The Nine Network’s chances of gaining any traction in the 2008 ratings battle have taken another blow, raising questions about the management of David Gyngell and his programming head, Michael Healy. The performance of two new programs last night leaves the network’s comeback strategy looking tatty.

Last night, Nine started Monster House at 7.30pm and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles at 8.30pm.

The Terminator spin-off averaged 1.061 million, which is just enough to keep going if it pulls those numbers each week. As expected, it did well among men, 16 to 49 and 25 to 54, but it bombed with older viewers, grocery buyers and women, which is not what Nine wants. It needs to regain share among female viewers.

The real disaster for Nine last night was the unfriendly and unfunny Monster House, which averaged just 793,000. Those are poor figures and it had no appeal to any demographic. It was a waste of money.

Monster House gave viewers no reason to watch — it was boring, derivative and not friendly to either the viewers or the members of the public involved. We have seen it all before with the likes of Surprise, Surprise, Gotcha and Candid Camera.

Neither program made it into the Top 10 most watched programs in regional Australia and Nine ran a distant second to Seven in both the metro and bush markets.

The Underbelly debacle also calls into question the management of Nine not only by Gyngell and Healy, but also former managers, Eddie McGuire and Jeff Browne.

Both McGuire and Browne are from Melbourne and they should at least have sought legal advice as to the progress of all legal actions flowing from the gangland wars. They can’t just blame it on Mark O’Brien from Sydney.

The producers, Screentime, are Sydney-based but they should have sniffed out problems, ditto Film Victoria, which is a major funder of the $13 million budget (along with the Australian Film Finance Corporation).

Film Victoria is a State Government body. How much money did they sink into Underbelly and did they request a legal due diligence on the storyline and proposal?

The Nine Network has spent much moulah heavily promoting the program with extensive TV, newspaper and radio advertising, plus website material and special cinema screenings in Melbourne, which have now been cancelled.

It’s estimated that Nine wrote $4 million of ads against it in Melbourne alone and incurred most of the costs. That money will now either have to be given back, held in suspense accounts until the program is shown, or some other deal done.

And while it remains off air in Victoria, it will be downloaded from the internet and that will trim the available audience when it eventually screens in the state.

Could we get to a situation where the series is so widely distributed inside Victoria off the net, that the suppression order becomes irrelevant and the Supreme Court is forced to issue an indefinite stay of proceedings against the unnamed person whose trial is the cause of the current ban?