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Australian Media And Gaming Wars: Packer VS Gyngell?

Written by:
Greg Tingle
Published on:
Oct/23/2010
James Packer

The Australian media and gaming wars continues, as we learn that the James Packer swoop on Network Ten puts him at professional locker horns with mate and Network Nine CEO David Gyngell. Is it just business, or with Gyngell and friends take it personally?

And, how will this effect both Nine's and Ten's balanced, often positive coverage of the gaming and gambling industry in Australia, and will Channel Seven and others use the situation to their advantage?

Packer's move into Ten has the world's casino and media billionaires wondering what's next now that Packer has surly got his passion back from mainstream media, previously having most of his focus on media, while also improving his work - life balance, doing Bondi Beach, Spain, Macau and who knows where else. Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com and Gambling911 jump aboard the Packer - Gyngell express with the latest from the Australian media and gambling wars down under...

James Packer is now one of Australia's and the world's, kings of mainstream media, but at what cost? ... professionally and personally.

Yesterday Packer leaped into Network Ten in a massive $245 million share raid that also sets him up for next year's AFL broadcast rights, and much more.

Let's see, only today did Network Nine CEO David Gyngell become of his best mate James Packer's share raid on the rival Ten network but he has promised to be a "fierce rival" (but that does not mean personal enemy let it be noted).

It was last night when former television tsar James Packer, whose father Kerry Packer once upon a time owned Network Nine, bamboozled the Australian media industry by snatching $245 million worth of Ten shares at $1.50 a share.

Packer long time friend, Gyngell, was none the wiser of the surprise return to television of the Packer dynasty, as colourful as any in world history.

Network Nine sources say Gyngell would certainly not consider a move to the Ten network in the future, but are they just following the company line? It may be too early to know for sure.

Packer and Gyngell friendly rivals but also ultra competitive. Gyngell signed a 4-year contract in May with Nine's owner PBL Media and "parent" company, CVC Asia Pacific, a very successful private equity firm.

Gyngell has been working at Nine his entire working life, except for a short run at Granada in the United States, and leaks say has "running in his veins".

Numerous tips to Media Man indicate Packer's influence at Ten could very well result in massive cost cuts and would likely see the network put off its high risk and expensive foray into news and current affairs.

Network Ten has bold plans to significantly expand its news offerings and has now hired presenter George Negus, sometimes seen on The 7PM Project, to front a new current affairs show which would be part of a 2.5 hour chunk of news Mon - Fri.

The strategy also would involve moving youth-focused programs Neighbours and The Simpsons to a new multi-channel, Eleven, and broadening the main channel's demographic.

Packer is also a known critic of Ten's failure to capitalise on the ratings success of MasterChef Australia, in fact the most watched television show in Australian history.

Ten's dedicated sports channel ONE has also failed to reach its potential, and is currently only attracting a share of about 1%.

Media buyer - wheeler dealer Harold Mitchell said that the move indicated a growing confidence in the future of the free-to-air industry, which has been given a boost by the launch of several new multi-channels.

"Television, equally, has stopped its fall in free to air," told ABC radio's Breakfast with Fran Kelly.

"Because these new channels that they've got, these new digital channels, they've been very clever because they've broadened the viewing and the audience and therefore the revenue stream. So if this is indeed James picking a market, he's picked the right time to do it, I can tell you that. Well, I don't know what's in James' mind, but there are two things about any media owner that I know, Fran, that are important and they're very simple: in free to air television it's profits, therefore turnover, making sure that a good business is run. And, you know, still Fran, in Australia with the media, it's power. If you're a major owner of a media company, there's plenty of power there. Or, indeed, if you're the ABC. That's what the media is."

Ten has confirmed 15.6% of the network's shares have been sold but said the identity of the purchaser remains under wraps, according to a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange at time of publication, but all should be revealed soon enough.

"Ten Network Holdings Limited notes the media reports overnight indicating that interests associated with Mr James Packer have acquired an interest of approximately 15% of the issued capital of TEN," group general counsel and company secretary Stephen Partington said.

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