Nine CEO Hugh Marks leads the AdNews Power 50

By AdNews | 11 September 2018

This first appeared in the monthy AdNews magazine. See what's inside here and support AdNews by subscribing here.

With the new laws disrupting Australia's media landscape, leading to power plays, deals on the table, inquiries and more mergers and acquisitions touted, whoever makes the AdNews Power 50 list 2018 are the ones who have the power to really shape and shake things up.

It’s nearly a year since the biggest reforms to Australian media laws were introduced and the industry has been waiting with baited breath to see what the ramifications would be. The doors of generational change have well and truly been booted wide open, with speculation rife about more power plays afoot.

It may have taken some time for the impact to hit, with the media reform laws passing in the House of Representatives in October 2017, but the wait is over and change is here.

Two major out–of–home (OOH) deals; Ooh!Media’s acquisition of Adshel for $570 million and JCDecaux’s acquisition of APN Outdoor for $1.12 billion, have already been given the thumbs up by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). In addition, there’s the proposed $4.2 billion merger of Nine and Fairfax.

Needless to say, 2018 is shaping up to be a momentous year for the Australian media landscape.


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Speaking to AdNews, OMD CEO Aimee Buchanan said the increased focus on ensuring a competitive marketplace is encouraging and is key to the future of the industry.

“The reform to the media laws late last year was a catalyst for releasing the structural pressure that has built up across media businesses over the last decade — combined with being better positioning to compete with the growing dominance of Google and Facebook, and almost certainly Amazon, in the coming few years,” Buchanan said.

While the focus has largely been on established media companies and their next move, she explained, if we look to the US, the moves made by the big telcos have disrupted the market as the lines between content creation and distribution merge.

“This is the area I’m interested in to see how it develops once we get through the next phase of logical moves,” Buchanan said.
So, how bumpy is the media landscape looking now?

“With $1.5 billion in OOH acquisitions and a $4 billion merger between Nine and Fairfax, the door is well and truly open, if not hanging off its hinges,” Buchanan said.

See: Editor's Letter: Emerging talent trumps power players in the diversity stakes

With a view to snapping up a free–to–air (FTA) broadcaster, News Corp was rumoured to have eyed Seven West Media (SWM), but reports have said its debt was a cause for concern.

Buchanan believes it will be interesting to see if News Corp will in fact make any acquisitions, or concentrate on Foxtel in the short–term. She said radio is also attractive as it’s performing well and could also see consolidation. However, to date there has been little sign of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) movement.

In addition to the M&A on its plate, the ACCC is also undertaking a Digital Platforms Inquiry. The probe is an opportunity for the competition watchdog to take a forensic look at the market power of global tech giants in the Australian media.

Importantly, the investigation will consider whether current regulations are sufficient. At present, digital media platforms are not bound by the same onerous regulations as traditional media companies when it comes to the type of content they can distribute, the cost of distribution to mass audiences, or even the sports rights they can acquire and stream.

While the ACCC has approved both of the major acquisition deals in the out of home sector, the Digital Platforms Inquiry preliminary report to the Treasurer isn’t due until 3 December, and a decision on the Nine and Fairfax deal is expected later this year.

Speaking to AdNews, Darren Woolley, founder and global CEO of marketing management consultants, TrinityP3, said he hopes the consolidation in the OOH market will see the investment required to upgrade Australia’s inventory to include digital, allow programmatic trading in the category, and introduce technology to not just account for audience number, but also demographic profile.

If the Nine–Fairfax merger goes ahead, Nine shareholders will own 51.1% of the new entity with Fairfax shareholders owning the remaining 48.9%. The combined business will include Nine’s FTA network, 9Now and Stan, property business Domain, as well as Fairfax’s mastheads, including the Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and Fairfax Media’s investment in Macquarie Media.

The new entity will be referred to as Nine as the Fairfax name will cease to exist and will comprise a total of 7000 staff.
When it comes to shaping out the industry’s Power 50 across media, marketing and advertising, the selections are no mean feat and involve several layers of meetings, panels and consulting.

See: Editor's Letter: Emerging talent trumps power players in the diversity stakes

The Power 50 features those that have power and influence to shape the lay of the land.

