Nine boss Hugh Marks said the media company has resumed talks with Facebook, and is continuing talks with Google, for the digital giants to pay for its news stories.
Mr Marks on Wednesday outlined his hopes for the talks in an email to staff discussing Nine’s 79 per cent gain in first-half earnings.
A deal with Facebook and Google would provide annuity-type payment for Nine’s journalism, Mr Marks said, and help progress the move to digital.
Facebook on Tuesday said it will soon allow Australian news again on its platform after the federal government made changes to a proposed media bargaining code.
The code is aimed at prompting the two digital giants to pay news providers for the stories used on their platforms.
In his email about first-half earnings, Mr Marks stressed the importance of Nine making more money from its digital operations.
“If I look across all the figures in today’s results, there is one number that I am most proud of,” he said.
There was a 53 per cent improvement in profit from the digital businesses to more than $140 million.
These operations include video on demand, the subscription TV service Stan and subscriber services in news titles such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Yet TV advertising remains the biggest revenue source.
Advertisers spent more last year than company leaders expected as Australia better controlled the coronavirus.
The ad increase helped Nine to a net profit after tax of $181.8 million.
“The advertising market clearly turned in late September, earlier and more sharply than we had anticipated,” Mr Marks said.
Group costs were cut by 13 per cent and helped offset a two per cent fall in revenue, compared with the previous first half.
Cost-cutting decisions included no longer funding wholesale news provider Australian Associated Press. News Corporation, which also funded the agency, made the same decision.
Looking ahead, Nine said free-to-air TV advertising sales for the March quarter were expected to be higher.
Video-on-demand services were expected to grow sales strongly through the second half.
The improving sales in digital publishing were expected to continue, as was subscriber growth for Stan.
Radio advertising is a small part of sales for Nine, and while its levels were low in the first-half, the company tipped it to improve in the second half.
Mr Marks is leaving after five years at the company, but will remain until his successor is chosen.
Shareholders will receive an interim dividend of five cents per share, fully franked. This was the same as the previous interim payout.
Shares were higher by 8.05 per cent to $2.88 at 1350 AEDT.