Southern Cross has the Nine Network blues too. A few years ago
when Southern Cross Broadcasting bought the Nine Network station in
Adelaide, CEO Tony Bell and chairman John Dahlsen instituted a big cost
cutting scheme that sharply lowered staff numbers and operating costs
and boosted profits. So dramatic was the improvement that there was
chat about eight years or so ago that he was being considered for the
CEO role at the PBL-owned Nine Network in Sydney. Now, PBL has its well
documented problems with Nine, but so does SBC. The problems have
nothing to do with the management of Bell and everything to do with the
dud programs being supplied to his station (and the appalling STW 9 in
Perth in which SBC has a large but not controlling stake – that is
held by Sunraysia TV). The Nine Network stations have reported a
downturn in ad revenues – 4.6% for the PBL stations and 0.6% for SBC,
but that includes its regional TV operations (the downturn in Adelaide
was larger). Earnings from TV fell and it was only a solid increase
from radio that helped. Overall earnings fell to $28.8 million, down
38% from a year ago which included a $15 million one-off. Stripping
that out and the loss was nowhere near as nasty as at first glance.

Tony
Bell says the company will look at cost cuts in operations and
programming but, even though staff numbers have risen from the big
slashes of a few years ago, there’s not much fat left. The regional TV
businesses have a reputation of being lean and mean and face
higher costs next year from the AFL. The truth of the matter is that
SBC is hostage to the recovery (if and when it comes) in the fortunes
of the PBL-owned part of the Nine Network. SBC and other affiliates pay
millions of dollars a year to PBL to be part of Nine and take its
product. At the moment they are not getting value for money from the
Packer Empire. An awful lot of money is riding on Eddie McGuire (AM)
and his ability to turn the Nines around. – Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners Seven again in a narrow win, well, narrower than Tuesday
night. Nine was second and Ten had another good Wednesday night with its cluster
of 16 to 39 targeted programs (including that female viewer grabber, House). But
Seven’s Prison Break was number one with 1.512 million, followed by Today
Tonight
(1.394 million) then House (1.384 million), McLeod’s Daughters (1.366
million). Outside of 60 Minutes and CSI on Sunday nights, McLeod’s is Nine’s
strongest performer in ratings. Getaway (tonight) is also doing well. Not very
much else though. Home and Away with 1.291 million, NCIS on Ten with 1.251
million, Beyond Tomorrow (Seven, with 1.171 million), Temptation with 1.145
million and Nine News with 1.109 million. Temptation finally beat The Biggest
Loser
(1.081 million) because of a solid local ordinary champion and not stunt
TV. She’s gone (will be back from March 27 for more stunts), so will
Temptation‘s audience stay or quit tonight? Bondi Rescue for Ten again over a
million at 8pm while Jamie’s Italian Escape (7.30 pm and 975,000) was a bit
weaker than a week earlier.
The Losers Losers? Hard to see on a night with 14 programs with a
million or more viewers. Bert’s Family Feud lost 64,000 viewers from Tuesday
night to fall to 471,000: Deal Or No Deal was also weak with 789,000, Wheel of
Fortune
(Seven, 5 pm) was also weak with 456,000. ER on Nine has a wasting
disease: 895,000 last night. Little Britain (932,000) wasn’t a failure while
Spicks and Specks on before it at 8.30pm averaged 885,000, so a nice turn-on to
the loonies of the New Britain. The New Inventors 822,000, average (but with a
couple of great products last night).
News & CA Seven News and Today Tonight with big national wins and
wins everywhere, especially in Melbourne and Brisbane. Nine News in Sydney
dipped to 293,000, but ACA reached 300,000. That’s still much weaker than
Melbourne or Brisbane. But Seven News won by more than 230,000 and Today Tonight
beat ACA nationally by almost 300,000. Ten News with 808,000 won the 5 pm to 6
pm slot and the ABC 7pm News averaged 877,000 and the 7.30 Report,
786,000.
The Stats Seven with 28.8% (29.1% last Wednesday). Nine was
second with 26.7% compared to 26.3% a week earlier. Then came Ten with 24.9%
(25.9%) the ABC with 15.0% (14.7%) and SBS with 4.6% (4.0%). Nine won Sydney and
Adelaide in a good performance, Seven won Melbourne, Brisbane and
Perth.
Glenn Dyer’s comments A sliding night for everybody. Seven won not because
of the up-tick for Prison Break, but because 6pm to 7.30pm was so solid
and Nine is weakening, especially A Current Affair which is looking terminal in
its present configuration, which is a pity. If Eddie McGuire (AM) wants to show
his colours then ACA and Today would be good places to start, rather than on
marginal programs out of prime time. Tonight the NRL Footy Show is back in
Sydney and Brisbane. Will the boofheads appeal once again, or will it be like
last year, a very slow start? Lost and The Amazing Race on Seven will win the
night, along with the News, Today Tonight and Home and
Away.

Peter Fray

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