Difficult times for the Seven Network with news that the Network’s successfully revived Sydney 6pm news might be hit by a reduction in working hours for newsreader, Ian Ross.

A former weekend and early morning newsreader at Nine, Ross has enjoyed his rebirth as a prime time reader on a regular and very successful basis – a role the Nine Network repeatedly denied him.

Ross is currently the Monday-to-Friday newsreader but his contract expires at the end of this year and I hear he now wants to cut his reading commitments to four nights a week. Seven wants him to continue with five. This proposal has gone to Seven bosses who are reportedly under-impressed, but know they need him because they are still developing talent.

The news of Ross’s contract proposals will not help an already weakening Seven share price. It’s been a losing week for the Seven Network in the ratings, the third in a row. There was also the shock of the profitable option deals for CEO David Leckie and his Commercial director, Bruce McWilliam. As a result the share price goes for a burton.

Seven shares closed at $6.86 yesterday, down 44 cents from Friday’s close. That’s still high by 2004 standards when the stock was all but unwanted.

Leckie converted 1.5 million options to shares at $5 and is still making a profit of 1.86% per share, and has another 1.5 million options in his kitty. McWilliam converted half his two million options to shares and is sitting on a $1.86 million gross profit, which is more than twice he earned in 2004. Leckie’s gross profit from his conversion is $2.8 million.

Seven lost to Nine last night despite having more top rating shows, simply because Jamie’s Kitchen on the Ten Network blew away the opposition between 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

As a result Seven finished with a national share of 26.4%, Nine won with 29.3% and Ten was third with 25.2%. The ABC finished with 14.8% and SBS with 4.3%

Peter Fray

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