A huge shake-up of New Zealand's media landscape is under way, with TV3-owner MediaWorks revealing it will cut 130 jobs and Stuff announcing it is being bought by its chief executive for $1.
Stuff - owned by Australia's Nine Entertainment - announced the sale of its business to management, led by chief executive Sinead Boucher.
The sale price is $1 and the deal is expected to be completed by the end of May. As well as the Stuff website, the business owns several newspapers including the Press and Dominion Post.
"Our plan is to transition the ownership of Stuff to give staff a direct stake in the business as shareholders," Boucher said in a statement.
"Local ownership will bring many benefits to our staff, our customers and indeed to all Kiwis, as we take advantage of opportunities to invest in and grow the business."
MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson told staff in an email this morning that the business was entering a restructuring process across its sales, out-of-home and radio divisions.
"It's proposed that in the region of 130 of our friends and colleagues will have to leave our business".
Because MediaWorks is still attempting to sell its TV arm, Anderson said there would only be small changes to that area of the business.
Anderson also said the company's pay cuts would be extended throughout the business to the end of September.
The huge shakeup at both businesses follows Bauer's New Zealand closing during the Covid-19 lockdown and more than 200 people being let go from the company, which published magazine titles including the Listener and North and South.
Last month NZME, which owns the Herald and Newstalk ZB, announced 200 positions would be lost. It also asked staff earning above a certain amount to take a 15 per cent pay cut for 12 weeks.
TVNZ has yet to cuts jobs due to the fall-out of Covid-19 but a spokesperson last week said that the need for further cost savings was "inevitable".
"Like other commercially funded media organisations, TVNZ's revenue has been negatively impacted by Covid-19," the spokesperson said.
"We have successfully offset near term revenue declines with operational cost reductions, but don't expect revenue to fully recover in a hurry. Further cost savings are inevitable and TVNZ will look to preserve investment in local news and entertainment content, and maintain jobs where possible. Change is the norm for the media sector and TVNZ will continue to keep its staff and shareholder fully informed about relevant decisions as they unfold."
The Government last month offered New Zealand media businesses an initial $50 million to help them weather the economic fallout from Covid-19 while it puts together a second round of support.
Kris Faafoi, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, said today's news was a reminder about the volatility in the media sector, exacerbated by the pandemic.
The sector would inevitably face fundamental changes in the future, Faafoi said.
"I feel for staff at Mediaworks.
"The Government is working through the details of its longer term approach to media sector support which can ensure a strong, sustainable, and diverse news media for New Zealanders and we will have more to say on that in the coming weeks."
READ MEDIAWORKS CEO'S FULL EMAIL TO STAFF BELOW
I hope you were able to join me on the call just now. It is truly one of the hardest things I've had to do in my professional career. If you were unable to join, I'm sorry that you are receiving the below over email.
Today I have some difficult news to share with you and I want to be as upfront about this as possible.
Back in March, I told you all that we are in a fight for our survival and that we will have some very tough calls to make as we tackle the biggest crisis of our lifetime.
As you know, Covid-19 has simultaneously changed the world and impacted our business in ways that we could not predict or prepare for.
It has also completely changed the market that we operate in and this means that we must adapt to ensure our survival and sustainability in the coming months.
As of today, we must begin reducing the size of our business and we are now entering a restructuring process across our sales, out-of-home and radio divisions.
It's proposed that in the region of 130 of our friends and colleagues will have to leave our business.
Because the sale process for TV is ongoing, there will only be a handful of changes to this area of our business and corporate at this stage.
By the end of today, you will have either been briefed or will have received an invite to a meeting this week regarding the impact for you.
Unfortunately due to the scale of the revenue shortfall, we also have to extend the pay cut to the whole organisation through to the end of September, bringing this to the maximum of six months discussed with you in March.
If you previously accepted the pay reduction, you have already agreed to the six month period so please accept this as confirmation of the extension.
Since the lockdown began on March 25th, everything we've done and asked you to do has been to protect our people and keep them in employment for as long as possible.
We asked you to take a voluntary pay-cut and were overwhelmed with the generosity and camaraderie shown with so many of you saying yes.
We've spent countless hours modelling financials; taking into account the support coming from the wage subsidy, government support, changes to our incentive structures and the reduction of all possible costs as well as the suspension of key projects.
But there was nothing in our modelling, or in our forecasts that would put us in a position where this can be avoided.
MediaWorks needs to be a different shaped business to operate in a different world.
Starting from today and over this week, you will hear from your executive or people leader as we commence consultation with those affected.
We are committed to being open and transparent throughout this process, and while our priority will be communicating with our people most impacted we will keep you all informed. By the end of this week, an overview of what is being proposed will be available on Homer.
I understand how hard this is for you to hear and it's certainly not a message I want to deliver.
For a business like ours, that is completely centred around people, this is our worst-case scenario. I also want to stress that this is not a reflection of the performance of any individual areas of our business.
No part of our company has been untouched however, we must adapt to ensure the survival and sustainability of MediaWorks.
Our people are what makes us such a special organisation, so to lose anyone is very hard.
I know this has been a lot to take in and I encourage you to access the support resources that have been made available to you on Homer which include EAP services.
Please continue to be kind to one another and support each other,
Attempts to sell TV business
Late last year it was reported the cash-strapped company's owners - equity fund Oaktree and billboard company QMS - were looking to sell off the business' TV division.
Several potential buyers have reportedly expressed interest including Australian broadcaster Seven West-Media.
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As well as its TV arm MediaWorks owns a number of radio stations including The Rock, More FM and The Edge.
All New Zealand's major media companies have been struggling even before Covid-19, but the lockdown has also taken its toll by slashing advertising budgets.
MediaWorks was among several media companies - including NZME and Nine's Stuff - that asked staff to take temporary pay cuts, while Bauer Media, which published iconic New Zealand magazines including the Listener and North & South, abruptly closed its doors in the first week of the lockdown in early April.
The German company had already indicated it was looking to pull out of the New Zealand market but said the Government's decision to deem magazines non-essential during alert level 4 was the final straw.