Nine’s chopper splurge:

it or not, the cash-strapped Nine Network has found more than $6 million to
splurge on three new news choppers for the Network’s Sydney, Brisbane and
Melbourne news operations.

Aviation sources say the Network has bought three Eurocopter B3s, at a
cost of $2.2 million each. Big bucks for a Network that has been
sweating on every dollar in recent months. But they are essential to
keeping the Network News operations in all cities on the ball and
competitive with Seven and the ABC. Without their own full-time
machines, the news services in each city would be signalling that Nine
was not longer interested in being “Still the One.” Seeing how the
chopper in Sydney is essentially 20 years old, it’s not before time,
while the machines in Brisbane and Melbourne, although younger, are
still nearing the end of their useful lives.

The new
machines are currently being built at Bankstown Airport in Sydney and
at Redcliffe, in Brisbane (for the Melbourne and Brisbane Nine
stations). The new
machines are also a major part of the re-branding of the Nine Network. They are
all expected to be delivered sometime towards the end of next month with the new
look emblazoned on their fuselages.

Last night’s TV

The Winners Well, Nine won the night, but probably did more to confuse
viewers and the AFL heavies than anything it has done this year. The broadcast
of the Brownlow Medal event in Melbourne was Nine’s turn this year and it gave
the network a big win but it wasn’t shown live in Sydney or Brisbane and Nine
lost, with the Sydney loss especially hurtful. Like Ten last year there’s just
not enough confidence about the “development” markets of Sydney and Brisbane.
The AFL will not be all that happy with the delayed telecasts into both markets.
Seven, if it gets the AFL, will have to do it differently. The Brownlow rated 1.212
million viewers on average, while the red carpet parade attracted an average
932,000 players. In Sydney it was on at midnight and was watched by just 19,000
people on average, in Brisbane, just 9,000, a real failure of nerve by Nine,
especially when Sydney is in Saturday’s AFL Grand Final. Ignoring the Brownlow
and looking earlier in the night, Seven cleaned up Nine comprehensively with
Home and Away, Today Tonight and Seven news all beating their Nine opponents.
Grey’s Anatomy at 8.30pm beat the Brownlow, which tells you what viewers really
want to see. Home and Away was the most watched program of the night. Its margin
over Temptation was almost 400,000!
The Losers

Hard to say with the impact of the Brownlow, but the
mixed messages Nine sent last night to all markets (its schedule was different
in all five), would not give comfort to the Network but it will bask in the
victory. Without the Brownlow, Nine would have been beaten though. It did lose
Sydney to Seven. The Alice was the biggest
loser on the night (see below). Temptation was also weak, falling to 1.129

News & CA Seven News, especially in Sydney where it and Today Tonight
has solid wins. Nine News and ACA won Melbourne and Brisbane, Seven news and TT
won Adelaide and Perth. The ABC News with 1.177 million people was the
broadcaster’s best program. The 7.30 report finished with a solid
The Stats

Nine with 33.6% from Seven with 24.5%, Ten with 18.5%,
the ABC with 16.9% and SBS with 6.5%. Seven won Sydney, 28.2% to 23.9% for Nine
and Brisbane, 27.4% to 27.0% in a true indication of what would have happened
without the Brownlow. Nine had big wins in Melbourne, Adelaide and
Glenn Dyer’s
Nine sacrificed The Alice last night, sending a big, big
message that the current 22 episode series will be the first and last. And how
did it do that? By showing it in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but not in
Adelaide and Perth where it would have clashed with the Brownlow broadcast (the
red carpet where the players and their frocks parade in a pale imitation of the
Oscars). Now The Alice is out of sequence. Nine will no doubt fix that up, but
valuable programs in a first run series don’t become ratings fodder and get
burned off. Tonight Dancing With the Stars on Seven will show that smart dancing
and attractive people make for far better viewing than AFL footballers, their frocks
and assorted media hangers on, from Eddie McGuire downwards.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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