Whether that’s pumping millions into advertising, having the call on pulling or keeping major accounts with certain agencies, reshaping key chunks of adland via acquisition tactics or, leading the thousands of employees and being in charge of 80-odd agencies – the Power 50 have what it takes to shake things up in some way or another.

As the expected head of the soon-to-be mega media powerhouse, which is sure to change the shape and feel of adland Down Under, it’s for this reason a certain CEO takes the number one spot in the AdNews Power 50 2018.

We start the list from scratch each year and creating it starts with a public nominations process, followed by several short lists, eventually culled to around 70 people. There's a points–based measurement system we use with a batch of judges from across the sector and the final call lands with the AdNews team.

Check out the Top 25 below and for the full 50, subscribe to AdNews in-print - or our digital version here.

1. Nine CEO Hugh Marks

The biggest media story of the past year, undoubtedly, is the proposed merger of Nine and Fairfax Media. If it passes the ACCC, this will transform Nine into the largest media company in the country, a true multimedia giant with assets across TV, radio, print and digital. After turning around Nine’s fortunes in 2017, Marks has led Nine through a whole new chapter in 2018. But, how he helps the two businesses come together under the Nine umbrella could ultimately define what has already been an impressive leadership legacy. The power and influence of the business, with Marks at the helm, is what makes him ripe for the number one spot. 

2. News Corp executive chairperson Lachlan Murdoch

Last year, Lachlan Murdoch topped this list by virtue of the fact that News Corp was in the box seat to acquire Ten. Then came CBS Corporation, wrestling Ten away from News Corp’s clutches. It’s fair to say that Australia’s largest commercial media business, of which Murdoch is co–chair, has been focused on internal restructures, marked by the combination of Foxtel and Fox Sports, rather than empire building. This year, Murdoch has been appointed CEO and chairman of News Corp’s new US business Fox, which will commence after the sale of 21st Century Fox film and television studios and its entertainment cable channels. While this indicates Lachlan Murdoch’s focus will soon be firmly fixed on the US market, he still has significant sway in Australia at Holt Street and as owner of radio network Nova Entertainment Group.

Lachlan Murdoch

3. Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes

Stokes’ vast media and mining assets make him the wealthiest and most powerful media mogul living in Australia. His media empire comprises most newspapers in WA, Pacific Magazines, and the most watched TV network in the country, Seven, of which he is chair. Stokes’ public support of CEO Tim Worner has been crucial in helping him come through a challenging year, but he was also a vocal media powerbroker during negotiations in last year’s government media reforms and remains a significant force in the media. He is the top media representative in the AFR’s rich list with a $3.93 billion fortune that makes him the 13th richest individual in this country.

4. ACCC chairperson Rod Sims

Sims, who features in an interview in this edition, heads up Australia’s competition watchdog and is a key player in how the media industry will evolve during a period of monumental reform. Last year, the ACCC blocked the merger of the two largest outdoor companies, Ooh!Media and APN Outdoor, and has just approved a set of fresh out of home (OOH) deals. The ACCC gave the green light to the CBS acquisition of Ten and now has the deciding vote on what is arguably the largest cross–media merger of a generation — Nine and Fairfax Media. The role of Sims and his ACCC team in this post–media reforms climate should not be understated. 

5. FANG

Yes, the teeth of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FANG) have well and truly broken the skin. We know this is somewhat cheating in having four companies in one position on the power list, but the power here is much greater than the people on the ground. It’s only a matter of time before the full force of Amazon is felt on retail, media and marketing in this country, especially with Amazon Media Group – its burgeoning ad solutions hub spanning display, search, mobile, video, programmatic, and OOH in the wings. There’s also Amazon Prime Video, which is a genuine SVOD rival to Netflix and Stan, as well as personal assistant Alexa. The power of Netflix needs no explaining, and while Google is still hunting a local MD, that has no bearing on its ever-increasing power that is here to stay.

Facebook’s Australian operations largely revolve around sales, marketing and client management, but its boss Will Easton has a vital role to play in managing key relationships with advertisers, media buyers and publishers at a time when his business is challenging the advertising–led business models that have sustained traditional media.

