John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Celebrity paydays under threat

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German publisher's magazine takeover could mean less competition for exclusive stories about big names

Bauer Media's titles will include New Zealand Woman's Weekly as well as the Australian Women's Weekly and Woman's Day. Photo / Chris Gorman
Bauer Media's titles will include New Zealand Woman's Weekly as well as the Australian Women's Weekly and Woman's Day. Photo / Chris Gorman

The value of "celebrity" stories looks set to fall even further, now that Bauer Media owns the three women's magazine titles which actively bid for exclusives.

Many would argue that a lot of the people who appear on television and in magazines are not really celebrities, but our limited stock of star talent has enjoyed solid returns from women's magazines bidding for exclusive rights to stories about their lives, loves and crises.

Last week the Commerce Commission cleared the privately owned German media firm Bauer to buy several titles owned by APN News & Media - notably the NZ Woman's Weekly. The titles being sold also include the Listener, Simply You and Creme.

APN will continue to publish some magazine titles under licence from Australian publisher Pacific Magazines, including New Idea, That's Life and Girlfriend.

But their future is not clear beyond September next year, when the licensing deal ends.

Paid-for stories about actors, musicians, TV stars and sportspeople have been staples of women's magazines - though New Idea has seldom competed strongly for expensive exclusives.

It is not clear how much was paid for two recent "exclusives" - the weddings of Hayley Westenra and Aaron Cruden.

One well-placed source estimated that three-part exclusive rights to cover an engagement, wedding and first baby might cost a publisher up to $50,000.

After the purchase of the NZ Woman's Weekly, Bauer NZ can avoid bidding wars, and some observers believe deals will not cost so much.

Under a new structure at an expanded Bauer, chief executive Paul Dykzeul will oversee the magazines, with the new head of weekly titles, veteran women's magazine editor Sido Kitchin.

Dykzeul says each women's title will continue to have its own editor. He expects some tweaking, with Woman's Day aiming at a slightly younger audience and the NZ Woman's Weekly a bit older.

Agents - who are believed to take a cut of about 20 per cent on exclusive story deals - are playing down the impact of the ownership change.

Actors and models agent Sara Tetro of 62 Models says the future of the market will depend on how Bauer manages the titles.

Sara Tetro with her red Audi. Outside 62 Models. Photo / Jason Dorday.
Sara Tetro with her red Audi. Outside 62 Models. Photo / Jason Dorday.

She says she has not offered exclusives to competing titles in a "Dutch auction" anyway. Tetro hopes having a common owner will bring one welcome change - fewer "paps", or paparazzi photographers, who take unofficial photos of celebs then sell them to publishers.

Karen Kay of Karen Kay Management says having Woman's Day and NZ Woman's Weekly under the same umbrella "will be okay as long as they work totally independently and confidentially.

"I cannot see how the market for stories will diminish as all magazines need to attract their readers. We will wait and see how it plays out."

APN New Zealand chief executive Martin Simons says APN has more than 18 months before the licensing deal for New Idea and the other remaining titles ends, and it will continue to compete for advertising. It seems unlikely the titles will continue under the APN umbrella once the deal with Pacific Magazines ends.

Bauer power

The Commerce Commission will be detailing the reasoning for giving clearance to the Bauer-APN deal in two or three weeks. Such a takeover, and Bauer's resulting dominance in magazines, would have raised eyebrows 20 years ago. But the media are in upheaval nowadays, and increasingly integrated into one market, especially given the growth of digital media.

Considering the application for clearance, the commission noted the magazine industry has been in decline, with many alternative sources of free content. Magazines' share of total advertising revenue had fallen from 11.7 per cent to 9.7 per cent between 2005 and 2012, losing 20 per cent in dollar terms. As for the threat of the deal limiting new competition, Bauer has said the cost of starting a new magazine is relatively low - $400,000 or so. Bauer pointed to the success of independent title Mindfood as evidence that the market is open to new competitors.

The third major consumer magazine publisher in New Zealand - Fairfax Magazines - did not return calls.

Critics' corner

Another critic has emerged in response to media coverage of Kim Dotcom. He is a former head of news and current affairs standards at Television New Zealand, Mike Farman, who blasted the largely sympathetic coverage in news media, singling out TV3 and the Herald. "I have my views on this guy, which are really irrelevant. But I do think the mainly adoring Kiwi media need a serve," says Farman.

He lauded an item on Dotcom on the United States 60 Minutes programme, which aired there on January 9. "It was balanced but used some stateside context and interviews," he says. Prime TV - which holds the rights to 60 Minutes in this country - has said it intends to belatedly screen the 60 Minutes item when the series returns next month.

Copyright Council chairwoman Paula Browning has also criticised media coverage of Dotcom.

550 grand

New Zealand On Air is once again extending taxpayer largesse to foreign-formatted shows on TV3, giving $550,000 for a 10-episode series of Grand Designs, based on the popular British show presented by Kevin McCloud. The show is being made by Imagination TV - the same crowd that made NZ's Got Talent and Masterchef.

Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud.
Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud.

Though the programmes will be based on an overseas format, Imagination says they will have a Kiwi presenter. But you do wonder about taxpayer funding for NZ versions of overseas shows when we are supposed to be celebrating our own culture.

NZ On Air does not pay for the format fees charged by overseas producers, but has already given money to overseas formatted shows including Would I Lie to You? and the Australian drama series Underbelly.

"The NZ culture and identity of programmes is provided by the content and people in them," says an NZ On Air spokeswoman. "Creating new programmes is difficult and risky and we accept that formats can provide an opportunity to produce series that mitigate risk by benefiting from previous screening."

Scooped

Alastair Thompson's on again, off again political career has landed him back at Scoop, the press release-hosting website he abandoned to join Kim Dotcom's Internet Party. Thompson yesterday broke his silence and confirmed he is in talks about resuming some role at Scoop.

Thompson apologised to friends and family for the way he handled his foray into politics, which was leaked to the right wing blogger Cameron Slater and criticised by Thompson's business partner, Selwyn Pellet.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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