The Nine Network could have found the solution for one of its most troublesome timeslots, the 5.30pm lead-in to the news. While The Price is Right is struggling and Celebrity Squares has been flicked, the solution could be a new game show called Denial.

The second part of the Sunday
program’s look at 50 years of Australian TV yesterday (to mark its 49th
birthday) had the additional impact of acting as a video newsletter to
staff from Nine’s acting head, Sam Chisholm.

Reporter Graham Davis seemed to bowl up a few tasty half volleys to
Sam, who replied with some safe but efficient scoring shots. But
then Davis dug one in and asked whether the Nine Network, now in the
middle of a bruising battle with Seven “had taken its eye off the ball.”

On
to the back foot Chisholm went, a baleful glance fixed the reporter
somewhere camera left, the short pitched delivery was knocked to the
ground with the following reply: “I don’t want to get into that.” End
of story, the only penetrating delivery but the opportunity it afforded
denied.

Chisholm blamed the 5.30pm lead-in where Nine is weak
and Seven is strong (it hurts in Sydney, but not in Brisbane and
Melbourne where Nine still lead the news battle with Seven). Then he
took a gratuitous slap at Ten about how “Ten’s not doing, in my view,
as well as it should be.”

The fact remains that Ten’s gross
profit margin, the one measure the networks all agree on and target, is
easily the best in the industry. It’s more than 40% at the moment.
Seven’s is around 20%, and rising. Nine’s is 23.5% and has fallen
sharply in the past year and may improve this half simply because of
cost cutting.

And even with the $15 million in extra earnings to
flow from the program write-downs this financial year, Nine will not
approach Ten’s gross margin.

So who is not doing as well
as they should be? It would seem that’s Nine, and yet, that’s not
acknowledged at Willoughby. That’s also called denial.

Peter Fray

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