Amazon offers Prime, channels, free to watch, rent or buy

Amazon Prime

6. Heads of the Government efficiency review into the ABC and SBS — Peter Tonagh and Richard Bean

Last year, Tonagh was seventh on this list due to his role guiding Foxtel as CEO. This year, he makes the list alongside former ACMA acting chair, Bean, for his role in providing guidance to public broadcasters ABC and SBS. The government’s ‘efficiency review’ is likely to lead to some recommendations, perhaps resource sharing, for the public broadcasters, but cannot call for mergers or privatisation. It has the power to reshape the landscape as we know it.

7. Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page

Harvey Norman spends more on advertising than any other company in Australia and is also one of the largest sponsors of sport. The group’s brands, which include Harvey Norman, Domayne, Joyce Mayne and more, are stalwarts of traditional media advertising. Long–serving CEO Page, is not only highly respected and influential in the media, she is also a champion of women’s sport and was the first female to be on the board of a major football code at the NRL.

8. News Corp group director of broadcasting Siobhan McKenna

Siobhan McKenna has her fingers in many pies. She is a director at Lachlan Murdoch’s investment business Illyria, Nova Entertainment, Woolworths, Amcil, Foxtel, Australian News Channel and Fox Sports, and she is a trustee of the MCG Trust. McKenna, who features in an interview in the September edition, is regarded as highly influential at Holt Street and a close Murdoch lieutenant, arguably the most powerful woman at News Corp Australia.

9. WIN Corporation owner Bruce Gordon

Gordon’s national ambition to part–own Ten may have failed, but he is still a significant player in the industry. Gordon owns the regional TV powerhouse WIN corporation and has a significant stake in Nine. He sits at 112th on the AFR rich list with a fortune of $702 million.

10. News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller

Miller is running one of the largest media organisations in the country. While the Murdochs still pull the strings, and he has a field of strong lieutenants including Damian Eales and Siobhan McKenna, Miller is at the helm for now. 

Michael Miller at the News Prestige event

11. KPMG, Deloitte and PwC — consultancies as a collective

KPMG, Deloitte and PwC have all played a collective role in reshaping the advertising landscape, hiring the industry’s best talent and acquiring agencies. They are rising fast by gaining a foothold in marketing and media and are a burgeoning force to be reckoned with.

12. Ooh!Media CEO Brendon Cook

Cook is regarded as a figurehead of the modern outdoor industry and presides over the largest outdoor business in Australia. Despite a failed attempt to merge with largest rival APN Outdoor last year, Ooh!Media then firmly set its sights on Adshel, which will help it dominate the street furniture sector. Cook’s influence extends beyond Ooh!Media; he is a pioneer of the outdoor space who regularly speaks at conferences and is an advocate for several charities.

13. Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner

Last year was a challenging year for Worner with the highly personal and public affair involving a former colleague. He spent a period largely avoiding the media spotlight but this year is back in the limelight, helping engineer one of the biggest sporting shake– ups in Australian broadcasting history, with Seven becoming the FTA home of Australia’s cricket. This could prove to be a masterstroke. Worner is one one of this country’s most powerful media executives and has the backing of media mogul Kerry Stokes. He’s largely presided over years of domination for the Seven Network, and remains an everpresent figure in the industry.

14. REA Group CEO Tracey Fellows

REA Group continues to shine as the star performer among News Corp’s Australian businesses, with 20% revenue growth and 23% profit rise in the past fiscal year. The boss of the $11 billion business, Fellows, has overseen an “unprecedented year of product launches” and there are further plans to expand abroad. The former Microsoft Australia CEO is widely respected and runs the largest real estate listings business in the country, and the crown jewel in News Corp’s Australian portfolio. Not bad for a business that started in a garage in 1995 and now has more than 1400 people across six countries.

Tracey Fellows

15. Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany

Delany landed the top job at Foxtel as a result of a merger with Fox Sports, where he was previously CEO. He was chosen ahead of News Corp veteran Peter Tonagh, a decision that underlines the faith News Corp HQ has in him. Delany is now at the helm of Australia’s largest subscription TV company, with 2.8 million subscribers. Foxtel is also one of the largest investors in Australian content, including drama and the most comprehensive sports portfolio in the land. Delany is focused on helping the business adapt to a more competitive landscape of SVOD rivals, including Netflix, Stan and Amazon.

