If the Nine Network wanted the opportunity for revamping the AFL Footy Show to bring it into the 21st Century by ridding it of the pernicious influence of Sam Newman (and perhaps Eddie McGuire and his mate, James Brayshaw, the current host), then the collapse in the audience in Melbourne for last night’s episode provides ample reason enough to move. The program averaged just 163,000 viewers in Melbourne’s AFL heartland last night.

Melbourne is its most important market — Nine’s mantra has been that if the program was rating well in Melbourne, then all was well and there was no need to change. Not after last night.

Back on May 12 it had 320,000 viewers. Since then we have had the Eddie McGuire and James Brayshaw belittling of Age sports journalist, Carline Wilson, and then Sam Newman’s ignorant sledging of Wilson on last week’s program, a performance that earned him widespread condemnation for the level of its crudeness.

Last night’s 163,000 is believed to be one of the lowest recorded in Melbourne in the program’s time on air. Certainly it was the lowest for two years after the 162,000 seen in September, 2014. That was after Sam Newman exposed himself on the program that went to on August 7.

Sam Newman and to a lesser extent James Brayshaw have become toxic for the program’s future success. Nine will of course wait and won’t panic. It will want to see how future ratings for the program go in coming weeks.Of course they could very well rebound, but TV viewers in Melbourne have sent a big warning to Nine that they are no longer loyal and rusted on viewers of the Footy Show.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey