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Nine, Ninemsn Find Better Way to Share
by Paul McIntyre, The Sydney Morning Herald

CHANNEL Nine boss Eddie McGuire has officially surrendered to the internet, unveiling a flurry of online joint ventures with PBL stablemate ninemsn.

They include imminent plans for late afternoon video podcasts of National Nine News bulletins, more TV shows to be sold online for $1.95 an episode, and a user-generated project called Revver to rival YouTube and News Corp's MySpace Video.

Mr McGuire and ninemsn's new chief executive, Tony Faure, said yesterday that public interest in online video viewing on ninemsn was booming.

In May video streams surpassed 4 million without any special news events such as the Beaconsfield mining rescue.

Mr McGuire also unveiled a new TV series produced by Bryan Brown, Two Twisted, which will carry a parallel plot on ninemsn.

Mr McGuire hopes this will entice audiences to embrace both of the PBL media units.

"If there's been any recalcitrant it's probably been Nine, which has always seen itself as the one out there making the shows and doing all those things," Mr McGuire said.

"I suppose the really exciting challenge for us is how do we get the internet to drive people to Channel Nine as well as Channel Nine to ninemsn."

Mr Faure, who started at ninemsn on Monday, said video was "massively important" for ninemsn, and deriving more content from Nine was central.

He also said aggregating content from partners such as the Revver project and delivering Nine and ninemsn content to portable devices via non-exclusive deals with 3G phone networks was a priority.

"We've got Eddie and the Channel Nine team really behind this to the point where online is thought about at the content creation stage, not when a show is already created and it's picked up online," he said.

"In terms of available [video] clips, we have 3200 available. It dwarfs what they [competitors] do by a factor of at least five."

Mr McGuire said revenues from the new projects would come from advertising and user-pays.
Shows such as Two Twisted and McLeod's Daughters and yet to be announced US programs would be paid for by the episode under the Catch-Up TV banner.

Mr McGuire said the news podcasts would use existing Nine resources.

PBL also unveiled Project Greenlight, a joint venture with Hollywood actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, that will enable budding Australian film directors and screenwriters to compete for $1 million in prize money in a short film competition that will be judged by a panel and by users of the ninemsn services.

PBL wants slice of National Rugby League

PBL has signalled its intention to take on Telstra and possibly Optus in a dogfight for the internet rights to the National Rugby League.

Ninemsn's new chief executive, Tony Faure, confirmed yesterday the company was interested in making a bid.

The NRL is banking on a windfall from sponsorship, wireless and internet rights as mobile phone networks, broadband operators and internet portals such as ninemsn and Yahoo!7 jostle for either the entire NRL contract or various parts.

Since the late Kerry Packer forced the Seven and Ten networks to pay $780 million for the AFL broadcast rights between 2007 and 2011, the value of online sporting properties has soared.

Asked yesterday whether ninemsn would make a play for the NRL's online contract, Mr Faure said: "Certainly we'll look at it."

Telstra retains first and last rights for the NRL package and is said to be keen to renew the deal. The entire package could be worth more than $70 million over five years and the NRL is understood to want a premium for a bundled package.

But the most interest is understood to be in the mobile and wireless rights because users have a track record of paying for content on this platform.

"We are in discussions with a number of people and there's certainly a lot of interest," said the NRL's director of communications, John Brady.

Telstra's current NRL contract expires in October and the NRL is expected to choose its new partners next month.