After being dropped as AFL Footy Show host last year after poor ratings, Craig Hutchison is enjoying a better Friday morning than his replacement (and throw-back host) Eddie McGuire.

Shareholders in Pacific Star Network yesterday green-lit the takeover of Hutchison’s Croc Media and the formation of a combined company with a market value of more than $20 million with radio and website coverage of the NRL and AFL, as well as print and other media interests. Hutchy will end up a very wealthy man. His SEN sports radio business (the core of Croc Media) could end up dominating radio sport in this country.

McGuire, on the other hand, is looking down the barrel at failure. He returned to host the Nine Network’s struggling program in August, after Hutchison was elbowed out as host and is having a miserable start to 2018. The Footy Show‘s ratings in Melbourne (the only market that matters for Nine and the program) remain at record lows — 173,000 last week for the season’s debut show and 174,000 last night. The audiences for the AFL program in Adelaide fell again to 30,000 from 35,000 last week, but rose in Perth to 46,000 from 43,000 a year ago. You can’t succeed with the AFL Footy Show if you are popular in Perth and failing in Melbourne.

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But the struggles of Eddie and his Footy Show (his own company produces it for Nine), pales in comparison to the disaster that is The NRL Footy Show in Sydney and Brisbane. 188,000 watched it in Sydney (110,000) and Brisbane (78,000) last week. Last night that fell 19% to 152,000 — Sydney 82,000 and Brisbane 70,000.

The biggest loss was in the key Sydney market. The NRL game was the lead-in progam for The Footy Show in Sydney. Seeing how 239,000 viewers had watched the NRL game in Sydney between St George and Cronulla, a popular all-Sydney contest (and the biggest audience in Sydney yesterday), the loss of 157,000 viewers from that game tells us NRL fans do not want to hang around for The Footy Show

The first two weeks of the shows has emerged as an expensive weak point for the Nine Network which is riding high on the ratings success of Married At First Sight.

The expensive revamps haven’t so-far endeared the programs to viewers, and you have to ask how long Nine can afford to keep these two flops in its schedule. Adding a female host to each show hasn’t done enough to increase appeal of programs that were increasingly on the nose for viewers. Sam Newman is, inexplicably, still a host on the AFL show, despite his (repeated) sexism, racism, homophobia, and exposing himself on-air. The NRL show isn’t much better, having shown racist skits and segments, and containing its own dose of sexism.

Nine can’t really afford to end the NRL Footy Show because it has the NRL free-to-air broadcast contract — to axe this show would be a very bad look with the NRL. But they could axe the AFL Footy Show because it is not a broadcast partner of the League. The AFL season starts next Thursday, so the AFL show moves to Wednesday night at 9pm where it will be up against Seven’s The Front Bar which eventually knocked it off for the last part of the 2017 season. The odds are that will be repeated very soon this season.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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