How serious is the Nine Network about
cutting costs? There’s been a lot written and spoken by Eddie McGuire
and his PBL bosses that profits are in and ratings are out.

While
Nine management wouldn’t authorise sending Satellite News Gathering
gear to north Queensland last Sunday because of the cost involved, Nine
staff have greeted with amazement news that costly changes are underway
on the third floor of the the network’s Willoughby HQ.

A move by
publicity from the second to the third floor is off; the explanation is
that McGuire wants the space for the new executives
he plans to hire.

One is McGuire’s longtime manager, AFL
executive and lawyer, Jeff Browne, who helped negotiate Eddie’s package
for the top job at the network. The other is Cos Cardone, head of
Nine’s AFL coverage and the AFL Footy Show and someone who is close to McGuire, who is coming to Sydney as director of Light Entertainment.

Staff at Nine
wonder whether the cost of the new executive appointments is linked to the fact
Sandra Levy has left Nine for good and that the line about her remaining
a “consultant” was nothing more than a cover story.

And where are the cost constraints after the network has committed to
paying an estimated $50-70 million a year more in two new production
deals with US suppliers? The most public deal was Nine’s two-year output deal with Sony, after Ten and Seven said “no thanks.”

But the most interesting agreement is Nine’s deal with
the independent Lionsgate studio, which was responsible for this year’s
surprise Oscar winner Crash.
TV insiders say this contract will be cheaper than the Sony deal –
perhaps around $30 million.

Nine has already done a deal on Lionsgate’s series Weeds,
about a single mother dealing
drugs which is shown only on US cable channel, Showtime. A program
about a single mother selling marijuana on free to air TV in Australia?
Could be tricky.

Peter Fray

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