PBL Media and the Nine Network are no more; it’s now Nine Entertainment Co and Nine Television, well sort of.

It’s actually a Clayton’s rebranding because nothing much will change except the logo, colours and the way the company and its various arms are referred to in corporate press releases.

All the existing company names, etc, are being retained because to change them (ACP) would be costly, a waste of money, and would allow some sharpie to swoop on the unwanted PBL Media and grab ownership?

So Nine Network Australian, General Television and TCN will all be nestling deep in the corporate bowels at NEC (Oops, can’t shorten it to that because there’s already a giant called NEC in Japan).

This is only a rebranding for marketing and PR purposes. It’s actually the third in the past six years. Nine seems to be still having trouble settling on an identity.

One old identity that’s gone by the by is the line that “More people watch News on Nine than any other network” (which was stolen from the ABC Network in the US anyway).

Nine’s surviving news and current affairs programs were described in yesterday’s release as “Nine, the Home of  the most respected News and Current Affairs: Nine News, A Current Affair, 60 Minutes and the Today Show.” It’s a pretty slim line-up. Respected, they may be, top rating they aren’t. Seven’s offerings remain the most watched news and current affairs programs.

The name changes and new logos and branding (which look pretty average) are all part of the softening up of investors ahead of the sale/float of Nine in the second half of 2011, which has already started with some soft interviews with The Australian Financial Review. No doubt more will follow in The Australian’s media section soon.

Also on the agenda is the return to silly salaries, with Nine paying Jamie Durie more than $800,000 a year for three years to return to Nine and give us more of the same old he did for Nine in Backyard Blitz.

Durie is hosting a local version of US cable format called Top Design. Its Bravo network program and won’t teach us thing we haven’t already been told from Backyard Blitz, Changing Rooms, Home Improvement, The Block, etc, etc.

The bad news for viewers is that Top Design was not a success in the US. It lasted two seasons in 2007-2008, which isn’t something Nine was letting on yesterday.

So they are paying Durie the best part of $2.5 million for three years to host a format that didn’t make it past two years, in a genre that has run its day on Australian TV.

Two other points emerged from the Nine launch. It was incomplete, the much-touted Federal Police from Zapruder’s Other Films (Andrew Denton), which was promoted as being in the 2010 line-up a year ago, has disappeared. Legal issues (court cases) delayed it this year; you’d think that it would be about ready to air next year. From all accounts, it’s supposed to be pretty good.

Instead Nine promoted a new idea from Denton’s company called The Joy of Sets (The Joy of S-x, nudge, nudge).

The Joy Of Sets, giving viewers their unique take on television; the good, the bad and the fabulously misguided. From Zapruder’s Other Films (producer of The Gruen Transfer) The Joy Of Sets will take you to parts of the television universe you never knew existed.”

Will it have the guts to take to some of the terrible things the Nine Network has (sorry, Nine Television) given us over the years (Monster House, anyone?).

David Gyngell, the man who renamed PBL Media, has been after Denton to do a sort of Gruen Transfer type of show ever since Gruen started on the ABC. Gruen is returning to the ABC next year.

But with one yesterday’s man in Jamie Durie returning to Nine/Nine for next year and beyond, what of the other man from yesteryear? I of course mean Dazza Somers of Hey Hey Its Saturday, or should it be Hey Hey It Was Saturday?

No sign of Daz at Nine’s essentially advertisers launch yesterday in Sydney. Hey Hey died everywhere bar Melbourne when it finished this year on Saturday nights. It died slowly and horribly in Sydney.

Dazza could become a cost saving to pay for Jamie and his 1980s salary.

And finally, proving again that there is not a creative bone in Nine’s corporate body, the network has ripped off an old ABC idea, with one significant minus.

“And, in anticipation of the 2012 London Olympics Games, Nine is delighted that John Clarke and Gina Riley will star in an all new series of the John Clarke/Ross Stevenson mockumentary, THE GAMES — London Calling.”

No Bryan Dawe to be a straight man for Clarke, which kinda defeats the purpose, as does the whole storyline about the Games was the planning for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, not London 12 years later.

I bet Nine and Gyngell are thinking of bringing Roy and HG back for The Dream for the Network’s coverage of the 2012 games. Now that’s a bit of forward, original thinking.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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