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Wednesday, 09 November 2011 15:09

Nine boss roots for Rupert

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Nine Entertainment chief executive David Gyngell has admitted that he's 'rooting for Rupert' and hoping that the creation of a paywall on News Ltd's online content will prove a workable model. 'If it does come off it's good for me,' he said.

However in the same breath Mr Gyngell said he doubted that the approach would work long term.

The print edition of The Australian newspaper today had a gold coloured front page to celebrate the release of its so called gold digital pass which allows access to 'premium online content' on the website, tablet app and mobile site. Subscribers to the print edition have been offered a free trial of the service which is trying to encourage consumers to pay different rates for different tiers of content.

Speaking at the launch of the new brand for the Microsoft-Nine joint venture which will next year be known as MI9, Mr Gyngell said that although specialist print content was still performing well, mass market content was under pressure from free online alternatives. He said partnering with Microsoft in ventures such as ninemsn and MI9 amounted to Nine 'laying its bets' in the online content arena.

Mark Britt, the CEO of the new MI9 venture and recently installed head of ninemsn, when quizzed at the launch of the new brand in Sydney today said that; 'For niche content I get the paid model'¦but information wants to be free.

'Putting walls around information does not work.'

Mr Gyngell's organisation meanwhile is labouring under a significant debt burden and there has been mounting speculation about how its owner CVC Asia Pacific might reorganise the company. Asked about speculation that some of the brands in which Nine is a partner, such as iSelect, could be sold off Mr Gyngell said; 'Some of the stories are just not true.'

That included suggestions of a wholesale sell off of assets.

In any case he noted that the 'valuations of print assets are not huge' suggesting there might be a limited market for Nine's ACP stable of print publications 'even we were selling.' He also argued against any piecemeal sale of Nine assets as the company was more valuable if all the assets were kept together.

Mr Gyngell also ruled out an IPO of the organisation. 'Our valuation would put us into a tough situation to get a float away,' he acknowledged.

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