He said he expects the company to be able to provide targeted ads on the live stream by the end of the 2017 financial year.

Alex Hayes


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