The Nine Network’s decision to replace Mark Ferguson as its Sydney 6pm newsreader with former 60 Minutes reporter Peter Overton is failing.

The move has seen ratings fall this week so far with a string of technical stuff-ups on air and poor story selection. On Tuesday night, Overton’s autocue appeared not to be working, forcing him to read the news from the papers on his desk.

The falling ratings and Ferguson’s departure has split Nine’s Sydney newsroom with older reporters, editors and camera people upset at the brutal flicking of Ferguson in favour of Overton. Reports of the split have surfaced in the Sydney media this morning about the change. Some of the comments from “friends” of Ferguson are so bitter that management will have to do something dramatic to end the outrage.

On Wednesday night, Overton’s 6pm bulletin suffered a bad loss to Seven in Sydney as Nine’s News averaged just 241,000 viewers compared to the 6pm Seven News which averaged a 383,000.

Ten’s 5pm to 6pm News had more viewers in Sydney, 261,000, than Nine did and the 7pm ABC News averaged 296,000. That put Nine and Overton 4th and last in the rankings for the major news bulletins last night in Sydney. It also saw A Current Affair badly beaten, especially in Sydney.

The contrast with what happened in Melbourne on Wednesday is telling: Seven averaged 411,000 for the 6pm news, Nine, 408,000. A close result and both networks would feel satisfied this morning.

The Wednesday night audience for Nine was the lowest so far this week: Overton peaked on Monday night with 290,000, fell to 268,000 on Tuesday and then dropped to 241,000 on Wednesday night. Seven’s audience has gone from 362,000 on Monday to 346,000 Tuesday and 383,000 last night.

In Sydney, Seven has been the only winner so far from Nine and Overton’s performance.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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