Nine boss on Fairfax-Nine rumours: I don’t think Greg Hywood thinks there’s a long-term future for print assets

Nine Entertainment Co CEO Hugh Marks has once again rejected rumours of a Nine and Fairfax Media tie-up around the publishing company’s newspaper assets, but said the broadcaster would consider other opportunities to work together in the future.

Hugh Marks: I don’t even think Greg Hywood thinks there’s a long-term future for the print assets

Speaking to Mumbrella following today’s financial results announcement, Marks said Fairfax Media had been a “very good partner” for Stan, the streaming service Nine operates in a joint-venture with Fairfax.

“When the Fairfax merger gets talked about it’s always talked about as us merging with the print assets. As I keep saying, I don’t think even Greg Hywood thinks there’s a long-term future for the print assets,” Marks said.

“I look at things a bit differently and say: What assets are there in Fairfax that we are interested in? Or are there other opportunities for us to work together? We’d be open to those.

“There’s nothing concrete on the table at the moment. We’ll continue to talk to Fairfax as we will to other media players. Those rumours are just rumours.”

Marks’ comments to Mumbrella followed similar remarks made in an investor briefing this morning.

“We obviously talk to all participants in the market from where we see opportunities, those are discussions that just go on all the time,” he said.

“I think its fair to say that whatever we look at in the future, I don’t see print being a strategic asset for this business and I think people should take note of that and that’s certainly how we will be guiding any discussions into the future.”

Speaking to Mumbrella on Nine’s results, which saw the company report earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $127.9m, down 6.4% from $119.7m, Marks said it was still a solid result, despite profit being down.

“Our profit was down, down 6% but with the headwinds we had with the Olympics and the ratings performance of the start of last year, it was a solid result,” he said.

“I would like profit to be growing. Ultimately for us to get profit to grow we have to improve our audience and revenues and keep our costs down.”

Marks said he is confident the current momentum Nine is experiencing from a ratings perspective will flow through to revenue.

“We launched our new schedule out of the Olympics at the end of last year really successfully. We were very focused on core demos – 25-54, 16-39 and grocery buyers and children – those are the three demos we target and our performance in those demos was really dominant,” he said.

“We’ve been able to keep that momentum through to the launch of our ratings schedule this year with Married at First Sight in the program and around that Travel Guides, David Attenborough and House Husbands all doing well and above expectations.

“Yes we would have loved to have lifted profit but the momentum in the business from a ratings perspective is very strong.

“That ratings will then flow through to revenue, so we have a very good potential revenue profile moving forward and at the same time we’ve demonstrated that cost discipline in the business, so we’re managing to create more content for a lower overall cost and that is something that is very important in our business.”

Looking to the year ahead, Marks told today’s investor briefing monetising 9Now would be a priority.

“Television remains the only way to reach mass audiences, free-to-air TV engages 19.7m Australians each week and an increasing number of viewers are engaging with our content through 9Now,” he said.

“Monetising 9Now effectively will be a priority for the business over the next 12 months.”

Speaking to Mumbrella, Michael Stephenson, Nine chief sales officer, said Nine will be focusing on the growth areas of digital.

Michael Stephenson: 9Now continues to go from strength to strength

“Our focus is on creating content across specific verticals and distributing that across multiple assets which includes our digital assets. The first part of that is to continue to grow our digital audience, which we’re doing quite successfully, and part two is monetisation of that audience,” he said.

“That requires a focus on the growth areas of digital: programmatic, mobile, video and native. Our focus from a content creation perspective is around those assets and products.

“9Now continues to go from strength to strength and we’re seeing how that is working in concert with what we’re doing in broadcast.

“We’re at nearly 3m subscribers with that particular product now and the next stage of development is from an ad-serving point of view so we can more effectively monetise it.”



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