9_logo_2009_0002The biggest shake-up in Australian regional television since aggregation is set to unfold with the announcement that Southern Cross Austereo has secured a five-year affiliation deal with the Nine Network — essentially bringing an end to the 27-year partnership that Nine has had with WIN for carrying Nine’s programs to much of regional eastern Australia.

The move will similarly see Southern Cross Austereo — which operates the Southern Cross Ten brand in regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and the ACT — abandon its 20+ year affiliation to the Ten Network.

brucegordon_2Under the deal SCA will pay Nine 50 per cent of its advertising revenue for access to Nine’s program and channel suite. Under its previous agreement, WIN was believed to be paying 39 per cent of ad revenue but Nine has long been seeking to increase that premium. The relationship between Nine and WIN has also been strained in recent times with WIN’s unsuccessful legal attempt to block Nine’s online portal 9Now from being accessed from regional markets. Bruce Gordon (pictured), the Bermuda-based billionaire who owns WIN, also has a 14.99 per cent stake in both the Nine and Ten networks.

The new affiliation deal for Southern Cross Ten in Queensland, Southern NSW/ACT and Victoria to take over Nine’s programming and identity is set for 1 July.

While WIN and Network Ten have yet to announce their plans for July onwards, it would be almost fair to assume that WIN will have little choice but to align to Ten for its program supply for its Queensland, Southern NSW/ACT and Victorian markets. WIN has very little of its own programming and production infrastructure and apart from a wealth of vintage material from the Crawfords Australia archive — which WIN owns — there isn’t much else in its programming vault unless it can strike a deal to purchase content from alternative sources.

Southern Cross has announced that it will maintain its relay of the Ten Network in Northern NSW and the Gold Coast as that region is already covered by Nine’s owned-and-operated outlet, NBN. The change of Southern Cross to Nine in the mainland eastern states is also not expected to alter the company’s Seven Network affiliation in Tasmania, Darwin and central/remote Australia, or likewise to change WIN’s arrangements with Nine in Tasmania and regional WA.

The move is also unlikely to have any impact in regional South Australia, where WIN and Southern Cross are commercial monopolies in their respective areas and already re-broadcast all three metropolitan networks to those areas.

What is unknown at this stage is how this new environment will impact on local news coverage in the regional areas. Regional viewers in many markets have seen local news service wound back or wiped out completely over the last 20 years across all regional operators. WIN has maintained local news bulletins through much of its NSW/ACT, Queensland and Victorian stations for a cost of around $20 million a year. With WIN potentially likely to adopt a Ten network feed, ratings and income will be lower and it is to be seen how this will impact on WIN’s ability to maintain the services it currently does. In the last year WIN has already shutdown news production facilities in Canberra and Ballarat and closed news bulletins covering Mackay and Mildura. Switching to Ten or other program sources may see WIN seek to reduce news production costs further.

southerncrosstenLikewise, Southern Cross Ten already operates only a basic drip-feed news service comprising of pre-recorded two-minute updates broadcast at various times of the day from a centralised news room in Canberra. With the added cost of aligning to the Nine Network the network will likely be looking for cost efficiencies elsewhere — although the centralised newsroom model probably does not leave much room for cost cutting and SCA is already only barely accounting for the local news content quotas demanded by the broadcasting regulations.

Source: The Age


13 thoughts on “Nine switches ties to Southern Cross

  1. I wonder if WIN will now buy out the former NRTV from Southern (as they were probably originally expected to do back in the run-up to aggregation when they bought Vision-TV Toowoomba). Given that Nine definitely wants to hold on to NBN, I can see it happening in the not-too-distant future and then you’ll see the former Vision-TV and NRTV re-united again (remember they were once part of the Great Eastland chain). And then I wonder if Imparja will re-affiliate full time with Ten (just a decade ago they were still carrying quite a lot of Ten programmes including the news and whatever AFL matches Ten was covering). And then, Prime or even Seven itself buying out SC Seven in Darwin, Tasmania, Central Australia and South Australia. This should be a very interesting saga. Let’s see what happens.

    1. I don’t imagine anything will change with Imparja which is still aligned to Nine. And I don’t expect that Southern Cross will offload or change the arrangements for their Seven-affiliated stations in Tasmania, Darwin, central, etc. In Tasmania in particular Southern Cross rates very well as the Seven affiliate, rating well above WIN in that state. They would be unlikely to want to rock that boat.

      But, like you, I would not be surprised if SCA sold off NRN, to WIN or anyone else.

      1. Yes, because I think that was the original plan – for Darling Downs TV to sell both NRTV and Vision-TV together until Northern Star must’ve outbid WIN for the NRTV half (hence the current situation you have now with the networking arrangements).

        It is interesting to note that 1 July 2016 will mark the 54th anniversary of the last great network swap when ATN7 had to part ways with fellow Macquarie Network affiliates GTV9, QTQ9 and NWS9 and then had to take on TCN9’s former Major Network affiliates HSV7, BTQ7 and ADS7. Frank Packer (who had just acquired GTV in July 1960) had agreed to give ATN 2 years to get their HSV/BTQ/ADS affiliation plans and programming arrangements sorted before the actual “swap” took place (even then, it took another 6 months for Pick-A-Box, Bandstand and a couple of other shows to make the switch due to existing network contract obligations they couldn’t get out of in time). But this time, SCA and WIN will have only 2 months to sort out programming arrangements and other formalities with their new metropolitan hosts.

    1. Yes, of course NBN puts out an excellent hour-long locally-produced national news bulletin (including the separate opt-out segments for Coffs Harbour, Tamworth, Lismore and the Gold Coast), and if that was go next with Nine’s possible programming shake-up in line with the SCA deal elsewhere, it would be Goodbye to regional TV as a whole.

      I wonder if WIN will either have its own hour-long Eyewitness News format or will it be a statewide regional bulletin for Victoria (including Mildura), Southern NSW/ACT and Queensland at 6pm after the Sydney-based 5pm Eyewitness News bulletin. It would be good to see this because SC Ten in Victoria tried it back in 1994 with News At Six and, prior to this, a half-hour locally-produced Eyewitness News bulletin in 1992.

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