16. JCDecaux chairman and co–chief executive Jean–Francois Decaux

With ACCC approval being given to French multinational JCDecaux, which is in street furniture, to acquire APN Outdoor, primarily in the billboard and transport segment, the new entity will not need two CEOs. The fate of this big decision lies in the hands of the famed family itself, with Decaux, who took over regional management for Northern Europe and Australia in 2013, said to be the one to make the call. Will it be ambitious APN Outdoor CEO James Warburton or JCDecaux CEO Steve O’Connor at the new helm?

Jean-François Decaux

17. JCDecaux CEO Steve O’Connor

Despite having a quiet industry profile, following JCDecaux’s acquisition of APN Outdoor, O’Connor, who has 260 staff across Australia, is tipped to lead the new entity - in what is now one of the biggest outdoor media companies in Australia. As the chairman of the Outdoor Media Association, he has also been pivotal in recent changes to the industry’s measurement and transparency practices.

UPDATE: Steve O'Connor tipped to lead new JCDecaux proposition

18. Southern Cross Austereo CEO and MD Grant Blackley

In the past year, Grant Blackley has led Southern Cross Austereo through a major rebrand and restructure with many of its radio stations around the country joining TripleM or the Hit Network. Blackley has also been busy merging regional and metro radio operations in an effort to make the business more efficient after a poor start to FY18. His influence extends beyond radio with SCA also running a regional TV network, making it an important player in the media landscape. 

grant blackley 2018

19. Domain CEO Jason Pellegrino

Taking over from infamous entrepreneur Antony Catalano, ex–Google CEO, Pellegrino, who has only been leading Domain’s 700–plus employees for a matter of weeks, slides directly into a position of power. Domain has long been the star performer of Fairfax Media, a real estate media and services giant that has more than quadrupled in size in only three years. Pellegrino helped provide Google with a voice in the market it previously lacked and nurture a more collegiate relationship with media partners at a time of disruption. He is well–equipped to push Domain in a new era as a separately listed company.

jason pellegrino 9/16

20. WPP AUNZ CEO Mike Connaghan

During 2018, Connaghan has continued to develop enhanced capabilities, launching both WPP AUNZ Consulting, and The Bond & Associates. He has also launched a range of staff development and retention schemes including a staff share scheme. For the year ending 2017, WPP AUNZ posted net sales of $869.9 million, up from $864.9m in 2016. Connaghan leads a team of 5500, working across 80 companies in more than 170 offices.

21. Telstra CEO Andy Penn

Telstra, one the biggest spenders on advertising in Australia, is a media company in its own right with Telstra TV and holding a significant stake in Foxtel. The telco’s boss, Penn, has led a restructure, removing the CMO role, which was held by last year’s power #21, Joe Pollard. Penn will play a critical role as the telco continues to repostition itself as technology giant and distributor of content, including the streaming of live sports. According to Nielsen, Telstra was the fifth biggest ad spender in Australia between June 2018 and June 2018. 

22. ABC CEO Michelle Guthrie

Guthrie has led a major cultural and structural transformation at the ABC in an attempt to meet the challenges of the digital era and streamline the business. At the same time, she has also had to defend the public broadcaster from a growing chorus of ideologically–laced attacks from right–wing media shock jocks, News Corp newspapers, and Coalition politicians, as well as commercial media rivals concerned about the ABC’s success as a news website. After a start where she made unpopular cuts to programming, Guthrie is now becoming the champion the public broadcaster desperately needs at a time when it is undergoing another “efficiency review” and calls for privatisation.

Michelle Guthrie

23. Clemenger executive chair Rob Morgan

Clemenger has undisputedly been a stronghold of creativity for more than 70 years in Australia and behind a lot of its success is Morgan, its long–time chair. Morgan’s legacy will live on within Clemenger long after his departure through the talent he fosters, including Power 50 spot #43 Nick Garrett and #46 Chris Howatson.

24. News Corp Australia COO of publishing Damian Eales

Eales is accountable for the News Corp metropolitan, regional and community publishing divisions. He first entered the Murdoch fray in 2013 and has risen up the ranks to enjoy the view from the top. Some even say the media mogul could one day succeed Michael Miller.

25. Nine chief sales officer Michael Stephenson

Stephenson has been influential in the growth of Nine’s sales division and the development of its broadcast video on–demand platform, 9Now, as well as its addressable advertising solution. He continues to demonstrate CEO–like qualities and is one to keep an eye on as part of the potential Nine– Fairfax entity.

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