After three days back working at the Nine Network, David Gyngell should know by now that he is facing an almost impossible task. He should be able to get the network back on track with some fairly simple programming and management initiatives, but can he get it back into a winning position?

He has to take risks to try and find some winners and so far his initiatives show some courage. It will have to be local programs, because that’s what people are watching. Nine has Canal Road and Underbelly for next year, as well as the very expensive second series of Sea Patrol, which is already looking like a loser. Gyngell should organise a new look ASAP.

One such program might be Nine’s much rumoured restaurant-based reality show, Food Fight, which is in production in Sydney. It doesn’t sound particularly original but it’s a sign Nine is having a go and realises it needs product. Gyngell has got David Barbour and Julian Cress to return to produce it. They were responsible for The Block, but also less successful celebrity programs such as Celebrity Overhaul.

Ten has swooped to get Fremantlemedia to bring back Nine’s successful 1970s and 1980s soap, Young Doctors. Now why didn’t that occur to the bright sparks who were running Nine before Gyngell appeared?

Gyngell knows from the ratings that the Network’s performance in the five major metro markets this year has been a disaster. Monday and Tuesday nights have been blackholes and nothing will change until Nine can be competitive on both nights. But Seven isn’t going to make that easy: Border Security, City Homicide and Dancing With The Stars are still powerful programs.

Looking at the past month of ratings, Nine has a relatively strong Saturday night, but advertisers don’t really want that. Friday nights are weak without the NRL, but Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays are relatively firm.

But even on these relatively strong nights, Nine has programming holes which it has struggled to fill this year, let alone in 2008. Nine has programs that do well, but rarely win. Apart from Sea Patrol, it has struggled to find a winning program this year.

Then there’s the lagging 6pm news and A Current Affair which will have to be boosted next year, otherwise nothing Gyngell does from 7pm onwards will work. Temptation has to be refreshed or junked and Nine really has to find a new hit at 5.30pm to battle the Ten News and Seven’s Deal or No Deal .

And could 60 Minutes be Nine’s 2008 basket case? It was hurt by Ugly Betty ‘s arrival on Seven at the start of the year but survived, and got good figures. But Kath & Kim and My Name Is Earl have hurt it. Likewise, Getaway which needs a new cast and look. Seven’s lifestyle travel program, The Great Outdoors is now marginal prime time material, will Getaway follow? Nine can’t afford that.

Nine’s share is down across the board in the major metro markets and in most demographics except the over 50s and over 55s. The network has completely lost touch with the 16 to 39 age group, is losing touch with the 18 to 49 and is trailing Seven badly in its target 25 to 54 group.

So far this year Nine’s share in all people is 27% for 6pm to midnight, down from the 29.1% for the same period of 2006 (that was inflated by the Commonwealth Games in March 2006).

And Nine can’t continue the absurd idea of programming for profit that James Packer and John Alexander tried (and which CVC is trying to maintain). Seven programs for profit by having programs people actually want to watch and charge advertisers for that success.