It’s a big time at the Nine Network, another year’s in the bag, rate
negotiations are underway and a 8 to 12 per cent increase could be on the
cards, contracts are being terminated, renewed or both, the Network stations
have parties soon, with Sydney’s tomorrow night, and next week is hamper day
across the network, ACP and the rest of the Packer empire.

And its party time everywhere. Seven has a soiree in Sydney
tonight as well. Samba by the sea, natch!

There’s been Foxtel lunches, SBS lunches for the media, Ten has had a meal for
the Mejia and a gig for staff.

But despite the competition, the party kings are Nine. No one celebrates as
hard as Nine does, even in the new environment of post David Leckie.

CEO David Gyngell is a party animal and December is the time to rock
and roll (and for him, its also a chance to let his hair down before
his marriage to
reporter Leila McKinnon in a week’s time.)

Winners and grinners and Seven has meetings, is what former CEO, David Leckie,
now in a meeting at Seven, was fond of telling staff.

And David Gyngell has at least adopted that part of the old mantra to sell
tomorrow night’s festivities.

Punters at Nine will be able to Lord it over their magazine cousins at ACP.
From reports to Crikey this week the ACP affair at The Establishment was
sedate, a senior moment looking for a good time was one apt description. But
others reported plenty of food wine and company, but not much fraternisation
between management such as John Alexander, David Gardiner or Phil Scott, the
trio of heavies running the division.

As expensive as The Establishment might have been over at Nine no expense,
repeat no expense has been spared with the with the budget for tonight’s ‘rave’
put at between $100,000 and $2000,000. That’s a canteen estimate, I must
stress..

A huge Marquee has been built on the helipad at the back of the building. In
the surrounding suburbs of Willoughby,
Gore Hill and Artarmon the huge tent can be seen and locals know tonight
they’ll be able to hear it.

Nine has a habit of partying into the early hours of the morning after the
night before and complaints from locals are usually loud, but fall on deaf
ears.

However it’s the theme that has got people talking. CSI (Las
Vegas), the Network’s most reliable hit of the year,
its ‘go-to’ program when things get tough and Nine sees rival Ten getting a
roll on with Australian Idol and the Arias on a Sunday night.

It’s not the forensic, body parts side of the show, but the gambling, the Las
Vegas context, that’s the theme.

Yep, it’s a mini Crown casino, Backyard Blackjack! Which is some how
appropriate given the $700 million or so PAL has spent on acquiring Burswood
and the $200 million or so that is being spent moving into the Macau
casino and entertainment industry.

Nine staff report that the gaudy invitation to tomorrow night’s affair is
festooned with dancing girls, gambling references with everyone encouraged
“to join in the betting fun”.

There’s rolling dice and casino chips on the invite as well, plus suggestions
of some gambling money to spend at the party.

It has been a big year for Nine with record profits, record sales and while a
win in the ratings and a lift in profit margins. But audience share was down a
touch and down more in the vital 25 to 54 age group where 80% of advertising is
spent.

But in the Canteen and when they meet in the corridors and byways of Willoughby
there’s a lot of sighing and rolling of eyes and talking about the good old
days of Leckie, Peter Meakin and the like, even back to Ian Frykberg and Sam
Chisholm(even they he had returned as a director of PBL).

A common complaint is that ‘loyalty doesn’t matter any more’ or that
‘management doesn’t know what it is doing’.

That’s quite common in lots of work places, but it is being expressed freely
and really felt at this Christmastide at Nine.

Events in one program support the ‘lack of loyalty’ moan, and the fact that
management( and by that they mean David Gyngell) still seems to be too
instinctive and reactive, rather than stopping to think things through and be
subtle.

What has happened in that program just beggars belief!

So it will be one huge party tomorrow night. Let’s hope the CSI theme is not
invoked too much during the celebrations, otherwise the cleaning up will be
messy and quite, quite time consuming. Remember, everyone, next week is Hamper
time!

A tradition that’s still unique to Nine, all courtesy of the executive deputy
chairman himself. A great and wonderful time for everyone. Delivered on the
8th, and off to charity if not picked up by close of business on the
10th.Thousands of the hampers with turkey, ham, salmon and a nice selection of
wines and dry goods. a feast for everyone.

And the hampers go far and wide, but will they go to Vanuatu
where staff from a company called GRM have completed a small (a few million)
contract helping the locals with jails and policing. GRM is part of Kerry
Packer’s private empire, Consolidated Press International.

Meanwhile for Seven a party where Leckie can perhaps educate the Seven-ites in
the fine detail of good partying, Nine-style.

Seven’s party is at the stylish Jones
Bay corporate headquarters in
Ultimo in the Darling Harbour
area tonight.

And if you had to guess a theme (along the lines of Nine using that of CSI, its
most successful program this year), it would be, yep, you’ve guessed it.
Dancing with the Stars, Seven’s most successful program of the year and a
gamble that went good!

But the name has been changed to protect the innocent employees. It’s Samba by
the sea, with professionals, rather than contestants from the hit show, on the
floor tonight for Seven staff.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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