Key Points:

Television networks have been working on a joint bid for television rights to the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

TVNZ, TV3 owner MediaWorks and Sky Television are working on a combined bid to the International Rugby Board through its agents the International Management Group (IMG).

MediaWorks chief executive Brent Impey confirmed the negotiations with the IRB but would not comment until talks were complete.

Sky chief executive John Fellet would not comment on the degree to which broadcasters were bidding jointly.

"Free-to-air broadcasters tend to pay high prices for big sports events like the Rugby World Cup, then lose money," he said.

TVNZ spokesman Peter Parussini knew nothing about joint talks.

A joint bid makes sense because all three want to show some of the World Cup games.

Sport - especially rugby coverage - is the biggest factor in Sky Television attracting and keeping subscribers.

It cannot afford to be shut out of the event in New Zealand in 2011 the way it was when TV3 won exclusive rights to the World Cup in France last year.

Sky may not have lost much but it was a bad look for their sports-nut subscribers. Now, Sky and its free channel Prime have the financial firepower to blow TVNZ and MediaWorks out of the water in negotiations.

And Prime can meet IRB demands that games are shown on free to air TV. Taking rights would also hurt the free to air digital platform Freeview.

EASY DOES IT

If a joint deal is reached it will save Sky money. But also, strategically, now would be a rotten time for Sky to strike a blow against Mediaworks and TVNZ.

That is because the bureaucrats are on the march in Wellington. For the first time ever Government officials are examining TVNZ and TV3 claims that Sky is dominating the TV sector and shutting them out of premium programming events.

TVNZ cried foul over Sky and Prime taking exclusive rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 summer Olympics in London.

It's also important for TVNZ.

The state-owned channel enjoyed good ratings for the Beijing Olympics but that could be its sporting swansong if it does not get a stake in the World Cup. MediaWorks faces the least pressure.

It is owned by a private equity company, Ironbridge, which operates by leveraging loans from banks. In the current environment - with money tight - Ironbridge would be in no hurry to pay the big costs for exclusive rights.

MORNING GLORY?

MediaWorks' TV3 hiring Oliver Driver to front its breakfast programme Sunrise has given the show an unexpected gasp of breath.

Driver - an acclaimed actor cum emcee who appears packaged and posted on the TV ads for the Kiwi Made campaign - is replacing James Coleman, who co-hosts the show with Carly Flynn.

Coleman was an odd match for Carly Flynn but the rock bottom rating show had bigger issues, not least an uninspiring set and a minimalist budget.

But can Sunrise still be called a news product and should it be? TV3 news and current affairs boss Mark Jennings tried to anoint Driver with some journalist attributes, but he crosses over frequently into the commercial world.

The business news part of the shows has been improved but its producer Clare Watson has long been rumoured to be moving.

Meantime, TVNZ's Breakfast - fronted by Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell and with a newsy focus - has been flying high.

That might be why MediaWorks has given the kiss of life to Sunrise, which is costing the company dearly.

As media buyer veteran Martin Gillman says, prime time ratings are going down and free-to-air growth depends on under-watched zones like breakfast TV.

Driver will polarise opinions. Gillman is personally a big fan and says it will bring street-smarts to the show. But he says there is no guarantee it will do anything for its flatline ratings. Driver starts on Monday.

SUNDAY PULPED

Fairfax Magazines has suffered another problem with the Sunday Star Times liftout Sunday. Fairfax editorial director Paul Thompson confirmed the issue of the magazine due to come out this week was scrapped and then redone and reprinted.

"The edition contained themed advertising and editorial about breast cancer awareness month. Unfortunately the cover story for the edition was an exploration of the pros and cons about sunbeds," he said.

The story featured a girl in a bikini but it was not clear that was the reason to reprint the Sunday glossy.

"It was a straight article in a themed issue," Thompson said. "We felt the juxtaposition was inappropriate and the decision was to reprint the magazine."

NO PROBLEM?

Credit to Fairfax which took steps to correct the latest problem. Most readers and many advertisers this Sunday will be unaware there was a problem.

But it was only in March that Fairfax spent tens of thousands of dollars removing an editorial page that included "inappropriate" references to sexual content. Other times this column has pointed out a trend to blur the line between advertising and editorial.

I asked Thompson if there was any deeper problems at the title.

"Not that I am aware of," he said.

Insiders suggested problems related to communication between the advertising and editorial departments.

BEEG CHANGES

McDonald's and its advertising agency DDB are developing closer ties between Australian and New Zealand markets. McDonald's Australia and New Zealand chief executive Marty O'Halloran - an Aussie married to a Kiwi - announced the closer alignment of marketing teams, with both sides "sharing creative resources wherever possible".

DDB New Zealand and DDB Sydney will share transtasman projects.

DDB NZ has always held all of the McDonald's business, DDB Sydney has shared the account with Leo Burnett for the past five years but this week picked up the rest of the business.

O'Halloran insisted it didn't mean homogeneous advertising for the two markets, and it was a great example of Kiwis exporting world class creative to Australia.

Of course it will probably mean more Aussie ads in New Zealand. The good news I guess is that the Aussie McDonald's ads sell fries, and not cheeps. They might need a voiceover for the Beeg Macs.

IT'S ACADEMIC

Auckland University of Technology insiders say there are deep divides in the communications faculty over a vacancy for the role of dean for the journalism school.

They say that in part the divisions relate to a trend at AUT to focus on academic topics while the media industry is demanding AUT - and other academic focused institutions like Massey - maintain practical skills.

But problems in the faculty run deep.

It is understood that one of the candidates for the job is Martin Hirst - an associate professor and curriculum leader who attracts intense loyalty and disagreement among staff.

Some say he has been a breath of fresh air and that tensions represent differing views on the teaching discipline. Others question his approach. Hirst is on a study tour in the UK.