Heaven help the Nine Network. This is the
quote from Eddie McGuire’s mate and newly appointed second in command,
Jeff Browne, in yesterday’s Australian: “It will be a big challenge … but a television network is just a bucket of contracts.”

The
one thing I learned in almost 17 years at Nine is that TV contracts are
not worth very much, heavily slanted in favour of the management, and
are only as strong as the desire of the management to keep the talent
or the show secured by the contracted arrangement.

TV is full of
people, ideas and creativity and no amount of legal argy bargy or
contracts can replace “talent”. Just look at the way Nine has lost
talented managers, on-air people and production staff in recent years
(myself excluded, of course).

Browne has had no experience in
the media, no matter how many times he’s sat on the other side of an
AFL rights negotiation. He has of course negotiated the contracts of
McGuire and has managed at least two other journalists, Mike Sheahan of
the Herald Sun and Caroline Wilson of The Age, according to the Daily Telegraph’s Sydney Confidential column three weeks ago.

As
Nine is losing the AFL rights to Seven next year, any experience he
might have in that area will be irrelevant. His experience in sports
rights will assist Nine as the network assesses whether it should
continue with sports like tennis, golf, rugby union (Nine still has $10
million on the table for first and last rights for next year’s World
Cup Rugby), the NRL (the new contract starts next year) and
renegotiating or slimming down Nine’s cricket coverage by flicking the
domestic One Day games to Foxtel and replacing it with a national
Twenty20 competition.

Mr Browne was instrumental in two major changes at the AFL: the salary cap and the player draft.

Is
this something we shall see at Nine perhaps? Salary caps: maybe for the
ordinary employees, but not for the big on-air talent like Ray Martin,
Mike Munro or Liz Hayes. And the idea of a player draft amuses: we can
see an Eddie-led Nine offering to trade Ray Martin for Naomi Robson at
Seven and throwing in Tara Brown and a junior reporter from the News as
an inducement to deal.

Peter Fray

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