Nine has “boned” Bert Newton’s main network gig, the Monday to Friday 5.30pm game show, Family Feud. It comes only days after Jessica Rowe, another appointee of former CEO Sam Chisholm, was axed.
And in true Nine style it couldn’t make the announcement straight out: it attempted to hide the fact at the end of a press release about Bert re-signing with Nine and you had to scan down carefully to reach the real news — the fate of Family Feud.
Following on from Bert Newton’s celebrations of 50 years in Australian television last week, Channel Nine is pleased to announce Bert has renewed his contract with the Nine Network, and will host the new series of What a Year in the coming months…
Bert will have another busy year at Nine, as he continues to host 20 to 1 on Tuesday nights at 7.30pm, along with the new series of What a Year, and other special events. Bert’s Family Feud, 5.30pm week days, will continue to air until the current series concludes in June, when it will be rested.
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There’s that magic word “rested”. Just as Who Wants To be Millionaire is still “resting” after host Eddie McGuire let it go last year when he became Network CEO, before returning to front 1 vs 100. But why rest Family Feud? It hasn’t matched Seven’s Deal or No Deal but it hasn’t disgraced.
Bert was signed for a reputed $1 million a year which would have made him close to the highest paid person on a network where salaries for the likes of Ray Martin and 60 minutes EP, John Westacott, have been slashed. Bert worked hard for Nine so the network certainly got its money’s worth from the 69-year-old, but Nine sources say that with Family Feud gone, so has part of Bert’s big salary to reflect his lighter work load.
Family Feud runs till June 1 — what will replace it? Viewers might remember Nine “rested” FF over Easter for 10 days and doubled up episodes of the BBC program, Antiques Roadshow. The second half hour episosde from 5.30pm either matched or did a touch better than FF (although since it returned FF has topped the 600,000 viewer mark seven times. Antiques Roadshow has not got near that at 5pm).
It’s cheap TV and Nine reckons it can make more money at 5.30pm running a cheap-as-chips buy-in from Pay TV than running with the higher cost Bert and his Family Feud.
But there’s also an amazing rumour that Nine is thinking of reviving the Live At Five idea that peaked briefly around 15 or 16 years ago and to this day only survives on BTQ 9 where it runs as Brisbane Extra.
Brisbane Extra has gradually lost viewers over the past eight months since long time host Rick Burnett was made redundant last year (he was apparently glad to go).
The suggestion is that Live at Five would be networked out of Sydney and fronted by Kelli Connolly, who this morning fainted during a cooking segment on Today (watch the vision here and here), to help keep her at Nine instead of moving to Seven in a tit for tat swap when Seven’s Weekend Sunrise co-host Lisa Wilkinson moves.
Wilkinson is considered a certainty to move to Today, barring a last minute change of heart and there are convenient stories around that Connolly, who has been filling in on Today since Sarah Murdoch left, was talking to Seven.
Live At Five was a failure everywhere bar Brisbane. it was expensive, cost 6pm audience viewers and was known as “Live At Five, dead at six” for its impact on the news.
With viewers not getting home until later, especially in Sydney, there’s no reason to run it from a cost/revenue point of view.
If Nine is to make it local but national it will have to convince Southern Cross, the owner of Adelaide and WIN, the probable owner of Perth, to meet the costs. That is unlikely. They would also be unwilling to meet any of the costs of a networked program.
Meanwhile, Nine’s 1pm chat show The Catch-Up fell out of the top 100 programs list yesterday when its audience slid below 100,000 for the first time. If the Nine Network has decided to save money by “resting” Bert’s Family Feud and cutting his salary, what don’t they make more savings and axe The Catch-Up and its staff of four under performing hosts?
The thinking behind the introduction of The Catch-Up into the Nine schedule at 1pm exposed the lack of strategic thinking at Nine on costs and programming. Nine ditched The Young and The Restless which was averaging between 150,000 and 200,000 most days. It followed Dr Phil which was the trump card for Nine at noon with averages from 180,000 to 270,000, depending on issues and weather. But Nine lost Dr Phil to Ten when it failed to renew its CBS contract and got rid of The Young and The Restless (now on Foxtel).
As soon as Dr Phil moved at the start of last week The Catch-Up‘s audience began falling. Nine lengthened the cooking show, Fresh (which was 30 minutes at 11.30am) to an hour and moved it to midday, where its audience is now at 79,000, well below what it was getting at 11.30am.
So by losing Dr Phil and getting rid of The Young and The Restless, Nine has cut costs but added to them in the form of the longer version of Fresh and The Catch-Up. And in doing so it has more than halved its daytime audiences. Is that what James Packer meant when he laid out the new mantra for Nine last year: programming for profit?