Senior Seven programmer set to retire. A gap in the Seven programming ranks is about to appear. John Stephens, who walked from Nine to Seven after David Leckie was sacked in January 2001, is understood to have decided to retire this year. He recently turned 60 and has bought a winery in the Port Stephens area of the NSW coast, just north of Newcastle. His departure will leave an enormous hole in the Seven programming department which is headed up by Tim Worner and his offsider, Brad Lyons. Stephens brought an enormous amount of programming nous to Seven from his time at Nine, and has consistently backed up the ideas of Worner and others in his department. His retirement will probably spur Nine to try and recruit him back to Willoughby, but that would be fruitless as he walked because of the way Leckie was sacked by the late Kerry Packer, with no one raising a finger at PBL management (James Packer and John Alexander) to stop it. Meanwhile Nine is auditioning hosts this week for the new quiz program One vs 100. Eddie McGuire is tipped by some unkind souls to select himself. If he does it would be the first time the CEO of a major company has stepped down on air, because that’s what he would be doing if he takes the gig. It would also raise the question why Nine didn’t just restart Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It would have been cheaper. — Glenn Dyer

ABC loses Kids TV boss. The ABC has lost its long serving Kids TV programmer, Deirdre Brennan. Her departure was announced in a statement from the ABC today: “ABC Director of Television, Mr Kim Dalton, today announced the resignation of ABC Kids Programmer, Ms Deirdre Brennan. Ms Brennan’s resignation will take effect from January 31st. Mr Dalton said he was sorry to see Deirdre leave the ABC after more than 20 years of stellar service … As an interim measure, Ms Donna Andrews will consult on programming and acquisitions for ABC Kids. Donna has extensive experience in television programming and acquisitions including senior positions at Network Ten, ABC TV, Nickelodeon and Channel V. In 2006, ABC Kids achieved monthly shares of up to 65% of 0-4 year olds weekday mornings (8.00-8.30am) and 81% of 5-12 year olds weekday afternoons (4.30-5.00pm).” So no explanation, not even “to pursue other interests”, “spend more time with the family” or even “gardening leave”. What was odd about the announcement was the mention of share figures for kids programming in 2006: why not since Ms Brennan took the job she is now leaving? — Glenn Dyer

So much for the “Save our Sport” campaign. There were isolated flashes of that Free To Air TV campaign in the push from pay TV (Foxtel mainly) to water down the anti-siphoning laws for TV sports broadcasts during the Test cricket on Nine last month. Kenny Sutcliffe, the Nine sports reporter in Sydney, was the star, naturally. But one ad we would love to see now is the Ten Network version starring Ryan Phelan, the then presenter of Sports Tonight. Phelan was considered good talent at Ten and was promoted as one of the network’s “faces” in 2006; hence he fronted the campaign. So you’d think Ryan would be feeling pretty happy about his part in the campaign, but a careful viewing of the US-based ESPN Pay TV sports network reveals that Phelan is now one of the hosts of a new service aimed at Australia and countries around the Pacific. It starts today in the US and is being anchored from ESPN HQ in the US state of Connecticut. — Glenn Dyer

Arts minister headed for Paris? It’s not just indigenous artworks that get knocked about in Paris. Australian Ambassador Penny Wensley is under assault for concentrating too much on the arts and not enough on business. The upcoming concert from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on Mardi 30 Janvier has become a particular bone of contention. Les Parisiennes aren’t exactly queuing up for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées show. Crikey understands that only around 200 tickets have been sold. And understandably so. The French have taken little interest in Melbourne since Baudin sailed by, don’t know the connection with Pêche Melba – and have better bon-bons on offer. But there is an intriguing subplot here that may have amplified the criticism. Arts Minister Senator Rod Kemp has already announced his retirement. Some say he has his eye on the job in Paris. And, of course, the Government has form in this regard. Remember who John Howard’s first ambassador in Paris was? None other than Mr Carla Zampatti – John Spender. — Christian Kerr

