The head of the Fairfax Media/Nine Entertainment Co JV Stan, Mike Sneesby, credits a Nine board member as the person who first suggested the broadcaster look at an SVOD play.
“David Coleman, then director of strategy at PBL Media, was the person looking at the category. He deserves the credit as he believed in the category before almost anyone else did.” (Coleman is now the federal member for Banks in NSW, sitting as a member of the Liberal Party.)
At that time Sneesby had come back to Australia after running an internet TV business in the Middle East – Intigral – based in Dubai and the company launched a TV service into Saudi Arabia called Invision.
“It was a space I understood and something I was very passionate about. The combination of Coleman’s vision where the market could go and my passion for the category turned into the venture.”
Sneesby was instructed to turn Coleman’s vision into a business plan. “That started with Nine backing the venture and then Fairfax Media coming in as a 50% partner. It snowballed from there.”
Sneesby laughed when he said he must have written about 200 versions of the business plan as it was continually refined. “There was much work over many, many months sitting in working with stakeholders.”
The core team in the early days had Sneesby alongside a graduate intern working with him on data analysis to fuel the business plan.
“We spent time looking at international markets and scoping out what we thought the business would look like.
“Stan is certainly not here by any accident. At the end of the day I am the bloke lucky enough to be given the opportunity.
“It is the blood, sweat and tears of about 65 staff members at Stan who have built it to what it is today. It is a fantastic team who each in their respective categories have extended themselves beyond possibly what even they thought they would do when they came into the business.”
Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment Co each had to make $50m available initially to be drawn down when needed after the Stan launch. Asked if it took a little while to convince the shareholders to hand over that much cash, Sneesby said:
“The key to it was David Gyngell’s belief and conviction in the category. He is someone who has a great sense of how media and media markets evolve. He never needed convincing. He was always on from day one. [Gyngell was CEO of NEC during the time the SVOD platform was launched.]
“With Gyngell on from day one, and with support from the NEC board, that really got the ball rolling.
“Before Fairfax Media came on board, Nine had already committed to taking on the entire investment. It was so convinced in the category that time to market was more important than signing a joint venture partner. We initially made the call to kick off the venture as a full funded Nine venture as a first step. Bringing in a joint venture partner was almost an optional second step if we found the right strategic partner.
“Fairfax Media was that right strategic partner for us.”