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WIN and Nine strike six-month TV deal extension

BLACKOUT?: Rural and regional viewers on WIN could “fade to black” on New Year’s Day unless a deal is done by Bruce Gordon’s WIN Corp. Photo: KEN ROBERTSONRegional TV broadcaster WIN Corp has narrowly avoidedits services “going to black” on the stroke of Midnight by extending its licensing deal with Nine Entertainment for six months and hinted at a bigger tie-up between the companies.
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WIN, which is owned by Bermuda-based billionaireBruce Gordon, was facing the possibility of losing its feed from Nine. The city broadcaster wanted a bigger share of its affiliate’s advertising revenue and the existing contract was set to end at midnight tonight.

Failure to strike a deal would have left regional viewers with the limited range of programming thatWIN itself controls.Rural and regional fans of the cricket would have hadto switch over to SBS for the upcoming Tests between Australia and the West Indies as well as India.

But after tense talks at the highest levels ofboth companies on Wednesday, the partiesagreed to extend their arrangements for six months until June 2016 with Nine getting additional payments over the period.

The bigger story is the increased cooperation between the two companies that could lead to a merger, which would create a broadcasting giant worth up to $1.8 billion.

Sources close to both parties revealed to Fairfax Mediathat merger talks were on the table throughout these discussions.

“NEC and WIN have also agreed to work together on a range of opportunities relating to their content and to the mutual growth of their respective businesses,” Nine said in a statement.

“Broadcast television is evolving, but the role of the affiliate and its relationship with the local community remains important,” Nine chief executive Hugh Marks added.

WIN would be expected to keep a stake in a combined entity, but discussionsremain at anearly stage with no firm discussions aroundprice or structure. WIN’svaluehasbeen speculated at between $150million and $300 million. Nine’s marketcapitalisationis $1.6 billion.

Mr Gordon already owns a 14.95 per cent of bothNineand Network Ten.

But both parties are limited by the federal government’s “reach rule”, which prevents any one party from owning metropolitan and regional broadcasters. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to push for a scrapping of the law next year.

June 2016 is shaping up as a vital year for regional and rural TV viewers.

Ninehas held previously exploratory talks to supply its broadcast feed torival rural broadcaster Southern Cross, which currently uses Network Ten’s less popular contentin a deal that expires in June 2016.

Earlier:BRUCE Gordon’s WIN Corp, the regional TV broadcaster that reaches 25 per cent of Australian viewers, is in last-ditch talks with Nine Entertainment to stop its services from “going to black” at midnight on Thursday.

WIN is one of regional Australia’s biggest broadcasters and gets the vast majority of its content, including popular live cricket matches, from Nine in exchange for 39 per cent of its advertising revenue.

But Nine hasargued that it bears too much of the risk anddemanded a larger 49 per centshare of WIN’s ad revenues as part of a new licensing deal, warningthat it will cut off its broadcast feeds at 12:01am on New Year’s Dayif a deal is not done by then.

It is understood WIN was refusing to budge during high-level talks on Wednesday afternoon.

Failure to strike a deal would leave regional viewers with the limited range of programming thatWIN itself controls.

Rural and regional fans of the cricket would have to switch over to SBS for the upcoming Tests between Australia and the West Indies as well as India.

Sources close to both parties revealed to Fairfax Mediathat merger talks are also on the table, which would see the creation of a broadcaster worth up to $1.8 billion.

“The negotiations are ongoing and Nine are hopeful win will come to the table with something meaningful so we can move forward,” a Nine spokeswoman said.

Ninehas held previously exploratory talks to supply its broadcast feed torival rural broadcaster Southern Cross, which currently uses Network Ten’s less popular contentin a deal that expires in June 2016.

WIN would be expected to keep a stake in a combined entity, but discussionsremain at anearly stage with no firm discussions aroundprice or structure. WIN’svaluehasbeen speculated at between $150million and $300 million. Nine’s marketcapitalisationis $1.6 billion.

WIN’s Bermuda-basedbillionaire owner Mr Gordon already owns a 14.95 per cent of bothNineand Network Ten.

But both parties are limited by the Reach Rule, which prevents any one party from owning metropolitan and regional broadcasters. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to push for a scrapping of the law next year.

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