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Despite a solid boost from the first day and night of the Australian Open tennis and winning efforts by the News, Today Tonight and the returning Home and Away, the Nine Network beat Seven narrowly because its later evening programming was a bit stronger than the greenball stuff. But Today Tonight did very well, its audience averaging 1.545 million, boosted by the higher audience for the News (third with 1.407 million) and boosted at the end by a turn-on for Home and Away at 7pm (second with 1.531 million). Nine News was fourth with 1.272 million, the 7pm ABC News was strong with 1.139 million, while Nine’s 8.30 repeat of CSI Miami averaged 1.090 million and was probably the difference on the night between winning and losing. Supernatural on Ten at 8.30pm averaged a strong 1.039 million. Ten’s Cops at 9.30pm averaged 962,000, The King of Queens on Nine at 7pm, 844,000 and the early evening tennis session averaged 828,000.

The Losers: Nip/Tuck on Nine at 9.30pm, 766,000 which was OK but the program is starting to bore. Likewise Nine’s Outrageous Fortune at 10.30pm; it averaged 408,000 and was beaten by Seven’s late session of tennis with 413,000. But Australian TV and Nine is the poorer for the screening of the NZ-taxpayer funded program which does nothing for Australian content except get Nine off the hook. Nine’s other Kiwi programs, Motorway Patrol at 7.30pm and 8pm (the repeat) averaged 693,000 and 679,000 respectively and are TV spakfilla.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market bar Melbourne. Seven News won by 238,000 nationally. Today Tonight won by 340,000 nationally and everywhere bar Melbourne. Nine News and ACA were clear winners in Melbourne. With Seven going hard on the Australian Open Tennis from Melbourne it would have hoped for a winning effort in the sports mad town. but Nine was stronger. Nine News‘s audience there of 481,000 was the biggest in the country. ABC News was again strong with more than 1.1 million and The 7.30 Report was also higher with a solid 894,000, up against the start of the tennis on Seven at night. Ten News was also strong with 917,000 viewers. Ten’s Late News and Sports Tonight averaged 498,000 at 10.30pm and easily beat Nine and Seven. Nine buried Nightline at 11.30pm and it averaged just 236,000. In the 7am battle Sunrise, with 403,000 viewers, easily beat Today which shed thousands of viewers on last week to average just 203,000 people.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 28.0% (27.6% a week earlier) from Seven with 27.7% (26.0%), Ten was third with 21.2% (21.5%), the ABC with 15.0% (16.9%) and SBS with 8.2% (8.1%). Nine won Sydney and Brisbane (the 7 point gap helped Nine home nationally). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne (the tennis did help later in night down there), Adelaide and Perth. Nine leads the week 29.8% to 25.1% for Ten. Seven is on 21.9%. In regional areas a clear win to Nine with 30.9% for WIN/NBN from 26.1% for Prime/7Qld, 21.2% for Southern Cross (Ten) and 13.0% for the ABC and 8.8% for SBS.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: So the summer battle is well underway. Nine had led with the cricket (but not the ODI between England and NZ from Hobart today) and Seven has countered with the tennis. Like Nine with the cricket, the coverage is slick and sharp, although Nine could have redone the Sky Graphic from the UK measuring reaction times and used to time the fabulous runout effected by Michael Clark in Sunday’s game. Come on folks, surely times are not that tough that you can’t redo a graphic in the new green look? What was surprising was the way TT beat ACA last night: ACA went on holidays last year and lost ground to TT; has it repeated the dose this January by staying on air with the wrong host? And another gripe. The ABC promos for The 7.30 Report – why do they have to end with a shot of Kerry O’Brien? He isn’t on air at the moment. Scott Bevan and Ali Moore have been doing a good job holding down the fort. It is not Kerry O’Brien’s program; it’s the ABC’s. If they don’t want to use pix of Moore or Bevan, why not use a generic logo shot? It’s a bit demeaning to the stand-in hosts, in fact. Apart from the tennis and the cricket today there’s not much on. Ten has the Golden Globes from LA.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW