Schapelle Corby has scored a hugely profitable triple whammy today: she's free from jail, she's signed a deal with Channel Seven worth as much as $3 million - and she's used the media bidding war as payback to Channel Nine for airing a movie about her crime, with the network not even able to put an offer on the table.
One industry source said the exclusive Seven deal - one of the biggest chequebook journalism deals in Australian TV history - may have been stitched up long before the dramatic events of recent days as the convicted drug smuggler's parole was approved by the Indonesian government.
"I believe it was done ages ago when Nine first signed up for the movie," the source said. "That's when the Corbys stopped talking [to Nine]."
Saround the $3 million mark.
Corby was seen leaving the parole office in Bali today in the company of legendary TV current affairs interrogator Mike Willesee, who does occasional stories for Seven's Sunday Night program.
Fairfax's James Robertson reports that Corby and a Channel Seven crew had arrived at Sentosa Seminyak, a luxury resort and spa in the fashionable Seminyak district.
It is not yet clear when the interview will air, or whether Seven is sharing the cost with a magazine.
The Australian Woman's Weekly, New Idea and Woman's Day have all been in Bali as part of the ferocious efforts to win exclusive access to Corby and her family.
Another industry figure told Fairfax Media that the deal, though a clear coup for Seven, came with complications - including the problem of avoiding confiscation of the money under proceeds of crime laws.
Seven will also have to continue managing the circus seen on Monday, when Corby walked out of prison with her head covered by a shawl to keep her current appearance a mystery. She also left the parole office under heavy security provided by her TV pay masters.
"[They've got to] keep Schapelle hidden away to protect the asset, hence the squad of ... black cars today. That's a bad look over time. Then there's the small matter of what she can actually say and not breach her parole and invite the wrath of the [Indonesian] legal system."
The other big, and crucial, question is whether a Schapelle Corby exclusive is worth such a massive investment, given clear signs of fading public interest in her story and a major shift in sympathy, with most Australians now believing her to be guilty.
A worrying sign for Seven came in what was otherwise a triumph for the network, with its INXS mini-series thumping Nine's heavily promoted broadcast of its Schapelle telemovie on Sunday night.
But Nine today was undeterred by the disappointing ratings: it has announced an evening of Corby-related programming for Monday night.
A news special, hosted by Peter Overton, will air at 8.40pm, followed an hour later by a repeat screening of the telemovie.
Channel Seven has been contacted for comment.
- Sydney Morning Herald