Goldman Sachs Preps Debt-To-Equity Scheme For Nine Entertainment
Goldman Sachs is putting together a deal for a group of U.S. hedge funds to take control of Australia’s debt-laden Nine Entertainment Co., according to the Australian Financial Review. The plan involves the hedge funds converting part of the media company’s $A3.8 billion ($3.9 billion) debt into equity. Goldman manages mezzanine debt funds owed around $1 billion by Nine. Private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific bought Nine Entertainment, which includes the Nine Network, Australian News Channel, Ticketek, the Allphones Arena and a 50% stake in NineMSN, from James Packer for $5.5 billion in 2007. Last week the firm sold its publishing division ACP Magazines to Germany’s Bauer Media Group for a reported $500 million. Under Goldman’s plan Nine would retain $1.25 billion in debt through a new five-year facility. The paper said Goldman was due to put its proposal to Nine Entertainment’s lenders including hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management. -Don Groves

Australian Exhibitor Hoyts Enters VOD Biz
Launching in the first quarter of 2013, Hoyts will be the first major Australian exhibitor to offer a VOD service offering new releases day-and-date with DVD, plus classic movies and TV content. Monikered Hoyts Stream, the service aims to tap into Hoyts’ customer base which includes 547,000 members of its loyalty programs and 200,000 people who regularly use its DVD rental kiosk business Oovie. The initiative will put Hoyts Stream in direct VOD competition with Foxtel on Demand, Quickflix, iTunes, Big Pond Movies, Fetch TV, Google Play and Xbox. Nearly every Hollywood film and most indie titles are now available simultaneously on VOD and DVD in Australia. Neither of Hoyts’ major exhib rivals, Village Roadshow and Event Cinemas, has indicated any intention of entering the VOD business. Crispin Tristram, Hoyts chief marketing officer, who will run Hoyts Stream, said the firm is in advanced negotiations with U.S. majors and leading independents to acquire VOD rights. He declined to reveal pricing but said fees would be competitive. A subscription service for library film and TV content is to be introduced later in 2013. Hoyts chairman David Kirk said the company recognizes a need “to provide our customers choice for how they consume filmed entertainment from Hoyts, be it on the big screen, small screen or now any screen.” The firm is expanding its network of DVD rental machines to 500 by October and they will be rebranded Hoyts Kiosk. Owned by Pacific Equity Partners, Hoyts operates 55 cinemas with nearly 450 screens in Australia and New Zealand, clocking more than 18 million admissions annually. It recently sold its distribution company to StudioCanal. -Don Groves

Quickflix Bolsters Streaming Deals With U.S. Majors, Oz Indies
Australia’s only combined online DVD rental and subscription streaming service Quickflix is beefing up its PPV menu via new deals with Walt Disney Company Australia, Warner Bros Entertainment Australia and independents Madman Entertainment, Umbrella Entertainment, Accent Film, Bounty Films, Gryphon Entertainment and Transmission Films. Among the first titles that will be available are Marvel’s The Avengers, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 and, in mid-October, Rock of Ages. Quickflix already has PPV deals with NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, Icon Film, Pinnacle Films and Hopscotch/Entertainment One. Chief executive Chris Taylor tells Deadline the new deals are well timed as the company launches its streaming service to the new Samsung Galaxy tablets this month. In February, HBO bought a 15.7% stake in Quickflix for $10 million ($10.3 million) and sealed a subscription video on demand supply deal with the company. –Don Groves