It’s back to the future again at Nine as CEO David Gyngell devolves power and returns to a few proven winners to settle his ship.
Significant changes are afoot at the Nine Network with CEO David Gyngell, Kerry Packer’s godson, finally realising he cannot be all things to everyone at once, micro-manage numerous issues and expect people to work.
Since becoming CEO in June, Gyngell has been overseeing all the network, especially news and current affairs, probably the most important part of the business, given the amount of income generated by the 6-7pm timeslot. Daytime TV programming and management, sport, network sales have also been in his bailiwick, making for a very stretched CEO.
He has now realised that power has to be relinquished along with responsibility and the freedom to make decisions, whether they are right or wrong. But one of the last decisions was ‘structural housekeeping’, to quote Nine, at the Today Show.
The Executive Producer of the Today Show, Darren Wick now reports to Steve Wood, his old boss at Today whose oversight of all Day Time Television at Nine has been confirmed.
Wick’s counterpart on the Mornings with Kerry-Anne, Jebby Phillips also reports to Wood, who has also got responsibility for working up a local version of The View, the afternoon chat show (Beauty and the Beast for grown ups?) for next year. Two pilots have already been done and various women personalities and possible hosts have been chatted to, piloted and assessed.
The move frees Gyngell up to be a less interventionist CEO, but he will have to learn to trust people and to stand back. However, people round Nine are wondering whether this is a bit more of the ‘Back to the Future” approach.
For example, Steve Barrett was brought back from News Ltd to work on A Current Affair, possibly 60 minutes and maybe the new forensic investigators style knock off program that Nine is working up to match the Seven Network’s show, which was presented to Nine as a pilot two years ago, but they said no. Michael Healy, Nine’s programmer, didn’t like it. Following Seven’s success, he now likes it!
Barrett is a long time Nine investigative producer and reporter and his last departure wasn’t all that happy. That Nine has gone to reclaim an experienced hand like him is a sign of some glimmer of recognition that the Kerry Packer-John Alexander purge of experienced people between 2002 and 2004 went too far.
But Nine people also wonder whether this is the answer. After all Steve Wood allowed Seven’s Sunrise to sneak up, shoot past and then all but bury the timeslot leading Today Show.
Today has gone through two major overhauls in the past year or so, an extension of length, considerable doubt about the future of presenters Steve Liebmann and Tracey Grimshaw and other de-stabilising rumours. But with long time producer and film and TV director, Peter Faiman on board as a consultant, there’s signs that stability might be returning.
Certainly Faiman has driven the latest revamp of Today, which will be number three, in a year, when it appears in 2005.
The revamp which includes rebuilding the Today studio at Nine (which will help the early news and A Current Affair), will cost the best part of $4.5 million. Today’s exile to the Sydney Intercontinental Hotel while this happens is costing the best part of $250,000 a week all up. So it is a big commitment by Nine to the program and the current presenters.
Nine staffers wonder how Darren Wick, having tasted the position of an EP who reported to the CEO, will take to being the EP who now reports to his old boss.
Elsewhere at Nine, the restructure (another Back to the Future moment) of Sunday and Business Sunday into one unit, like it was before the Ross Greenwood inspired business unit that was promoted by the lamentable Jim Rudder and by John Alexander who was the notional CEO of Nine at the time) was born earlier this year.
That died three weeks ago, as exclusively reported in Crikey, with John Lyons, the EP of Sunday regaining control of Business Sunday, as it was when Stephen Rice was EP (he was replaced by Lyons towards the end of 2003).
Business Sunday advertised (through Lyons) for a reporter for the program next year, the second attempt in four months to attract a candidate to Nine to replace Helen McCombie, a reporter who departed in August.
This would also indicate that Karen Tso, Max Uechtritz’s big name signing from the ABC as a business reporter next year, will not be on Business Sunday, despite some spin from Nine that she would.
Perhaps she will pop up in the news (understandable given news boss Max Uechtritz hired her) and A Current Affair, where John Westacott has the power, as well as at 60 minutes where he has to deal with the appearance of Paul Barry in the same room as Richard Carleton next year. That should be fun!
Westacott also has to deal with the weakness of ACA, especially in Sydney where it has continued to struggle in the summer ratings first week last week. Despite what some might have though, it seems the program, not regular presenter Ray Martin, is on the nose a bit with Sydney viewers.
Certainly Seven’s Today Tonight has made up ground nationally and in Sydney on ACA, although the Nine program still has a slightly larger audience. Today Tonight accounted for A Current Affair in Sydney last week, a challenge for Westacott to turnaround over the summer break.
At Sunday John Lyons has apparently been putting out one or two blazes in the past fortnight or so that went as high as Gyngell, but the situation has been sorted and resolved. Contracts have been signed!
It now seems that no replacement for Rudder will be appointed. Oversight power of Daytime TV, News, and the two major current affairs strands has been devolved, freeing Gyngell from the day to management of all these complex issues, as well as looking at programming, sales performance and the more corporate problems that a CEO has to confront each day and week.