Nine’s Google and Facebook deals could last ’30 years, 50 years, 100 years’

Nine’s outgoing chief executive, Hugh Marks, has expressed confidence in ongoing negotiations with Facebook, but told Mumbrella there are “things that are probably present in those terms at the moment that we wouldn’t agree to”.

The company will also not confirm its Google News Showcase deal until “we reach concluded long form documents”, he asserted.

Earlier this month, Nine’s masthead The Sydney Morning Herald reported the business had struck a licensing deal with Google after competitor Seven and smaller publishers such as Junkee, Australian Community Media, and Schwartz Media signed on to News Showcase. But Nine is yet to confirm the deal, or announce it on the stock exchange.

“That process is ongoing, obviously it’s subject to confidentiality,” Marks said, speaking to Mumbrella immediately after delivering the business’ first half results, the last at which he will present as CEO.

“So when that is completed, that’s when we will make the formal announcement to the market.”

Earlier this week, Seven was once again the first big outlet off the blocks, reaching an agreement with Facebook just hours after the social media platform revealed it would bring back news in Australia. Mere days ago, Facebook scrubbed all news from its platform overnight for Australian news companies and users in retaliation to the News Media Bargaining Code passing through the lower house. Last night, it passed through the senate and became law.

Before enshrining the code in law, the government agreed to a number of amendments, allaying Facebook’s chief concerns and leading to the reversal of the news ban.

Last week, Nine called the news block “unreasonable behaviour” which “proves again their monopoly position”, but Marks is “confident of an outcome” beneficial to both parties.

“I mean, there’s a few bits and pieces that we need to finalise,” he said.

“Taking your time and getting these deals right is really important. And we will work constructively with Facebook until we get to that point.”

The CEO commented that it’s “very hard to understand what Seven’s deals are”, and accordingly, he doesn’t feel rushed by his competitor locking in commercial terms first.

“It’s really important that we get the structure in terms of those deals absolutely right, because this could be something that we have for the next 30 years, 50 years, 100 years,” Marks noted.

“Making sure that we provide the right framework from which to start is really important.

“That’s the significance of this change. So we won’t rush it, we will get it right … We still feel there’s a bit of work to do to get there.”

Yesterday, Nine reported a half year net profit of $182 million, a surge of 79%. In his last presentation to investors, Marks emphasised the business’ position to strive towards future growth, across its TV, publishing, radio, SVOD, and BVOD arms.

Through the most difficult period, we did not take the course chosen by others of business-wide pay cuts,” he added in an email to staff.

“Instead, we trusted the strength of our unique position in the market and adapted to the significant changes to ensure we were strategically positioned when the confidence in the wider market returned. This, as you will have now seen, is in full swing across most sectors.”


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